In July 2014 I wrote about the Gospel being a Gospel of Absolutes, for it is.
No more so than on the first Good Friday, the day Jesus surrendered His life with the Lion’s Roar “It is finished”. The full passage in the New King James reads:
“After this, Jesus, knowing<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NKJV-26854e" data-link="[e]”> that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:28-30)
There can be no doubt left by the statement John makes in the Gospel. It’s a final declaration of triumph by Jesus.
He knows He has completed the prophecies – there is just one remaining, the drinking of vinegar on the Cross. He knows what is to come. He will become Sin so we may be freed from it’s grasp.
“It is finished”.
There is no ambiguity in His words. He does not say “My part is finished, now look for Mohammed”.
Some things are just naturally completed. We look for completion in what we read and watch. When a series or movie ends in ambiguity we despair and wait for the sequel.
Maximus kills the evil Commodus then dies. It’s an ending we can get behind. Darth Vader finds redemption by killing the Sith Lord Sidious. And we cheer (although what is about to happen in the movies may well make us groan).
But ambiguity makes us tense. We long for finality. I watched “Stargate SG1” on TV and was horrified when the series wasn’t renewed because the enemy was left in the middle of a storyline. The makers were obviously aware of this and commissioned a TV movie to round it off. When the second “Matrix” movie ended we were on the edge of our seats – Neo unconscious, no completion. No destruction of evil. “The Empire Strikes Back” was just as bad for us.
And that’s the crux. We as humans have an inherent need to see evil defeated. Even before Adam fell we had the need to see evil cast down. Part of the temptation was to be able to tell good from evil. It’s why it was such an effective ruse.
We need to see the enemy conquered. The bad guys need to lose in a way they can’t come back from. It’s built into us. A part of us that is connected with a Holy God in a way that can only be developed in a Holy Relationship – and that was the point Jesus strove to make in His teachings and through His death and Resurrection. It was the point Paul and the other New Testament writers laboured for years to make apparent to their friends, families, enemies and even to us 2000 years later.
We can be Holy again.
King David was an adulterer, a murderer. He had blood on his hands from countless battles. He fell into sin time and time again. Yet he was described as a man after God’s own heart. It wasn’t from his sin that this came, but rather from his desire for relationship with God.
Abraham believed God.
“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:1-4 NKJV)
Not “Abraham believed in God”. Belief that God exists, even belief oin His almighty power to save us is not enough. An intellectual acknowledgement of the Truth will not suffice. We must believe God. Trust Him. Accept Him.
Not try to earn His acceptance. That’s folly. The Cross was final.
The Law is completed in Christ, so by trusting Christ was enough for us and believing Him we can confidently ask God for our needs to be given to us and expect to receive them.
This is where false religions get their power. As much as we have a need for finality through our knowledge that God desires us, we have a second need that came with the fall – that we should save ourselves. Cain killed Abel because Abel offered a life for his own – God’s work – where Cain offered grain he had sweated to produce – his own work – and it was not enough. His jealousy led to the first murder.
So it is that we have a desire to earn our way into heaven. Whether it’s by reclaiming the Holy Land like the knights a thousand years ago did, slaughtering thousands in a futile effort to win God’s favour, or the actions of a modern jihadist doing the same thing with the weapons of the 21st Century makes no difference.
Even feeding the poor, clothing the naked and healing the sick are worthless actions if performed simply to say to God “look what I’ve done”.
God simply wants us to look and say:
“Look what Jesus did”.
He gave up Heaven.
He died on a Cross.
All so He could have our company.