What did Jesus finish on the cross?
You know the words:
“It is finished.”
But what they mean for you might blow your socks off!
These are Jesus’ last words before he bowed his head, fully defeated by the plague of death that pulses through each of our veins. Imagine hearing these words as you stand in the shadow of a wooden cross that a man now hangs lifeless from. At this point, you are probably feeling a mass emerge deep within your chest. You know, most definitely, this was not how the Messiah was suppose to take his throne.
The moments leading to this one were not very pleasant, either. I’m sure everyone was ecstatic when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem with people chanting, “Savior” all around him. There were even individuals laying palm leaves for him to walk on. However, since then, their time in Jerusalem has been nothing short of a disaster.
And now dead.
Everything about this moment screams that something is off, and we know, as modern readers, that Jesus is going to reimagine these seemingly disgusting order of events and turn them into something spectacular. We know that story . . but the disciples didn’t. At least not yet.
But I want to focus for a moment on Jesus’ very last words, "It is finished.”
What did Jesus, in this last moment of his life, believe he has finished? Certainly, to those standing at the foot of the cross, these words might have sounded as pure lunacy. What could Jesus have possibly finished by dying on a Roman cross? Regardless, Jesus used the last breath in his lungs to exhale these words, so he believed he had brought something to its completion.
So, let’s figure out what it was.
Jesus in Samaria
John 4 contains one of my favorite Jesus stories of all time. The story begins by introducing us to a Samaritan woman, two attributes that should have forced Jesus to avoid interaction/association at all cost. Instead, Jesus does the opposite. He engages her in a conversation, he highlights her mistakes, and he calls her to a new way of living. It really is a fascinating conversation, but I would like to fixate on the Jesus’ conversation with his disciples after they return from the town.
“Rabbi, eat,” they urge him; it was beyond time to eat and they were likely all famished from their travels on the road.
“I have food to eat that you know nothing about,” Jesus responds.
Hold the phone. I imagine the disciples were a little confused here. Where did Jesus get food? Was he hiding it under his cloak? Did the woman give him something? (This is humor in your Bible. You have permission to laugh). WHERE DID JESUS GET FOOD?!?!?
“My food,” Jesus continues, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” I’m sure you picked it up because I highlighted it for you. It’s the same word Jesus used as he breathed his last breath. So, what Jesus had “finished” on the cross is what he is aiming to “finish” right here in this moment.
So what is it?
Jesus continues, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white with harvest.”
Okay, that probably didn’t have as big of an impact on you because your’e, 1) not a farmer, 2) not Jewish, 3) not standing where they stood.
So, let me help.
Harvest. Fields. Wheat. These are probably not words you use often because many of us are not in the agricultural industry. However, most of these people were. It was how you would eat and survive. You had to plant, water, nurture, and eventually harvest (collect, pick, reap) all that had grown.
There was a Jewish understanding of the “end of time,” that it will be very similiar to the time of harvest. God will collect all the stocks (humans) and he will sort them by those who have produced (too big of a concept to fit into parenthesis) and those who have not. Those who are “worthy” and those who are not.
This is the big one. Consider where Jesus and his disciples are in the moment Jesus tells them to “look up,” and to “observe the fields.” They are still standing by the well in Samaria!
Jesus is completely blowing off the limiting walls the disciples, and most Jews, have put on God’s grace. Right here in this one sentence. He is telling his disciples that God’s harvest is extending past the fields of the Jews and will find crops worthy of harvesting in the “outsiders.”
Yes, even the Samaritans.
Back to the Cross
As Jesus gasped out his last words, “It is finished,” I believe he was referring to this moment back in Samaria with his disciples (at least in part). Jesus was alluding to something as he died, and I think it was that he was dying for everyone. What Jesus was finishing was the inclusion of all people by his saving death. Jesus took the weight of every person’s violation against God, and carried it with him to the cross.
It is finished.
There is nothing that can be done to take this moment away. There is no reversal. There is no undoing. There is no backtracking. There is no reality that is true beyond this one. Jesus completed this moment of bringing every person under the shadow of his dying body and he saves all of us from our impeding death.
What does this mean for you?
There may be some of you who have always kept your distance from God because you have always been aware (or made aware) of how much you fall short. Or, perhaps there are some of you who can easily identify the shortcomings in other people that would separate them from God, but more importantly separate them from you.
They don’t dress or smell as well as I do.
They do not believe the same things I do.
We have very little in common.
He is too greedy.
She talks too much.
What will people think of me if I spend time with her?
I really don’t want his kids spending time with mine.
And we could go on and on because we are humans and this is what we do. We establish barriers between each other based off of very little (income, ethnicity, language, etc). But Jesus died for everyone.
Jesus died for:
All the people who smell worst than you.
All those who don’t believe in the same things you believe in.
The lousy parents.
Because of Jesus, everyone can be close to God. He has torn the curtain, he has broken down the barriers, he has crossed over enemy line and settled terms of peace. It will always be our tendency to think that we, or others, do not measure up, but Jesus says it as clearly as he can with his last breath,
“It is finished.”