(image courtesy of http://www.heirswithchrist.com)
As a member of the Christian faith I believe that God’s story in Jesus Christ is intended to inspire hope in all of us! This is only made possible when we grasp the point of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. But at the last moment of Jesus life on earth he says (according to John) “it is finished.” This being the concluding words of Jesus life though could leave some less than hope-filled.
Personally I am the kind of personality that likes to get the point. I like the comfort of knowing the point of a story. I appreciate it when people who I am in conversation with get to the point so that I know the purpose of our conversation. I like television shows and movies that have a clear point and that wrap up the storyline in a nice neat bow for me. I really don’t like it when I am left hanging. Case in point – the movie August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. It is by most accounts a brilliant work regarding a husband, wife and their three daughters. I found the movie pretty entertaining watching the dynamics between mother and her daughters in the aftermath of the father’s suicide. But I did not like the ending – it left me hanging. There were too many unresolved questions about the storyline. And because the movie didn’t wrap up in a nice neat bow I didn’t like the fact that I could name the point.
All of us are people who for the most part like things to come to a nice, neat conclusion. It is the world that we live in – beginnings, endings, beginnings, and endings. Each task or project or stage of life having its beginning and its natural ending. Retired Bishop William Willimon in his book Thank God It’s Friday gives an example of this from his personal experience.
“What a joy it is to have an ending, to be able to say that it is over and done with. That was one of the things I loved about academic life: commencement. No matter how bad the year had been, no matter how many disappointing students I had taught or lousy lectures I had delivered, there was always that day in May when it was over.”
I think that is why so many of us love storytellers like Paul Harvey. Harvey was an American broadcaster for ABC radio networks and he was on the air workday mornings, mid-day and Saturday’s at noon. He was noted for personalizing the radio news lacing it with his own trademarks: a hypnotic timbre, extended pauses for effect, unique catch phrases, and heartwarming tales of average Americans and folksy observations that evoked the heartland, family values, and old-fashioned plain talk that one would hear around the dinner table on Sunday. In the latter half of his career he was best known for his radio series “The Rest of the Story.” It premiered on May 10, 1975 and was described as a blend of mystery and history. It was broadcast 6 times a week until his death in 2009. He would end each segment with the phrase, “And now you know the rest of the story.” I am sure that a number of you who are in your 20’s and 30’s have never heard a Paul Harvey broadcast so ask your parents and grandparents – they will help you come to understand how well-respected and trusted he was as a newscaster.
I guess a modern example of Harvey would be Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert – two guys who are trusted by those who watch them. The only difference is that Paul Harvey was a newscaster who portrayed a newscaster. Stewart and Colbert are comedians portraying newscasters. No matter whom you listen to, you hope that you are being told the full story so that you can get the point.
I can only imagine what it must have been like at the foot of the cross. You can take a moment and read each gospel account noting the differing tone and details regarding Jesus’s death. But it is only John who records Jesus final words as “it is finished.” Not “I am finished” but “it is finished.” Once Jesus took his last breath I can picture the look on people’s faces. There had to have been puzzlement as people murmured to one another “what, that’s the end?” Others may have become angry and questioned “what was the point of following him for 3 years if it ends in him dying? What is the point if this is the end? What exactly is finished anyway?”
I wrestle with that as well because reading John 19 you don’t really get a well-defined rationale or point to the death. And Jesus really doesn’t say what was finished. Interpreter’s lead us to conclude the following meaning in these words:
1) The public proclamation of Jesus concludes his public ministry on earth; he has fulfilled the Father’s mission. That mission was:
a) Make God known to a hostile world
b) Establish God’s kingdom on earth that is marked by love and justice, especially for those who are marginalized or oppressed.
2) And it was completed by:
a) Jesus’ teachings that revealed the truth of God
b) Jesus’ miracles and healings that expressed God’s love for all people
c) Jesus’ calling of the disciples to form a new community that would represent the truth of God through self-sacrificing love and service
But this is the point that I came to realize – “it is finished” is not the end of story, it is merely the end of a chapter – the life and now death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and of Man. And because it is not the end of the story, it signifies the beginning of something else and that is the next chapter which is God’s resurrection of the Only Begotten Son – the chapter of hope.
Jesus’ proclamation “it is finished” points us, orients us to the rest of the story and it is the rest of the story that gives us hope! The point is simply this – death is not the final answer; it was not Jesus final chapter and it is not our final chapter. Death did not have victory over Jesus Christ and it will not have victory over those of us who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior! And the point of this is not only to foster faith and belief but also for the transformation of our lives – that we might finish our God ordained mission – to tell the world the rest of the story – God’s story of hope!
We live in a world that desperately needs to hear the rest of the story! A week and a half ago we had a deranged man filled with anti-Semitic hate kill a grandfather and his grandson at the local Jewish Community Center. He then drover over to a retirement area called Village Shalom and shot and killed a woman there. This man is just one of many examples of how we don’t get the point of the story. And these examples remind us that we need to continue to be a beacon, an example of Christ’s love that can heal and transform; we have to continue to tell the rest of the story till all the world gets the point!
It is a story of hope – the point of God’s story in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the only true story of hope for this world. God is inviting us to participate in the transformation of the world through this powerful story of hope. It can be done if we would simply imitate Jesus in our words and deeds as we conform to the image of Christ.
So may all that we say and do each and every day, from this moment on be an imitation of Jesus Christ so that the world might come to know the point of his life, death and resurrection – that the world might come to know and have hope!
Blessings for the journey.