Friday, April 10, 2020

Cross Words 6 - Victory (John 19:30)

Amidst the devastating news of the coronavirus pandemic, there are glimmers of hope, and stories of amazing dedication and sacrifice. Maybe you’ve seen some of the medical staff who have separated themselves from their families for several weeks in order to serve without risking their children’s health. Or the keyworkers who volunteer to do extra shifts and to cover for their colleagues.

I wonder did you hear of Friar Don Giuseppe Berardelli? He was a parish priest in Casnigo near Milan. He contracted Covid-19 and his parish raised funds to buy a respiratory unit to help him. He refused to use it, though, allowing someone else to use it, and so he died. He gave his life so that a stranger would live.

Today, as we focus on the cross, and listen in to the cross words, we hear how Jesus viewed his death on the cross. You see, for some people, the cross is just a tragic end to a promising life. They reckon that Jesus was an amazing man, able to do wonderful things, but what a pity that it all went wrong that week in Jerusalem and he ended up dead. And so they hear in his words ‘It is finished’ a cry of defeat. As if Jesus is merely saying, it’s all over - even, I’m finished.

But that’s not how Jesus viewed his death. You see, Jesus hadn’t come to an unfortunate end, unexpectedly. Rather, Jesus was completing the plan of salvation, promised through the whole of the Old Testament. Just before our verse, we read these words: ‘knowing that all was now completed...’ And that led into Jesus saying that he was thirsty, to fulfil the scripture.

So as Jesus says ‘It is finished’ he is referring to God’s salvation plan. All was now completed. Everything that needed to be done to rescue sinners had been done. And so this is not a cry of defeat - it’s a declaration of victory.

Already in our reflections we’ve heard how Jesus prayed for forgiveness, how he gave assurance of salvation to the dying thief, how he paid the great cost as he was forsaken by God. Jesus is now saying that all has been completed - that the price of salvation has been paid in full. That’s the emphasis of the Greek word behind this saying. It’s a commercial word. It says that the bill has been paid, the demand has been satisfied, and nothing more is owed.

So, when the restrictions are lifted and you’re able to go out for a meal somewhere nice, and the evening’s drawing to a close and you ask for the bill. Imagine if the waitress said to you, it’s already been settled. Someone else has paid your bill, and that means you can walk out without having to get your wallet out. Your debt has been settled, your bill has been paid.

That’s what Jesus is saying here. And what is the bill that has been paid? He has paid the debt you owed because of your sins. Jesus gave up his place in glory, and died in our stead, so that we could be forgiven, and saved, and redeemed.

Giuseppe gave his life for a stranger. Jesus gave his life for people he knows and loves - you and me - in all our sin, and shame, and guilt. He has paid our debt and gives us his life, his righteousness. There is nothing we can do to contribute to our salvation - it’s already been finished.

We just have to receive it. To see in Jesus’ death our life and peace, our sins paid in full. As our Communion service puts it, ‘he made there the one complete and all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.’ (BCP p. 210)

And he did it for you.

The sixth cross word is a word of victory.

Jesus says: It is finished.

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father,
we thank you that Jesus has paid it all;
that his sacrifice has been completed,
and we are saved only through him.
Help us Lord, to trust in him,
and in his finished work on the cross,
for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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