“It is finished”.
What, exactly, is finished? What is he talking about?
He has finished his work. He is proclaiming “Mission accomplished”. Job done. It’s a cry of triumph.
What is his work? It is the greatest work ever done. So great that what Jesus achieved on the cross can only be compared with one other piece of work. What might that be? There is only one possibility: the work of creating the world. Here’s how Genesis describes the completion of God’s work of creation:
First the work, then the rest. The day after Good Friday is the Sabbath, the day of rest. Just like the Genesis story. The same pattern applies for both creation and re-creation.
On the cross Jesus is doing what it takes to re-create the world, to put right all its wrongs and make it – and us – work the way we were supposed to. John tells us in Chapter One of his Gospel that the Word of God was there at the creation and that all things were made through him; now he tells us that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was there at the making of the new creation and all was done through him.
The healing of creation means dealing with what the Bible calls sin. Our rebellion against God, our wrong choices, our inbuilt tendency to selfishness and unkindness. On the cross Jesus takes all that – and more – on himself. He absorbs it into himself and neutralizes it. The very worst that human beings can do: that is what was done to Jesus in the crucifixion. What was inflicted on Jesus was the worst of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain. It was – and is – the worst thing ever done on this planet. The most terrible crime, the greatest injustice. By taking all that on himself Jesus was paying the price of all the world’s wrongs and laying the foundation for the healing and renewal of all creation.
For the last year scientists around the world have been working on vaccines which would neutralize the effects of the deadly virus which has been afflicting us all. Now the vaccines are here. They offer the possibility of a world no longer dominated by the virus and what it can do to us. We just have to receive the gift of that vaccine – get the jab and get the immunity. Something a little like that is what Jesus did on the cross. He secured immunity to the virus of sin and evil. We just have to receive it.
We have been looking forward to a world without the virus. Maybe… We don’t really know how things are going to work out. But Jesus’ death on the cross promises that one day, in God’s time, there will be a world without sin, suffering, pain or death.
In the meantime we are invited to receive from Jesus the healing of our souls and the restoration of our relationship with God.
The hard work is done on the cross. The proof of that is the Resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat, but the manifestation of a victory. It is a foretaste of the new creation won by Jesus on the cross.