Seven Last Words: “It is Finished” – Jesus ~ Lenten Reflection

sevenlastwords-6On Sunday we looked at three of the most powerful words in Scripture, where Jesus says, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Here though is the difficulty with these words: what is the “it”?

Because the context isn’t actually all that clear, lots of people have lots of ideas about “what” is finished in Jesus’ last words. People say things like sin, death, evil, Jesus’ mission, pain, and others. And surely all of them have theological warrant, but what we really wanted to get at was what does Jesus mean?

We have a tendency (and have been taught) that Jesus dies primarily for our individual sins. So when we come to a passage like this, we read our ideas into the text. So traditionally many people say that the price of sin has now been paid. That’s what’s finished.

But the text doesn’t mention sin, evil, payment or anything like that. So what is actually “finished”? That’s what we explored on Sunday.

And when the immediate context doesn’t help, you need to widen your scope, so we began in the beginning of John.

John is pretty clear in John 1:1 that he is telling a creation story. John begins with “In the beginning…”; this is a clear echo to Genesis. So John, right off the bat, is saying his story is going to echo, or be a riff, on the Genesis story.

The next thing we noticed was that in John he is counting miracles. He actually says this straight out (this is first miracle, the second miracle, etc). And if you count the miracles there are 7 miracles Jesus does. Seven acts of Jesus, just as in the beginning Genesis story there are seven acts of God.

There is this parallel between what Jesus is doing in John, and what God was doing in Genesis. 

But then comes the twist. Jesus dies and was resurrected. This is miracle number 8. This is the start of a new week, this is new territory, this is a new beginning.

It’s as if John is saying, that Jesus is starting a brand new creation story, that the old is gone. In fact, if you look at end of God creating the world in Genesis, he says “it is finished twice” in close connection. And John has Jesus uttering the same thing in John 19. He says “it is finished” twice in close connection (John 19:28; 30).

John is alluding to the fact that the old creation account is now complete. It is not just “evil, or sin” but the entire old way of living under the burden of sin is complete. That creation account, that world, that way of living is now finished. And with Jesus’ resurrection (miracle number 8) a brand new way of living is founded. A new kingdom, a new way of living, a new creation is starting.

John through hints, allusions, and out right clarity – is insisting that with Jesus’ death and resurrection, it is not just about our personal sin.

It is about a whole cosmos being infected with sin being finished, and a new world being birthed out of Jesus’ resurrection.

And he gives us two giant clues, or “wink, wink, nudge nudges” to see this. Jesus’ side is pierced and out comes water and blood, the classic two symbols of birth. And then when Jesus is first encountered, Mary thinks he is the gardener. You can almost sense John saying, “See? Do you get it? New gardener, new Eden, new creation. Wink wink – nudge nudge”

Jesus’ death and resurrection is the finishing of the old world, and the starting of the new. That’s what is finished, and what is before.

So we ended with asking are there any areas of our lives we are living in the old world. Are we seeking to earn God’s approval? Are we tied to sin? Are we choosing to live in sin – rather than in God’s kingdom? Because Jesus says that whole way of living is finished, there is a new way to live – a new gardener is here.

So our challenge was to live in God’s kingdom this week. And to help that we went old school – giving us a verse to memorize and pray daily this week. It’s from Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again”. There is our word again, “finished”.

So this week live in God’s new kingdom of hope, love, and peace. Don’t slide back into the old world of sin that is finished. And when you feel yourself sliding, pray this verse – trusting that God will finish what he has started. Because Jesus is right, the old is finished, and with him the new has come.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: The old is gone and finished, and a new world is here.

Teaching Points:

  • Challenge for Lent: 1) Pray Weekly Prayers of Repentance, 2) Pray Daily Corporate Prayers 2 Chronicles 7:14, 3) Fast Something for Lent
  • Whenever something gets familiar we are in dangerous territory.
  • What is familiar is not understood because it is familiar – Hegel
  • Beginnings are crucial to understanding endings
  • John is telling a story about a new Genesis
  • John’s gospel is about a new creation story
  • Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t just about Jesus dying for our sinsit’s about Jesus creating a brand new world.
  • Finished = Teleo in Greek
  • The old world is finished,  and when Jesus rises again with him is a new world.
  • John is saying with Jesus’ death, the old world is finished, and a new world is being birthed because of Jesus.
  • Is there anything that needs to be finished in our lives today.
  • Some of us might still be living in the old world of earning God’s approval.
  • Some of us are still living under the lie that we are sinners, and unable to break free from sin.
  • Some of you are choosing to live in the old world of sin, evil, and hurt and you know it.
  • And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again” Phil 1:6

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? What can you fast or give up this year? Had you ever noticed some of the connections between John and Genesis before? Which ones were most surprising to you? What does the “old world” way of living look like – in your life? What does living in a new kingdom look like, and feel like? Is there anything that is “old” that you need to let go and say – it is finished too?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Why not actually act out this with your kids? Get some cardboard, some glue, or paper mache and make a creation story. Make up trees, maybe a volcano for some fun, and talk about how God made the world. Talk about how Jesus re-made the world too, and with it we don’t need to hold onto hurt or hate anymore.

Challenge for the Week: Trust and live in the new world, the old is finished.

Seven Last Words of Jesus: “Father Into Your Hands…” Lenten Reflection

sevenlastwords-7On Sunday we looked at this saying of Jesus on the cross: “Father into your hands I commend my Spirit”.

There is a lot to be said about this statement, but we just focused on a few details. First, that this is a prayer that quotes Psalm 31:1. This is important because on the cross it was virtually impossible near the end to speak. You died of asphyxiation so speaking was not only difficult, but excruciating. So Jesus, for his last words, prays the first line of this Psalm. And here is the rest of the verse:

I entrust my spirit into your hands. Rescue me, Lord for you are a faithful God. Psalm 35:1

When we take Jesus’ words in light of the rest of the verse we see that Jesus’ prayer is both a prayer of trust, and rescue.

The second thing we noticed was that while the translation of the word, “spirit” is correct in English, it is lacking. When we hear “spirit” we think of soul or the opposite of “body” or the material world. But the word in both Greek and Hebrew has earthy roots. Jesus here is not praying to hand over his “soul” but his entire being. This is why Eugene Peterson’ in his translation, translates this verse as, “I’ve put my life in your hands”. And this gets at the heart of what is happening. Jesus is trusting the Father, not just with his soul, but his entire life.

And what is so remarkable about this, is that Jesus at the end of his life turns to faith. We sometimes cheapen this moment by thinking, “Well Jesus…was Jesus he knew he would be resurrected”. But we are saying that on this side of history. Jesus hasn’t lived it yet, and so while he has faith the Father will rescue him, it simply put hasn’t happened yet. So Jesus is starting into death, darkness, and the weight of sin knowing he is about to be abandoned but in his last moments he doesn’t give up on faith, he gives in to faith. He says “Father I trust you even now”, you are all I can hold onto.

What is beautiful is that because Jesus prayed this prayer so can we. We will never know what Jesus experienced, nor will we ever go through the depth of what he experienced. But because of Jesus, even when we are at our worst, in our deepest struggle, because his spirit lives and moves within us – we can pray this prayer like him. When we come up against darkness that doesn’t quit, death that steals our life, we can choose to trust in God. To say, “Father I trust you with my life” which is where we ended on Sunday.

It was a prayer of unquestioning trust…Uncalculating trust. A no-questions-asked readiness to leave everything in the hands of the Father. Eugene Peterson

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: That if Jesus prayed this prayer, so can we.

Teaching Points:

  • Challenge for Lent: 1) Pray Weekly Prayers of Repentance, 2) Pray Daily Corporate Prayers 2 Chronicles 7:14, 3) Fast Something for Lent
  • There is cosmic significance to what is happening.
  • I entrust my spirit into your hands. Rescue me, Lord for you are a faithful God. Psalm 35:1
  • Jesus’ prayer is both a prayer of trust, and rescue.
  • That if Jesus prayed this prayer, so can we.
  • It was a prayer of unquestioning trust…Uncalculating trust. A no-questions-asked readiness to leave everything in the hands of the Father. Eugene Peterson

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? What can you fast or give up this year? Is there any difficulty you are facing right now? What is it? Can you name it? Can you trust God in the midst of it? What might that look like? Can you pray the prayer Jesus prayed?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Read the story today with your kids. Talk to them about how Jesus, in the most difficult moment, trusted in his Father. Remind them they can always trust in God.

Challenge for the Week: Pray, “Father I trust you with my life”

“Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise” ~ Lenten Reflection

sevenlastwords-2On Sunday we looked at the fourth word of Jesus found in Luke 23:43. Jesus says this, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

We looked at how Luke introduces us to two thieves who hang next to Jesus. The word “thieves” though probably bring up the wrong connotations for us. We think of common street thugs, when we should be thinking political terrorists. Because that’s what these two thieves were in the eyes of Rome – insurrectionists, revolutionaries, or political terrorists.

They are expecting a Messiah to show up and to overthrow Rome. The Messiah would “save” them from Rome. The Messiah would, through strength, power, and violence if needed, toss out the Romans and inaugurate God’s reign (or Kingdom) in Israel. This is what they were waiting for. This is what they were looking for.

So when these two men look at Jesus, all they see is a failed Messiah. Real Messiahs don’t get nailed to cross. Real Messiahs don’t get crushed by Rome, they overthrow Rome.

So one of the thieves hurls abuse at Jesus. The Greek word is a strong word, and it demonstrates that this thief continues to hurl abuse and blasphemy at Jesus constantly. It’s not once or twice, it’s a constant barrage of abuse.

But we get a completely different reaction from the second thief. He seems to have had a change of heart. He isn’t hurling abuse; Jesus seems to have somehow convinced him that he is who he says he is.

What is interesting is two men experience the same thing, but have different responses. One hurls abuse at Jesus, the other accepts Jesus.

I think it has to do with seeing Jesus offer forgiveness to those who killed him. For the one thief this is a betrayal of his most deeply held beliefs. You do not forgive your oppressors; you kill them and overthrow them. Yet for the other thief, he sees a different thing. He sees not weakness in forgiveness but strength, and it causes him to believe that even as Jesus is dying – he is somehow coming into his kingdom.

So he says essentially two words: Remember me. Remember me. Remember me.

He doesn’t confess his sins, he doesn’t offer a prayer of repentance, he just says “remember me”. And it’s enough. And it’s always been enough. So Jesus says something remarkable – “today you will be with me in paradise.”

And from this we asked a very personal but poignant question: what type of prisoner are you?

  • Are you like the first – hurling insults at Jesus and seeing nothing but weaknesses and irrelevance?
  • Or are you like the second – who sees something more amidst the hell he was going through?

Because it is the second that received a promise, in the midst of his own personal hell, for paradise to enter his life. This is a promise that is worth finding. This is a promise worth hearing  – but it only comes when we choose to trust in Jesus.

So we ended with that question, and invited a response. That if today you want to find paradise and Jesus, to simply say two words: “remember me.” The thief didn’t know how paradise would enter his world, and I don’t know how it might enter yours if you trust in Jesus. What I do know though is that it is always through Jesus, and begins by saying “Remember me”.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: What type of prisoner are you?

Teaching Points:

  • Challenge for Lent: 1) Pray Weekly Prayers of Repentance, 2) Pray Daily Corporate Prayers 2 Chronicles 7:14, 3) Fast Something for Lent
  • Crucifixion was a punishment that the Romans used almost exclusively for the crime of sedition. Reza Aslan
  • Jesus is not dying because of his religious ideas, but because of his political ideas.
  • The people were expecting a messiah who would save them, not die for them.
  • What kind of prisoner are you?

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? What can you fast or give up this year? Had you thought of Jesus dying before because of politics and power more than religion? What do you think about that? What thief can you relate to more and why? Have you ever been like the first thief hurling abuse? What brought you there? Have you ever been like the second thief trusting? What brought you there? Where are you today – trusting – or distrusting?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today read the story and talk to your kids about Jesus’ words. Help them to see that if we choose to trust in him, he will promise us paradise in our lives. Ask them if any of them might want to trust in him.

Challenge for the Week: Pray – Remember me