It Is Finished
Years ago, I spent days, weeks, months at my dining room table glued to a laptop, surrounded by stacks of books, articles, and notes, completing my doctoral comprehensive exams. My young daughter watched every night as I worked diligently. The final night, I remember closing my laptop and raising my arms in celebration. My young daughter asked, “Mommy, you finished?” I responded, “Mommy is finished!” There was a sense of relief in the house that night.
I recently remembered this story while participating in a Zoom women’s Bible study with our church. We participated in a study of Susan G. Robb’s Seven Words, Listening to Christ from the Cross. This study led us to focus on the words of Christ in the final moments before his death. However, the words that caught my attention the most did not even get a chapter title.
John 19:30 says, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
“It is finished.”
So often I have read and interpreted these words to be of sadness. However, in this season of Lent, for the first time, I read them with great hope.
Jesus had suffered. John 19 tells of Jesus’ sentencing, being chosen by the crowd to die, carrying his own cross, being crucified, being mocked as the “King of the Jews,” having his clothes gambled for, watching the sadness of his mother, and drinking of the bitter wine. After all of that, Jesus states, “It is finished.”
Far too often in life and ministry, we are hesitant to announce anything to be finished. We are reluctant to change, and we hold to what we know, even if it is not of Christ. There are times, “it” needs to be finished. Jesus’ suffering was finished, and it needed to be finished for the hope of the resurrection to be realized.
It needs to be finished in my personal life…
This made me think about what needs to be finished in my own life. Depression needs to be finished. Anxiety needs to be finished. Complaining needs to be finished. Comparison and coveting need to be finished. These things need to be finished for me to fully experience the joy and freedom of the resurrected Lord.
It needs to be finished in the church…
This also made me think about what needs to be finished in our churches. Holding to tradition for tradition’s sake needs to be finished. Using valuable resources to keep ineffective ministries alive needs to be finished. Selfishness and power over ministry and compassion needs to be finished. These things need to be finished for churches to truly reflect the resurrected Christ.
It needs to be finished in our world…
And even more this made me think of what needs to be finished in our world. Racism needs to be finished. Sexism needs to be finished. Poverty needs to be finished. Violence needs to be finished. Hatred needs to be finished. While these sufferings continue to hang on the cross in our world, it is almost impossible for people to see, experience, and believe in a resurrected Savior.
People of the Resurrection
As people of Christ, we know the reality of the suffering before the joy of the resurrection. We often refer to be ourselves as “people of the cross.” But, “It is finished.” In these words, Jesus takes the focus off the suffering and points to what is next – forgiveness, redemption, eternal life, and so much more. Maybe we would be better off re-labeling ourselves as “people of the empty tomb.” Because, as a disciple, I want to live in the hope that “it is finished.”
Finding the Resurrection after “It is Finished.”
In the last church I served, we experienced the hope of resurrection after finishing a beloved ministry. The Women’s Missionary Union of the church had been a beacon of light within the church ministry for years. However, over the years, the ministry had decreased in energy, involvement, and impact. One year, the nominating committee could not find anyone to lead the WMU, so the church made the decision to not fill the leadership and therefore, announce the ministry “finished” for the time being. After a year of no WMU, the nominating committee approach a group of women in hopes to revive the ministry. They agreed, with the understanding this ministry would be a little different from the previous WMU. The Baptist Women’s Ministry was birthed. The ministry still focused on missions, prayer, and women, but with a new energy and vision. The Baptist Women’s Ministry became one of the most thriving ministries of the church. The women’s mission ministry of the church experienced resurrection, but only after the difficult announcement that what once existed was finished.
Suffering vs. Hope
As people of Christ, we know the reality of suffering. However, our hope resides in the fact that suffering will end, and the resurrection will occur. I think too many of us have gotten comfortable in the suffering. We hang on our crosses of apathy and laziness. Unfortunately, because we are comfortable on the cross, we do not experience the full joy and freedom of the resurrection in our lives, in our churches, and in or world. Once again, as a follower of Christ, I want to end the suffering of the cross and look to the hope of the resurrection.
So, where do you need to mark something as “finished” in your own life?
What in your church needs to be finished to experience renewal?
Where in the world do you need to help others move from suffering to hope?
“It is finished.”
Are now forever words that point me from suffering to hope.
Sarah Boberg is Minister of Spiritual Formation, Children, and Families at Ox Hill Baptist Church in Chantilly, VA.