Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Is it finished? thoughts on John's Passion

It is finished.
Jesus said these words as he gave up his spirit and died.
That's how John says Jesus' life ended.
The cross was the end—or at least it was supposed to be the end for him.

This story of Jesus' cross has been in the air – it's been sung and spoken, painted and sculpted. Jesus cross has been portrayed in great dramas of stage and screen for 2000 years. It's been translated into more languages than I can count.

It's a story of such hope; but it's a story of hope that only comes after the deepest kind of pain. Jesus is the man of the cross. He is the God who would die for us—he is the one who would be killed both for us and by us. He is the God who came to the world revealing the full depth of God's love—only to be rejected by people like us. He came for us; he was rejected by us—and in our rejection we didn't just turn our backs on him—we called for his death.

And as he hung from his hands and feet on the cross he called out, it is finished. And for us that word of finality is really the beginning where we end and the power of God begins. Jesus didn't just lift us up from our pain—he entered into it completely. The cross is no model for self-improvement. The cross is actually failure. The cross is death, and sin, and the power of evil run full on into the world. The cross is ugly to look at and even worse is to look at Jesus, the man of the cross.

We like to make our crosses of gold and precious gems. But think of Jesus beaten and crowned with thorns, he is no stranger to grief and loss dying on the cross. He was pushing against the spikes for every breath now as his lunges likely filled with fluid. The last night he had so much to say. Now every word was a struggle. He called out, “It is finished” and then he gave up his spirit—the old king James said he gave up the ghost. We can relate. We have all had times when giving up was the only option.

The gospels tell us who killed Jesus and how it happened. And our lives speak about why he died and just what it really means today. The power of resurrection isn't to be underestimated—but neither is the place that the cross has in the story of new life.
The cross is the end.
But the cross for us remains a sign of hope because God would move and could move and does move. Christians aren't people who try harder and do better and get it all done on our own. Christians are people who walk in the way of the cross. We are people who stumble and fail. We are people who as hard as we try still need a savior.

And so we gather round the cross—to remember his death. And in remembering his death we remember the power of God that moves in our lives way beyond our power and our limits. Resurrection can come only after the finality of death. God's full power can only be known in your life when you have nothing left.

Peace, and thanks for reading, John