These are meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus for Holy Week. Those planning to do our Good Friday vigil should wait until Friday to read these. I wanted to share them this week for those who won’t be participating.
What if Jesus’ dying words shaped how we live?
30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Have you ever noticed that the people who live for “happiness” or “comfort” are often less happy than those who live with a great sense of purpose—even if that purpose often brings more challenges than happy days at the beach? Victor Frankl spent time in a Nazi concentration camp, and when reflecting on why some faired better than others, he concluded those who were able to find some deeper purpose for living tended to outlive the others.
Jesus lived with a great sense of purpose and resolve: “I have come to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will” (John 6:38), and “My food is to do the will of God and complete his work” (John 4). The Apostle Paul had this mindset on steroids, and withstood innumerable hardships because he was determined to finish well. He said, “I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24) and as he was preparing to die he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
Many people start off well, but fewer persevere when things get tough and finish the race. These days, we see many “rising stars” in celebrity culture who suddenly flame out in a scandal. Even among those who give their life to serving Christ, a recent survey claimed that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month (!), 80% of pastors will not be in ministry ten years later and on average, seminary trained pastors last only five years in church ministry.
If you quit your job and find another career, few will suffer for it. Jesus, on the other hand, lived his life knowing that the fate of humankind rested on whether or not he finished well. No wonder he sweat blood in Gethsemane, and no wonder we sense the relief he must have felt as he uttered the words, “It is finished.” He would now hear the words he told us to long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Here’s the good news for weak and well-intentioned “quitters” like you and me: God will never quit on us! Molding stubborn clay like me and you into Christlikeness is quite a difficult task to carry on to completion—perhaps only the Creator Himself could ever pull off such a feat. But reflect on these words today: “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will carry on his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Phil 1:6). We need only remain moldable and soft in His hands. Then on that day when eternity beckons, we will stand before God and He will look at us and say, “It is finished! My masterpiece” (cf. Eph. 2:10).