It Is finished—Not!
By Dr. Bill Mankin
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30, NRSV)
“It is finished!” are the last words of Jesus from the cross in John’s Gospel.
And it surely was. Pilate was satisfied that it was finished. After all, Jesus was not the first purported rebel that Pilate had ordered crucified. And that had settled that.
The Jewish religious leaders were relieved that it was finished. They thought that Jesus had threatened to destroy their precious temple. But Jesus was dead, the temple still stood in gleaming glory, and all was well as far as they were concerned.
Judas saw it was finished. Now there was no going back and undoing his treachery. In despair, Judas finished his own life.
The disciples were devastated. They knew it was finished. Their dream was over. They hid in the upper room where just the evening before they had celebrated the Passover with a joyous seder, darkened by Jesus’ observation that he would be betrayed by one of the twelve. Their dream of the Kingdom was done; probably they planned to slip out of Jerusalem in the crowds of pilgrims and return to their former life. The fishermen went fishing again; Matthew would seek a new appointment as a Roman tax collector; Simon the Zealot would find another group of guerrillas to harass the Romans.
Yes, it was finished.
But it wasn’t finished. Far from it. It was more like the Carpenters’ song, “We’ve only just begun.” Barclay says that Jesus exclamation was not a sigh of resignation or despair, but a shout of triumph. The mission is accomplished. Jesus had indeed completed the task for which he came—but there was more to be done.
The story wasn’t over. Less than 48 hours later, Mary Magdalene found the tomb open and empty. Easter miracle! Searching for an answer, Mary met the Lord himself. Jesus task on the cross is finished, but the story has only begun chapter two.
On Pentecost the Holy Spirit burst onto the scene and the second act began in earnest. Cue the disciples waiting in the wings. No longer a dejected band of the disappointed and disillusioned, they were now bold, confident, outspoken.
Jesus now took on a new body; the church is the post-Resurrection body of Christ. The purpose of the church is to carry on the work of Christ in proclaiming the gospel and being a light to the world.
Jesus said to the skeptics of his day, “The Kingdom has come near to you.” The Kingdom both is and is to come. Jesus’ work in announcing the Kingdom is indeed finished, but the work of making the Kingdom real passed on to his disciples, his followers, his church, his body. To us. The church is not the Kingdom, but the church witnesses to the Kingdom.
Poet and liturgist Maren Tirabassi writes:
When the lilies lose their petals,
when trumpets are quiet, new shoes scuffed,
chocolate eggs melted by small fingers,
bunnies returned to the shelter,
and sermons start to doubt themselves,
the work of Easter begins —
The work of Easter is up to us, the body of Christ in this world. Let us then be up and doing. We are Easter people.
Prayer. God of Easter miracles, bring your miracle into our hearts. Infuse us with your Spirit to take up Jesus’ cross and continue to proclaim that the Kingdom has come near until the reality is accomplished and it is finished. In the name of the risen Christ. Amen.
Ministry and Mission Coach