Do you remember Jesus’ last words? You find them in John 19:30 when Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and died. “Finished,” was Jesus’ last word. It could have been something sad – spoken to express personal defeat, a tragic and bloody end to a life of unfulfilled promises, dreams and hopes. Some people have read Jesus’ it that way – a sad man opening up his heart with sound of defeat before leaving this world in a whimper.
But is it really? When we read the other gospels we see something else. Though they don’t mention what was said, they point to Jesus crying out with a loud shout before he died. John doesn’t mention that he shouted, but he does tell us what he said – “It is finished!” The explanation? Jesus’ last words on the cross were not an admission of defeat – they were a proclamation of accomplishment! This was no whisper of failure – it was the shout of triumph announcing the victory is and forever will be won! His task was complete. What was that task? The gospels give different views to one answer: 1) Salvation. Jesus said, “The Son of man has come to seek and save that which is lost.” He compared himself to a shepherd who would go out and seek the one out of one hundred that was lost. He was saying he brings the hope of salvation to all people. He did that on the cross. 2) Life. Jesus said he came so that we might “have life and have it abundantly.” A young and wealthy man asked Jesus how to find eternal life. Peter said Jesus held the words of life. You see in Jesus’ life a beautiful vitality that drew people to him. He came to show us about life and living. Ironically, he died on the cross to bring us life. 3) God’s love. Jesus said, “No one has seen the Father except the Son.” He declared that He and the Father were one, and that God so loved the world that the Son came to offer eternal life. Jesus came to reveal the heart of God, the will of God, and the hope of God for all of us. The cross is the consummation of it all, but endings are rarely final. They mark the transition to something new. The verb tense in Jesus’ last words implies a proclamation of completion with continuing effect. God’s heart is revealed, and we are called closer to discover the treasures of life and love waiting for us not only for eternity, but for today.
As the women stare at the empty tomb, the angel says, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed, he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him…” Think about this. No one disputed the empty tomb – not the disciples, soldiers, or priests. There was no body to display. Graves speak of death and of the end. That’s not where you will find the Lord, though. He stepped out of the grave and moved ahead – to tell us to live. And while we have a hope for eternity, we’ll always find Jesus as we move beyond the fears and grief of yesterday and live into the today he has given us.
The Rev. Joel McMahon IV. is Senior Pastor of League City United Methodist Church near Houston. If you are ever in the area, he and his congregation would love for you to drop in for a visit.
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