Read John 19:30
30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (NRSV)
The way we say words can matter as much as the words we actually say. You’re mad can mean you need psychiatric treatment or can mean you have a wonderful sense of humour. Words are not just given meaning by a dictionary. The way we say them, and the context in which they are said, matter a lot.
So when Jesus declared “It is finished”, he might be understood to be saying, That’s it, I give up, I did my best but failed. Or could be, I have had enough, can’t take it anymore. But it wasn’t like that. From other gospels, it could well be that these words were not whispered but shouted.
And the phrase itself most likely means, I have done it, the job is complete. It was there on the cross that Jesus had absorbed the powers of evil, had taken on himself all the wrongs of all the world from beginning to end. Even there, hanging in pain and near death, Jesus recognised that he had completed the work he had agreed with his Father to do.
It is too simplistic to see Good Friday as the day of defeat and Easter Day as the day of victory. A victory was actually won on Good Friday. A strange and shrouded victory, but a victory nevertheless. Jesus’ words are not words of resigned defeat, not words of a disillusioned martyr, but the words of one who has achieved what he set out to achieve. Which is the possibility of friendship with God for all who embrace what he did for them.
His mission was accomplished.
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