“It is Finished”
A Sermon by The Reverend Derek J. Stefanovsky
Good Friday Service – April 7, 2023–Year A
“It is finished.”
“It is finished,” three short words, so short that perhaps we read right over them in that passage from the gospel. So brief that they seem perhaps insignificant. But what, exactly, is finished? What is the meaning behind “It”? The most obvious answer is that it is Jesus’ life, which is indeed true, for he will momentarily be dead. But it is so much more than a life simply ending.
In the Book of Genesis, on the sixth day, after God had created everything, God said that it was very good. As with the sixth day, Jesus has reached a point where his work has been brought to a completion. He has been conceived, he has been born, he has grown up and experienced the volatilities of human existence, he has journeyed and taught, healed and admonished, he has consoled the grieving, and spoken truth to power. With Jesus’ words, he is naming that the whole scheme of creation, and now salvation, has been, or momentarily will be, finished.
This is certainly very good news, but why has all of this been necessary, the suffering and the execution on the cross? Many of us are rightly disturbed by the suggestion that God enjoys violence, or worse yet, that God is a violent God. But this is not true to the gospel. Yes, certainly we humans need the saving work of the cross, because we need God, we need forgiveness, and we need liberation from darkness, and sin, and death. Jesus died not because of a vengeful, psychopathic God; Jesus died because our world was and is broken. So you can see that the whole work of Christ, from incarnation to the cross and beyond, is something that is necessary because of the brokenness of this world and of the human condition.
In Genesis, God creates, and in Christ, humankind is remade and recreated. Christ, the second Adam, succeeds where the first Adam fell short. And we find in that second Adam not only a model of how we ought to live, but we more importantly encounter the truth that God enters into the brokenness of our world, and recreates what is broken. Rather than divine violence or wrath, we instead see divine love and a divine gift of God’s own self-offering.
Christ enters fully into our humanity, and in so doing, he sets about redeeming it. One of the early church fathers, Gregory Nazianzen, put it like this: “What he has not assumed has not been healed; it is what is united to his divinity that is saved.” God has taken on flesh in Christ that we might in turn participate in his divinity. The same God that created all that is now sums up that creation in himself. What is completed on the cross, what is finished on the cross, is the full and complete self-giving of God. The plan of salvation has been worked out. What was once created is now re-created. Amen.
1 I am indebted to The Very Rev. Dr. Andrew McGowan, St. Irenaus of Lyons, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Justin Martyr for inspiring my thoughts for this sermon.