"It is finished.”
Many people said those words on this day.
- Pilate pushed himself up from the judgment bench and sighed, “It is finished, another political troublemaker out of the way.”
- The religious leaders looked at one another and said in hushed tones, “It is finished. No more challenges to our authority from him.”
- The soldiers as they turned their backs and walked away said: “It is finished, another traitor to the empire is executed.”
- The crowds as they watched Jesus breath his last, gasped: “It is finished. The spectacle is over.”
All comments on the moment, comments on the day, comments about a man they hardly knew, comments made by those with limited vision.
But not so with Jesus’ final word, tetelestai, the Greek word the Gospel of John uses for “It is finished.” This is a word of cosmic and timeless importance, of universal significance.
“It is finished” – Jesus concluding declaration, his last word, the final punctuation on a sentence begun before the beginning. With this word of completion – “finished” – we are reminded how it all began:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.”
And so Jesus’ word, the last word of the Word incarnate, which we translate as “it is finished,” is the final word in a sentence begun before all that is, before we were knit together in our mothers’ wombs, before the first light, first life, first spark, first dream, first bursting forth of creation.
The final punctuation on a sentence spoken in love, spoken across space and time, through the ages, prophets, patriarchs, matriarchs, sages, and in these last days, spoken to us by a son: Jesus.
The final punctuation on a sentence lived in love; spoken, sung, breathed, in words such as “And I, when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” Words such as “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love, spoken in actions: touched and touching, taught and teaching, love reaching out, healing, embracing, lifting; calling “beloved” those called wrong, weak, small, outcast, other, sinner.
The Word incarnate spoke love in words, in deeds, spoke love in handing himself over, giving himself up, pouring himself out, until there is nothing left, nothing more needed, just one last breath, one last word. God’s sentence of love spoken across time, space, boundaries, on the cross – spoke its final syllables, in gasps, in an agonized whisper, in pain, yes, but with precision, point and power. This is no giving up, this is his final declaration: “It is finished.”