THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS FROM THE CROSS
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED
PREACHER FR SEAN WALES C.Ss.R
The last word attributed to the dying Jesus in the Gospel of John is of unique significance. The actual word used in the Gospel can have many shades of meaning:
To make an end
To bring to perfection
To carry though
To appreciate the way it is used in the gospel it is helpful to remember the importance Jesus gave to bringing his life’s work to an end.
Back at Jacob’s well when Jesus encountered the Samaritan women he told his disciples who were urging him to have something to eat: My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work. (4:34).
Jesus was driven by a overriding sense of doing what the Father has planned for him; he speaks at the Pool of Bethesda (5:36) of doing the work my Father has given me to carry out.
What emerges as we read the gospel of John is that Jesus is fully in command of events. In his teaching about being the Good Shepherd , Jesus makes this clear: The Father loves me because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will and as it is in my power to lay it down so it is in my power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by my Father. (10:17-18).
The 13th chapter of John’s gospel tells us about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the beginning of the Last Supper: Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Later during the same Supper he was able to pray to his Father: I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do (17:4, Priestly Prayer).
This insight into how Jesus understood his vocation helps us to appreciate the symbolic and spiritual meaning of his final word in the gospel of John. Of course it is a statement of the physical fact that his earthly life was over; but much more, it was a calm announcement that he had brought to a completion the work of our redemption: he had completed the task given to him by his Father, he had brought to perfection the saving work of God.
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED is not a cry of defeat but a proclamation of victory, a shout of triumph.
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED is the completion of the Old Testament and the Opening of the New Testament, the New and Eternal Covenant.
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED is the bursting onto the world’s stage of the era of Glory, the Glory revealed on the face of the Crucified and Risen Christ.
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED is the transfiguration of Death and the symbols of death into Life and the symbols of life.
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED is an End and a Beginning, a Conclusion and an Introduction.
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED is Obedience and Sacrifice, it is Prayer and Self-Gift.
IT IS ACCOMPLISHED is Faith and Hope, it is the final and full manifestation of Love.
Still in complete control Jesus deliberately “bowing his head gave up his spirit”. Given the way John understands the Passion and Death of Jesus a much better translation would be “And inclining his head, he handed over the Spirit”. This is the translation which best accords with John’s whole theology and is now recognized as much more accurate.
Earlier, during the Feast of Tabernacles described in chapter 7, we read: “[Jesus] was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive; for there was no Spirit as yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (v. 39). For John the death of Jesus is the moment of glory. In that moment the Spirit is released – on Mary and John and all those faithful to him. “To hand over’ the Spirit means to entrust, to deliver the Spirit to the new community at the foot of the Cross.
Pondering this last word of Jesus from the Cross in the Gospel of John, Pope Benedict sees these last moment as a kind of cosmic liturgy: “The Cross of Jesus replaces all other acts of worship as the one true glorification of God in which God glorifies himself through him in whom he grants us his love, thereby drawing us to himself”. (Jesus of Nazareth: part two p.223)
As we ponder this word from the Cross, we are drawn deeper into the mystery of Calvary now.
We can stand with Mary and John receiving this word in faith.
We can reflect on the magnificent vision of the Fourth Gospel giving us a glimpse of the drama of salvation and the glory on the face of Christ.
We may think of those who today are facing persecution for their discipleship, our daily martyrs in the Middle East.
But most of all, perhaps we can take this word into our hearts in preparation for our own personal Passover, for our own death, that it too may be our moment of glory as we die into God.
When we come to say “IT IS ACCOMPLISHED”, may these words reflect the truth of our lives: that all is grace and all is glory: the grace and glory of God.