When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
His ministry began and ended with wine. This is something that I never considered. The gospel of John has only record of His first miracle. Water transformed into wine. It was the best wine the steward had tasted. On the Cross, the people gave Him sour wine in return. The transaction was complete. “It is finished.” Now, we wait for Him. We wait and see what God is going to do. We have taken the best from Him and in return we gave Him the Cross. What can we expect from God? Do we deserve anything good from Him?
Perhaps we might think that we are different from the people who jeered and mocked Him at the Cross. We like to think that we are better than them. I believe that the people who heard the final words of Jesus wished that they had been better. They wished that they had remained the crowd that shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and not become the crowd that demanded, “Crucify Him.” Alas, they were the same and one crowd. We are just like them. We have the potential to welcome God joyously into our hearts and at the same we can murder Him with our words and actions. We are no different from those people. They are us and we are them. We are saints and devils at the same time. We can do despicable things believing that we are doing something good. Then we take refuge in our intentions. We claim that we had good intentions. The people who crucified Jesus had good intentions. The religious leaders believed that it was necessary to kill Jesus for the sake of the nation. Everyone had good intentions. It was not enough. At the foot of the Cross, all this becomes clear. One thing is for certain we cannot remain as we are. Something needs to change. How many times are we going to crucify the One that can truly transform our contradictory souls?
There were those who wept for Him at the Cross. They were the strong ones and yet, they were helpless. They knew what was right, but they could not do anything about it. They could not speak. Their voices would have been silenced by the anger and hatred. They could only weep. They thought that they were lamenting all the things He suffered; His humiliation, His tortures, the cruel mocking and the treacherous treatment from the people whom He loved. He who hung on the Cross corrected them.
Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. Luke 23:28
At the foot of the Cross, all our frailty is revealed. All our illusions are shattered. All theories of us being essentially good lose their foundation. We are not evil and we are not good. We are just lost. We destroy the things that can save us and uphold things that contaminate and poison our souls. We cannot keep our focus on the good because we just don’t know how to recognize it. Those who are able to see goodness are often helpless. The truth is we are all helpless. No one wants to be evil, but we end up in the middle of something evil and we cannot resist it. The Only One who could resist was crucified. He had a choice but he accepted the Cross. It was necessary. He wanted us to realize who we are. We are not evil beings. In some ways, we are much worse. We are people who believe in goodness but seem to do the contrary. At the foot of the Cross, this becomes clear at the moment when He said, “It is Finished.”
These are strange words but they moved the heart of a seasoned soldier. In His death, the centurion saw Jesus’ victory. He proclaimed,
“Truly this Man was the Son of God.” Mark 15:39
It was a title given in ancient times to emperors and great conquerors. A centurion who knew that victory means the defeat and humiliation of one’s enemies proclaimed Jesus as a victor at the Cross. He was at the foot of the Cross with the rest of them. He witnessed everything from the start to the end but his eyes were opened to see something powerful. He saw Hope. He saw the establishment of a new Kingdom. He saw a new kind of King. Jesus began His reign on the Cross. It seems absurd to make such a claim. For those who believe in the false image of humanity such a claim is deserving of disdain and mockery. The Cross is meaningless for them. However, whenever I look at the Cross, I see Hope. The words, “It is finished” are not a judgement on our frailty. They are a promise that this agonizing conflict in our souls is not eternal. It can end and be overcome but we need to go to the foot of the Cross. We need to go there and face our true selves first before we can see the Hope that hangs on the Cross.