A Good Friday Communion Meditation by Trevor Miller
I recall a story of how a group of Christian missionaries in India arranged to visit Mahatma Ghandi in order to discuss faith and the Way to God. Before they left Ghandi asked them to sing one of their Christian hymns. Which one, they said? He replied, “The one which best expresses the heart of what you Christians believe!” My! What would you have chosen?
They were right! The Cross is central; at the very heart not only of our faith but of God Himself! Even the mighty resurrection is but God’s vindication that what happened on the Cross was under His total control and that all was going according to plan!
To preach Christ without the Cross is like writing a biography of David Beckham or Wayne Rooney without mentioning football; like making a documentary on Theresa May without mentioning the Conservative Party or Donald Trump without mentioning the US Presidency.
In this Good Friday Eucharist meditation I want to hone in on one phrase, the 6th of the 7 phrases uttered by Jesus from the Cross. More than any other it forcibly reminds us that even in the darkest night, God is planning for the brightest day! It is found in John 19:30 ‘It is finished.’
What it meant then!
Reviewing the scene on that black Friday makes us realise that many others would have said these very same words that day
– the Soldiers, after their dreaded execution shift was over, it’s finished, thank Jupiter!
– the Crowd, now that the hideous entertainment was done, it’s finished.
– Judas, when he realised the enormity of what he had done in betrayal, it’s all over, finished.
– Peter and the disciples, after 3 wonderful years, then denial and desertion, it’s finished.
– the Priests, having seemingly come through a really tricky business, “we’ve managed it, it’s finished now.”
However, no one could say it the way Jesus said it or mean it the way Jesus meant it!
The other gospel writers give us a clue. All of them say Jesus cried out with a loud voice but only John records what He said. One word in the original language, a cry of triumph, satisfaction and victory = Finished! Accomplished! Done! Jesus in complete control, despite the agonising pain that we must never minimise. It was real pain, real thirst, real death BUT this was no resigned victim, it was a Reigning Victor! Not, I am finished but it is finished, for on the Cross God’s will was being done perfectly on earth as it is done in heaven! The Cross is no place of failure but of fulfilment. If we look at John 19:28 we will see that exactly the same word is used and translated in the NIV as ‘completed.’ So it reads that Jesus “knowing that all was now completed … said … completed … finished! The task the Father began in Eternity had now been accomplished in time!
The Cross was no surprise to Jesus – He had been on the planning committee! In John 17:4 we have the same root word used, where Jesus anticipating the Cross says to His Father “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” All of His life was lived in the shadow of the Cross.
– His birth, the announcement that he was born to die i.e. Jesus = Saviour
– His baptism, His introduction as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
– His Temptation was to avoid the Cross and throughout His Ministry he set His face toward Jerusalem.
So the Good Shepherd was knowingly laying down His life for the Sheep. Blood was shed, the Body broken, the Sacrifice made, as Jesus died “the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us back to God.”
Finished – when the last moment of the last hour of the last day of His life came, He had completed God’s mission and message to humankind. The greatest example of determination, perseverance and obedient love the world has ever seen.
What it means now?
That we cannot add to something that is finished! We live in the grace, mercy, forgiveness and freedom given to us in Christ everyday of our lives. The death of Jesus was once-for-all, an historical event, but the love of God which expressed itself supremely in this event is the love in which we now live, move, give and forgive! The Cross is a sign, pointing away from itself to the reality of God becoming one with us in Jesus. To live Christianly is letting the Spirit of Christ be the Spirit of Christ in us and through us now, today and every day. Christianity is not a religion of DO but Done! And because it is Done we can BE, be who we are! Merton “ what you have to be is what you are” expressing the Spirit of Jesus through our humanity, our ordinariness, our vulnerability, our pain, brokenness and weakness.
As we come to the Bread and the Wine, we come as followers of the Crucified God, to Jesus “who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross.” We are called to be like Him and we too have a work to do for God, a task to accomplish, given us by the Father, that only we can finish.
Living in the DONE of the Cross, we seek to love God, love our neighbour, love one another, haltingly yet courageously, bringing our brokenness to His forgiveness, our sins to that finished work of the Cross, so that we can BE salt and light; BE broken bread and poured out wine to that part of the world, those relationships, those situations, we influence and impact; to make a difference, however small.
Let me finish by quoting a prayer entitled ‘Ultimate Loyalty’, taken from the book ‘Be our Freedom, Lord’ by Terry Falla.
Lord God, may there be sense in our persistence, and reason in our tenacity. May our existence as your people not be deemed an end in itself, but solely a way and a means.
May we live our lives conscious of our past and true to our heritage, keeping ablaze the fires our prophets lit.
May we, like our fathers still stand against the multitude, protesting with all our might against its follies and fears.
May a divine discontent give colour to our dreams, and a passion for holy heresy set the tone of our thoughts.
May the soul of the rebel still throb in us as it throbbed in our forefathers, that, refusing to be silenced, we may take the part of those without a voice.
And may our ultimate loyalty be only to You, that we may never surrender to the threat of falsehood, or capitulate to the idols, caesars, and powers of this world.
Thus, with the hope you have given us in Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, may we follow Him today and forever, that we may proclaim without fear or favour the Gospel of Your Suffering, Redeeming Love. Amen.