In John’s gospel, Jesus seems very systematic. He knows the Scriptures must be fulfilled and slowly, in his experience, they are. Betrayed by a friend? Check. Taken before chief priests and those with power? Check. Beaten? Check. Cast lots for his clothing? Check. Sour wine? Check. Someone to take care of Mother? Check. Most of us don’t have the opportunity or the grace to die this way… with everything finished.
In fact, if you’re like me, you have a house, a car, a room, an office full of projects that you’ve started and you’re going to finish…someday. You’ve promised someone, your spouse, your child, your boss, yourself, that you will finish that project…eventually. And we are God’s projects, works that God has started and will complete. God’s beloved creation… a project God loves and longs for.
So, when God promises to finish something, it gets finished and it gets finished right… maybe not in the way we would imagine, but then we do not have the mind of God. God does not have little projects laying around, thinking “Well, I get to them eventually.” God’s ways are mysterious, but when we look back at certain moments in our lives, we are able to see the work of the hand of God. God doesn’t tell us, “I’ll get back to you.” So when Jesus says, “It is finished,” we know that he is the Son of God. Jesus tells us in the gospel of John, that if we know his mind, we know the mind of God. Through the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, we encounter a God who is gracious and loving.
We experience that same grace here on the cross, in these last words. We do not hear vindictive words, hurled down from an angry God, “You’re finished.” Would that be surprising or unexpected? We do not hear self-pitying words, from a mere man, “I’m finished.” Instead we hear words that can only come from the God who so loves the world that the Son of God was sent to finish this project.
God promised something by sending Jesus into this world. It was a promise to make things right, to make a new covenant, to let us know that our efforts to make good fail, but God can repair the breach. And so Jesus walked with people, touching them, feeding them, healing them- giving them the physical experience of knowing the love of God. Then he was crucified and in that he did something, no other body could do: he gave his life so that we would know our sins are forgiven and we no longer need to fear the death that comes to all of us.
Jesus said with confidence, “It is finished” because he knew he had fulfilled his mission on earth. When we lift our eyes to the cross, we believe God keeps God’s promises and God finishes what God starts. We can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing Jesus has done what we could not do for ourselves. In the moment when Jesus’ life ends, ours truly begin. It is finished. It is finished, this self-sacrificing work of love. It is finished, because of us and for us. There on the cross: a horrible, wonderful, terrifying, awesome moment- where the Light of the world meets the darkness of humanity. But God says, “It is accomplished. It is completed.” Jesus promises, “It is finished.”