St Barbara’s 03.04.15
During Lent, a group meeting at the vicarage, has been reflecting on the last words of Jesus, spoken from the cross, and it seems right to return to some of those words again now.
In John’s Gospel, three of Jesus’ last words are recorded. Between them, they give a remarkable insight into the love, humility and purpose of Christ.
His first words, to his mother: “Dear woman, here is your son” and to the disciple: “Here is your mother” speak of the depth of Christ’s love. Even on the cross, physically spent, emotionally exhausted, spiritually desolate, Christ continues to care for others. He must have looked down on the grief-ravaged features of his mother and closest friend, and been utterly distraught by their grief and pain. And so he gives them to each other.
Christ gives us to one another too. In our times of grief and desolation, drawn together to the foot of the cross, Christ gives us to one another too. We are one body, one family, united by Christ’s love.
The second word, “I am thirsty”, seems almost prosaic, functional, until we remind ourselves of who utters them.
This is the one of whom John earlier in his Gospel describes as “the one through whom all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” This is the one through whom the oceans and the seas, the rivers and streams, the rain and snow, the springs and waterfalls, were all made. This is the one who at a wedding in Cana could turn water into gallons of wine.
The incarnation, God becoming one with us, one of us, defies our understanding. How can this be that a God so awesome, so creative, so powerful, can thirst?
Christ on the cross gives up everything for us. He bears the full weight of our humanity, he experiences the full fragility of our human frame, he experiences the full depth of our human sin. This is the God who became like us, that we may become like him.
Christ’s love. Christ’s humility. And Jesus’ final words speak of his purpose. “It is finished”. This is not a cry of failure – its all finished, I’ve failed. Instead, it is a cry of triumph: “it is accomplished, fulfilled”. The purpose for which Christ came into our world has been achieved. It is in the cross that we are reconciled to God, that it becomes possible for us to know the forgiveness and mercy of God. Indeed, the word Jesus uses is the word used to write on a bill to say that it had been paid in full. The price of our human sin has been paid in full by Christ. We are free to know God.
As we stand before the cross of Christ we see the purposes of God outworked, God’s victory over sin and death. It is finished, it is complete.
And as we stand at the foot of the cross today, we catch just the tiniest sense of the cost to Christ of this victory: the depth of his overwhelming love; the greatness of his humility; the wonder of his purpose.
Before the cross of Christ may we stand and be thankful.
I will play a piece of music, during which Keith and I will carry the cross that we have been using throughout Lent to the front. If you would like to, please feel free to come forward and pray at the foot of the cross, or place a hand upon, in prayer and thanksgiving to Christ, who died for us.