Jesus’

Last Words

With poetry by Emily Dickinson

 

Introduction

 

Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.

Luke 23: 33-34

 

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Luke 23: 39-43

 

Woman, here is your son! ... Here is your mother!

John: 19: 26-27

 

My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?

Mark: 15: 33-34 and Matthew: 27: 46

 

I am thirsty.

John: 19: 28-29

 

It is finished.

John: 19: 30

 

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Luke 23:  44-46

 

Ashes to Easter

 

 

A word is dead

 

A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

 

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.

Emily Dickinson

 

 

John: 19: 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 

 

Accomplishment glorifies the Father.  Nothing else can.  ‘I have glorified you by completing the work which you have given me to do,’ Jesus had prayed the previous evening in Gethsemane.  The prayer said, the arrest followed.

Through the course of a sleepless night Jesus was led by stages to a path that led him inexorably through a City and out beyond the walls.  Others accompanied him.  Some, sentenced as he had been, bore the weight of a cross beam as well.  Others followed along the route that led to a gate and from the gate on to a hill not a great distance.

People had taken notice of Jesus’ entry into the City a week earlier and had been attracted by their curiosity and his reputation.  Others now found themselves attracted by a week filled with events that served to clarify a reputation that had become a threat.  Some came moved by idle disinterest, while some harboured hopes that seemed threatened by the course of events of the day.

As with a furrowed brow, nature had darkened the day and the hopes of those assembled.  Those without faith in the ministry of the Nazarene felt justified in a day’s work done; those whose faith had been tested by the events of the day felt that all had been lost.  They heard the words thinly voiced. ‘It is finished,’ and they thought it done.

A word is dead / When it is said – or so they thought.  Spoken on the air, the words flew out – they knew not where.  

‘It is finished,’ carried finality and accomplishment.  And a hint of failure for those whose sight was failing.  Hope in the face of it could fly no further.  None of the words could be recalled and the phrase, while heard, could not be any more contained.  As with a final breath, these words rushed out and for some they were all that was left.

In its utterance the course was run, a flag was waved, a cloth dropped, a horn sounded.  After this nothing more was to be expected – nothing more was to be heard, to be done, neither to be seen. 

What had been begun was now accomplished and that had achieved the glory of the Father.

Straining eyes and ears provided no vision of glory here.  The shuffling of feet and the whipping of cloth in the wake of a growing wind did not stir the heart, did not quicken the pulse – no glory called men to attention.  The cloak of darkness hid whatever glory there might have been from the eyes of men both haughty and fearful.  The City lay as asleep in the midst of day, a quiet of night; eddies of wind sounded loudly in the ears of those keeping vigil.

‘It is finished,’ and in its completion Mother and Disciple saw the end of a life that had touched the refuse and broken from Galilee to Judah.  The accumulation of encounters touching the lives of men and women and youths found its culmination on this craggy hilltop. 

Begun there and ended here.

Or so some thought.

I say it just / Begins to live / That day – so wrote a poet who saw in an ending a new beginning.  For what is finished reached beyond the arm’s-breadth of a Cross and embraced the assembled broken.  Beyond the narrow radius of a man’s reach the hand of God reached farther still to touch the broken lives of Gentile and Jew alike.  A reach that retraced a path that led here from a Judgement Hall and further still.

What had ended had just begun to live / That day!  The effect of obedience took flight, and gave life in the darkness that shrouds the daily routine of folks held captive.  That day, and into the next, the Promised One brought promise to the hopeless and the helpless.  Those fraught with greed and envy and malice, rooted in fear were redeemed.  Those without creeds and those without sacraments were soon to discover that they were not without God.  Those who felt moved to defend a shallow faith were quickened in a life freshly begun.

And That day continues yet.

History holds not the record of a Passion.  Ours is not a faithful dramatization of words uttered perhaps in an effort to contain a Promised Son fixed to a Cross.  No chancel drama this.  That day continues to dawn in each successive day as obedience accomplished echoes truth down the corridors of time to this hour that finds us keeping vigil.  ‘It is finished.’  It continuously is finished – the reclaiming work of the Father in the covenant promise of forgiveness.

In the knowledge of that accomplishment, creeds take on new meaning and sacraments new purpose – as signs and seals of a realized promise made in the darkness over a holy City atop a holy hill.

 

 

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Luke 23:  44-46