Each of the four gospels gives us a different picture of Christ on the cross.
In Mark and Matthew, Jesus’ last words are dark and questioning: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
In Luke, his last words are confident and trusting: ‘Father, in your hands I commend my spirit.’
In John’s gospel, Jesus’ last saying is a single Greek word: ‘tetelestai’. In English it can mean either ‘It is finished’ – it’s all over. Or ‘it is accomplished’ – it is fulfilled.
And that is typical of John’s gospel. It is as though two perspectives of the same story are going on at the same time – the world’s perspective, and God’s perspective. In John’s gospel, Jesus talks about being ‘lifted up’. On the one hand this refers to the crucifixion, a terrible thing done to him through the wickedness of humanity. On the other hand, it refers to his glorification, a work of grace and salvation by God, by means of which we ourselves are drawn into communion: ‘when I am lifted up from the earth’ he said, ‘I will draw all people to myself.’(1)John 12.32; see also John 3.14
This is what is called literary irony. There are two levels of meaning. The characters in the story can only see one level, but the reader is invited to see another, deeper level of understanding.
So when Pilate says to him, ‘Behold your king’(2)John 19.14 and when the soldiers dress Jesus in a purple robe and place a crown of thorns on his head, they think they are mocking him – but we know their words and actions carry a much deeper truth than they realise. For we know he is not merely the king of the Jews but king of the universe.
So there are two levels of meaning to Jesus’ final words: It is finished – it is accomplished.Continue reading “It Is Finished”
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|1.||↑||John 12.32; see also John 3.14|