Lenten Devotions 2015: What did Jesus finish on the cross?

2951078593_4271953429_zTraditionally, on Good Friday, the church preaches on the seven “words” of Christ from the cross. There is no way to ascertain how many times Jesus spoke and what exactly he said; however, the gospel writers bring the seven words to us, although, in no particular order. In the churches I have served, it is customary to request a few lay people to speak on these seven words for the Good Friday service. Every time I have to do this, I face a considerable challenge assigning “the words” to different people because everyone has a favorite “word” from the cross that they would like to speak on. I am sure, you, too, have a favorite “word.” Well, my favorite word out of the seven words from the cross is: “It is finished!”

“When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19: 30)

This last word of Jesus Christ is found only in the gospel of John and in the original Greek the term used is “tetelestai.” The root term “teleo” means “to accomplish, finish, end, or pay”. So, “tetelestai” meant “consummation,” “completed,” or “paid in full.” This term was often used, in the New Testament period, on business documents or receipts when the payment was made in full and the deal was considered complete. For me, it is one of the most poignant and cryptic words that Jesus ever spoke. I don’t think anyone else ever spoke three words more pregnant with deeper spiritual and theological meaning and implication than “it is finished.” These three words are so deep that I could never actually fathom their full meaning because no one could ever enter Jesus’ mind to see what all he really meant by saying, “it is finished.” Nonetheless, this last word of Christ is the culmination of all efforts of mankind to find or please God as well as the zenith of God’s work for our salvation.

In this word of Christ the very intent, mind, and purposes of God for the world are actualized.

In this word of Christ all prophetic utterances of the holy men and women down through the centuries are actualized.

In this word of Christ all claims of Jesus Christ and his “I am” sayings in the gospel are actualized.

In this word of Christ all hopes and aspirations of mankind through the ages are actualized.

In this word of Christ the much longed for forgiveness of our sins is actualized.

In this word of Christ the healing of the nations is actualized.

In this word of Christ all promises of God made to humanity are actualized.

In this word of Christ your healing from all diseases (“with his strips we are healed – Isaiah 53: 5; I Peter 2: 24) is actualized.

In this word of Christ the final salvation and redemption of mankind is actualized (John 3: 16).

In this word of Christ the triumph of Jesus Christ over all his enemies is actualized…and the last enemy to be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15: 26).

I am sure you could add a few more statements to the above list and I would encourage you to do so in the comments below. In the meantime, let us make use of these accomplishments of Christ personally in our life and also make every effort to share them with others who do not yet know about this word voiced by Christ on the cross more than 2000 years ago. Would you please do this? Amen!

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Lenten Devotions 2015: Revisiting the past, hoping for the future.

8598545928_986be6e792_zThe Jewish religious authorities, Sadducees, and Pharisees of Jesus’ time often accused him of breaking away from the orthodox Jewish teachings and practices. He was hated for creating trouble or confusing people, because of his unorthodox approach to the Mosaic Law, to the extent that fearing the consequences of his actions, Jews had him crucified. Nevertheless, the night before his crucifixion, Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem with his disciples in a very traditional manner. No, he did not even leave it for the last moment, but had it planned in advance with the help of his friends and disciples (Matthew 26: 17-19).

Jesus observed the Passover because he fully believed in the past and also in the hope it provided for the future. However, unlike many Jewish authorities, he refused to be stuck in the past and its traditions. Jesus knew that the Passover was significant not only for its historicity but also for what it promised for the future of the people of God. The Passover not only reminded people who they were and where they had come from but also filled them with the hope of a coming Messiah who would establish God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, in that “Upper Room” in Jerusalem, Jesus kept the Passover for remembering the slavery and the sufferings of the Israelites and the salvific story of the Exodus. Jesus remembered with his disciples the wanderings, failures, and the victories of his people in the past and the amazing story of holding onto the hope of their own home in the peaceful Promised Land. On the other hand, as was Jesus’ custom, he made a significant departure from the traditional Passover meal. Jesus took the ritual bread, dedicated it and declared it as his own body. Jesus also took the traditional cup of wine, which promised the return of the Prophet Elijah, and declared it as his own blood that signifies forgiveness and the ultimate promise of his own return along with the hope of His Kingdom.

“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the[d] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26: 26-29 NRSV).

Notice that after the Passover meal, Jesus left the house with his disciples in a symbolic action as most Jews would leave Jerusalem where they had come to observe the Passover. Similarly, you and I, who are abundantly fed by the Lord’s life, must leave the place of our fellowships, our conveniences, our comforts, and go out to do what Jesus has taught us in his last Passover observance. Let us go out to love and serve our fellow believers even to the extent of kneeling before them and washing their dirty/smelly feet. Let us go out of our rituals and traditions that bind us and restrict us to the past; instead, let us look and work for the future, freedom, and hope that Christ brings by establishing His Kingdom. Amen.