“It is finished….” Many people think that these words are the most important words that Jesus spoke from the cross. These words are found only in the Gospel of John. The Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.”
What was paid in full? Jesus paid the debt owed by humankind– the debt of sin. Jesus was sent by God the Father to seek and save that which is lost, to provide atonement for the sins of all who would ever believe in Jesus, and to reconcile sinful men and women to a holy God.
The fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies, symbols, and foreshadowings of the coming Messiah were also completed. There are more than 300 prophecies that were fulfilled in the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi. All those prophecies detailed the coming of the Anointed One. All the prophecies were fulfilled and finished at the cross.
The redemption of humankind is the most important finished task. Jesus’ suffering was finally over. God’s will for Jesus was completed by Jesus’ perfect obedience to his Father. The power of sin and Satan was finished. Jesus’ finished work on the cross was the beginning of new life for all who were “once dead in sin but who were now made alive with Christ.”
As I began to think of the many things that Jesus completed before he was crucified on the cross, I began to think of what I have completed and what I have not completed in my life until now. If you are anything like me, I think there are more things unfinished than finished.
As I pondered various events in my life, and there are many, I kept coming back to two events. One of them I finished and one of them I did not finish. I would like to share those two events briefly with you.
I will always regret that I did not finish seminary. Unusual circumstances prevented me from completing my program. I struggled for a long time after I had to walk away from school. I prayed. How would it have been if Jesus had decided not to finish his mission? God would not have allowed Him to skip any part of his ministry, including his death on the cross.
For a long time, I felt like I still had the identities of daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother. But most people have those identities. After all these years I finally had my own identity, seminarian. I was very proud of that, possibly too proud.
I prayed. I prayed and listened for many weeks. All of a sudden, I heard in my mind that I had the identity of Child of God. That was all I needed to hear. What’s better than being a Child of God? It was there all along. I was finally able to give the whole issue to God and let it there. I feel like I am where God has called me to be, doing what God has asked of me. I was finally able to say, “it is finished.” So, I guess what I thought was unfinished is actually finished.
The second event centers around my work with a spiritual director. That director is part of a Benedictine monastery in Bristow, VA. I visited with Sister Andrea for many months, even staying in the monastery guest house at times. I became very comfortable and at peace with the Benedictine way of living. The first sentence of the Rule of Benedict says this. “Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”
The monastery has an Oblate program. An Oblate in the Catholic church is similar to a Stephen Minister in our faith tradition. The difference is that a Stephen Minister works with one person and an Oblate works with groups of people who support the monastery and its outside ministries.
I made the decision to become an Oblate and made a commitment to put in the extra time and effort to attend the Oblate classes and to complete the necessary home study. My prayers were answered. After two years, I was asked to make the promises necessary to become an Oblate. I shared a joyous day with other new Oblates and my Sisters. I actually finished my studies in that program, even though I still study the Rule of Benedict daily which is a way of living that teaches us to live our lives more like Christ.
Jesus’ saying that “It is finished” from the cross means so much more than either of my stories. They cannot compare. Jesus died for us to assure that our sins are forgiven and that, by God’s grace we are redeemed. What more can we ask?
When you hear Jesus saying “It is finished” when he is on the cross, think about all the things Jesus finished with God’s help and marvel that Jesus gave us his unconditional love that we might be the best we can be.
- Carol Woods