We live in interesting times – somebody told me that recently. Most folks would currently put this statement up there with “Rain is Wet” or “Summer asphalt is Hot” – not cutting edge stuff.
So perhaps that’s why we decided to hold a Good Friday worship service this morning in a parking lot. The idea seemed, Interesting
Now let me get this out of the way first. The gathering was small, short and properly socially distanced. It even started to rain 2 minutes after we wrapped up as if to “Tell us to leave”. With that, here we go.
Siri and Heartbreaker are over achievers so they arrived way early and got in a beatdown. Something like 10 mile run, 1 billion diamond merkins and 3 squats.
The rest of the congregation arrived just before 7 and we got underway. Pastor UptownGirl welcomed everyone and quickly handed it off to FidgetSpinner who led the congregation in a rousing rendition of “Are You Washed”. Next up Siri read John 19:28-30. With that YHC launched into “Everything is Complete”. Toward the end of the message, Heartbreaker read Romans 5:6-10. As we approached the Finish, FidgetSpinner once again led us in song. This time it was “The Old Rugged Cross”. Fighting back tears, we had a closing prayer, thanked God for our blessings and then…it started to rain.
Happy Good Friday everyone.
Full text of the readings and message follow.
Everything is Complete
Song: Are You Washed
John 19:28-30. “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so the scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
It was three o’clock. Jesus called for water. He could hardly speak. A soldier fixed a sponge on a spear and held it up to his lips. It was terribly bitter but it was enough. He strained to raise his head and look up to heaven. “It is finished,” he cried and then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
At the time, the moment was filled with too much emotion for those words to sink in and to ponder what they meant. But later as the early Christians read John’s Gospel and heard again those words, it dawned on them just how powerful these dying words of Jesus were. John wrote his Gospel in Greek, and those last words of Jesus are just one word in Greek – tetelestai (pronounced te-tel-es-sty).
The expression “It is finished” or tetelestai was well known to them. It was a part of everyday language.
When a servant had completed a difficult job that his master had given him to do, he would say to the master – tetelestai – “I have overcome all the difficulties; I have done the job to the best of my ability. It is finished”.
When a boy recited to his father a difficult passage he had learned from the Scriptures or a girl showed her mother the bread she had baked for the family, they would say tetelestai and the parents responded with, “Well done, my child, I am very proud of you.”
When Jesus spoke those final words he wasn’t just saying, “This is the end of me” as if there was nothing else to do but to give in to his enemies and die. His last words weren’t a final surrender to the power of Satan as if to say, “You have won. I’m done for”. These words don’t tell us that Jesus was dead now and that’s all there is to it. He is finished and so is everything that he stood for and promised during his earthly life.
All those who heard the word tetelestai – the servants, those who offered sacrifices at the temple, the buyers and sellers at the market place, the artists and parents and children understood that Jesus is saying that his job of saving the world has been completed. He has finished the task and nothing can be added to what has been done.
Jesus has paid the price in full – he has cancelled all debt.
His sacrifice has been a perfect one, acceptable to the heavenly Father who, looking down on his Son hanging lifelessly from the cross, said, “Well done, this is my dear Son with whom I am well pleased”.
Tetelestai – it is finished. Everything is complete!
What is it that is finished when Jesus says, “It is finished”?
Reconciliation is finished.
A terrible gap had come between God and all humanity caused by sin and evil. Our offenses, our disobedience, the hurt we had caused God and others had destroyed our relationship with God.
Recall a time when you have done something that has hurt someone else and because of that your friendship with that person has been damaged, a gap has come between you, and you felt uneasy when you met that person, in fact you may have avoided that person. All of that doesn’t change until you put aside your differences and friendship is restored.
Sin has a devastating effect on our relationship with God. Sin separates us from God and if we want to have any hope of going to heaven to be with God, then someone had to deal with sin and restore our relationship with God. So God sent his Son into the world for this very purpose.
Jesus died on the cross to get rid of the power of sin to condemn us. His death bridged the deep gulf between God and us. “Salvation is finished”, Jesus cried. The restoration of the friendship between God and humanity has been finished. The task for which God’s Son came to earth has been completed.
He has won forgiveness for all people.
Nothing else needs to be done.
Salvation is complete. “It is finished”.
That’s why we call today “Good Friday”. It certainly wasn’t a good day for Jesus. He endured pain, soul-wrenching agony, hanging by the nails in his hands for hours, death on a rough wooden cross, for our sakes. We call today “Good Friday” because the cross is proof of the powerful love that God has for each of us. No one, not even God, would do something like that unless he truly loved us. Here we see a love that was prepared to endure the ultimate in order to rescue us.
Because of love, people do extraordinary things for others. They give us a glimpse, a small glimpse, at the kind of love that God has for us. God the Father sent his dearly loved Son into dangerous territory. He allowed his Son to be treated cruelly. He stood by and watched his innocent Son be nailed to a cross and to hang there in agony. He could have rescued him and cursed those who were treating him so brutally and maliciously. He allowed his Son to carry the sin of all humanity and so become repulsive even to his own Father. I don’t think we can fully appreciate what it meant for the Father to abandon the Son and let him die at the hands of evil people. When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” we sense something of the terror of bearing the weight of the sin of all humanity.
God did all this for us. He did all this because of his love for us.
Paul writes in Romans 5:6-10 (NIV)
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Jesus’ announcement, “It is finished” is clear and simple. Jesus has completed his task. The reason why he came as a human has been fulfilled. He came so that you and I can have forgiveness and salvation. He came to give us the victory. He came to ensure that we would enter his kingdom and live forever.
Song: The Old Rugged Cross
Loving God, what you have done for us in Jesus’ death on the cross is far more than we deserve. His death has made us friends with you again. His death has given us forgiveness and the hope of life forever. Everything is complete. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Amen.