Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

Sharp About Your Prayers header image 2

All Done?

April 2nd, 2010 · 1 Comment · Sermon Bin

“All Done?”
John 19: 28-42
Good Friday
April 2, 2010

John 19:28-42   28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”  29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.  30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.  32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.  33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.  35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)  36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”  37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”  38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus.  Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.  39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.  40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.  41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.  42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

It is finished.  Such a simple phrase.  We use it all the time.  The project is complete.  Case closed.  Door shut.  End of story.  All done.

Somehow, though, the words have more significance this day—this Good Friday.  They are quiet, but they get our attention.  In different ways, they grab us. 

What goes through your mind when Jesus says, “It is finished”?  How do you hear his final words?

I am picturing Pilate, the governor, sighing in relief when the report containing Jesus’ last words hits his desk.  “Now, that was a close one.  People were getting excited about this rabbi from Galilee.  Too excited.  They were stripping leaves off the trees to salute him.  We would have had quite a scene on our hands, if he wasn’t so politically stupid.  Imagine… trusting a crowd!?  Of course, it is finished.  You rube!  Mobs are fickle beasts.  One minute they will hand you their babies and ask for an autograph, and the next, when you disappoint them (as we all do), they will climb over the top of each other to staple you to a tree.  It is a good thing I washed my hands of this fellow.”

It is finished.

I am thinking of a Roman centurion standing guard—a soldier waiting for criminals to hurry up and die.  “Sure, it is finished.  It is finished for you, bud; but not for me.  I have got to keep standing here; making sure that justice is done.  Half the people walking by want to spit on you.  The other half want to steal your body.  Any one of them would take a shot at me, if I weren’t carrying a spear.  That’s life.  The ones with the spears make the rules; the rest are just spectators. 

Gosh, my legs are aching.  I could use a drink.  My shift is over at sun down.  Then…”

It is finished.

I am imagining Judas, the betrayer, the revolutionary, a man who hoped (who really believed) that Jesus would lead a rebellion.  What must he think on hearing his rabbi mumble those final words?  “Hell yes; it is finished.  My dream is gone.  I hoped that Jesus would become a warrior, that he would take up King David’s mantel and kick the Romans out of Jerusalem.  Every one of the glorious tomorrows that I have pictured is finished; dashed; ruined.  My plan to prod Jesus into action failed.  It failed miserably.  There is no point in continuing.  I might as well toss a length of rope over the nearest tree and braid myself a noose.  Thirty pieces of silver cannot ease this much despair.”

It is finished.

I am thinking of a criminal hanging on the neighboring cross.  Eyes fluttering.  Breathing labored.  “Lucky slob, he’s gone; and his delusions with him.  King of the Jews!  Hah!  Son of God!?  **Cough**  Well, guess what?  You may be God’s own, but you died just like the rest of us.  Now, you are a piece of meat like every other carcass in Judea.  Here they come with a hammer to break our legs.  I doubt I’ll even have the strength to say…”

It is finished.

I am picturing Peter—the big fisherman.  “Life used to be so simple.  How did this happen?  How did I get caught up in political intrigue?  How did I end up embroiled in a religious controversy?  I had a good job, a life without drama, a boat…  I had a boat of my own.  And what did I do?  I went and followed some God-loving, parable-telling, let’s-go-fish-for-humans hippie.  And where did it get me?  Standing here on a God forsaken hilltop with a bunch of G.I.’s who look like they want to run me through.  I am standing here looking at my best friend, my teacher, my Lord, hanging there.  What a mess.  What a waste…” 

It is finished.

I am imagining Mary.  Mother Mary.   “It is finished.  I carried him in my womb.  I nursed him.  I set him down to play on the floor of Joseph’s workshop.  I combed the sawdust out of his hair.  I taught him how to read.  I answered his questions about God and girls and the temple, and when he couldn’t keep his beautiful eyes open any more I tucked him in bed at night.  I watched him become a man—an extraordinary man.  Mothers, you know, don’t want to raise extraordinary men.  Not really.  They want normal sons.  Sure, they can excel at this or that.  Yet, this One… Well, he belonged to the “remarkable” category from the very first flutter that I felt in my belly.  “God with us.”  That’s what they called him that night in Bethlehem.  Is that what I am seeing now?  God with us?  God battered.  God beaten.  God dead.  Or am I simply gazing on my boy—my precious, precious boy.  Does it even matter now?  How I have prayed for this terrible thing to be over.  How I have pleaded with God to end his suffering, his gasping, his eyes, his sad eyes, glancing toward me.  At least, now, it is over… for him…”

It is finished.

I am picturing Joseph of Arimathea, “a secret disciple” the Bible says, a man with some wealth, but not so much courage.  Until now…  “Pilate said that once it was finished, I could take his body.  I own a tomb in the local cemetery.  That’s where I want to bury him.  I brought along a cloth to wrap him up.  It is the least I could do.  I have been listening to him for weeks.  I got a lot out of his sermons.  Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are the poor.  He made me think!  I love his stories.  The Good Samaritan.  The Prodigal Son.  I have been telling that one to others.  If that is who God is…  If God is the one who wants to throw a party for us and welcome us home, even after we have screwed up.  Well then, count me in!  You wouldn’t think such teachings could get you in trouble—could get you killed.  But they did, and I had to go see Pilate.  He owed me a small favor.  Someone this gentle shouldn’t be hanging on a cross, he deserves a proper tomb.  I guess I can take his body now that…”

It is finished.

I am thinking of Nicodemus.  You remember Nicodemus, the Pharisee, the guy who came to Jesus by night.  “When I first went to see Jesus, I went to check him out.  I went to see if he was a card-carrying rabbi, or just a nut from Galilee.  He told me I needed to be born again.  Born of the Spirit.  Now, I am a skeptic about most things…  Religion… Well, that’s always been a tool for me—a fancy lever to influence others.  But ever since that night, I have been thinking.  What if I have been a cynic, because I have been scared?  Scared?  Damn straight.  I have been scared… scared that there really could be a God out there who loves us, scared that this might place me at risk.  I might have to change my neat little life.  Scared of what being “born of the Spirit” might mean.  That night, though, I stopped being scared.  Because of him.  I didn’t have a plan, but I just started doing stuff differently…  I call it, “living in the Spirit.”  I know.  It sounds crazy!  It probably is, but life is so much better now than what it was before.  Tonight, I spent half a year’s salary on herbs and ointments.  I bought so much that I had to put them in a wheelbarrow.  I am going to go with Joseph of Arimathea and anoint this man’s body with precious myrrh and love.  You see, I am different now.  What I used to be is gone…”

It is finished.

I am thinking again of the Roman centurion, leaning on his spear, watching all of these people come and go.  Watching the tears, watching the grief/the respect, looking at the sign hanging above the dying man’s head, listening to him speak.  Over three hours, the centurion hears his seven last words… words of care, words of hope, words of love… words unlike any words he has ever heard spoken on this hillside before.  Surely, he thinks, this one is different.  Surely, he is God’s son.  I have to find others who can tell me about him.  As for this life, this pathetic, violent life I have been leading…” 

It is finished.

Let us pray…

Jesus Christ, you became like us, lived with us, suffered for us.  On that hillside near Jerusalem, you died.  That much is finished.  Completed.  Done.  Help us now to see what needs to be finished in our lives that we might move forward to embrace the chapter that is to come; that we might embrace the light that is about to dawn. 

This we pray in your precious name.  


Facebook Comments

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Tags: ·····

One Comment so far ↓

  • AudreyNo Gravatar

    What a wonderful service and such a thought provoking sermon! I had never really thought about what was in the minds of the other people like Nicodemus or the Roman centurion. I liked how you had us really picture the theme of what was in each of the people’s minds, and how everyone was feeling. Thank you!