This Is the End
‘It is finished’
Since last Sunday, some words have been quietly working through my consciousness. They came unbidden whilst I was at prayer on Sunday morning and haven’t left me. The words are these: ‘The End of all things has come’.
Throughout the week, we have been asking the question ‘What do you See?’ It is a question with which the gospel of John is intimately concerned. The gospel which right in its centre contains that lengthy story of the man born blind. For the other gospel writers, the healing of say Bartimaeus occupies a few verses, but in John the healing of ‘the man born blind’ – the man with no name for like the beloved disciple, he might be a cipher for anyone and everyone – his healing occupies a whole chapter.
Ultimately, what do we See in the Crucified One, the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the world? St Paul says For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. What we behold in The Death of Jesus upon the Cross is The End. Our End. One has died for all, therefore All have died.
This is the meaning of the words of Jesus from the Cross ‘It is finished’ – Everything. In the Death of the representative Human, all have died. Human history – that is the History made by humans trying to live their own lives, trying to tell their own story has been Judged in Christ and Him Crucified.
The early church knew this well. Hence so much of the preaching and teaching of the early years reminded the Christians that they were NOW citizens of heaven. The End of all things had come . . .
Why do such thoughts seem so alien to US now, as what we call C21 Christians? If not because the temptation to live life on our own terms caused us to in effect renounce the End that God had declared in the Cross of Jesus. To refuse God’s judgement upon us in Jesus. To allow us to live our own lives and then, hopefully, to become citizens of heaven in our own time. To reduce God to a kindly chaplain who oversees us living our lives. To reduce the Cross from being The Judgement upon us and lives lived on our own terms, to being a sign that God was with us in Our Suffering – that God was ‘with us’. In other words once more to seek to make ourselves the centre of all things.
Thus the Offence of the Cross – for it says ‘No’ to our lives. As Christ lays down His Life, All life is judged. One has died for all; therefore all have died.
As we noted upon hearing the story of the man born blind, God is at work in Jesus, separating out Light from Darkness. The Blind Pharisees drive from the synagogue the man who can now See. ‘And he divided the Light from the Darkness. And the Light he called Day, and the darkness Night’
Seen from the perspective of Our lives lived as we want them, the only way to See the Cross is as Night, Darkness and Death. The Cross Is the negation of Our lives. We want lives that are all about Us and our goodness, but as Jesus tells us ‘Only God is Good’ ‘Only God is Good’ The Cross is that separation of Light and Darkness. It reveals in Dazzling brilliance that Truth – That God Is Good – and His Glory is the only Glory. The Cross is the End of human glory.
Yesterday evening we reflected upon the epitome of human glory, what St Luke calls ‘Benefactors’ Those who try to do good, but on their own terms. Those perhaps who will have lengthy tribute and eulogy paid to them at their funeral – But Jesus says to those who would follow him, it is not to be so amongst you . . . you must follow in my way. Like me, make yourself Nothing in the eyes of the world. ‘We are unworthy servants’ All the Glory belongs to God.
It is in such ways that the offense of the Gospel, the offense of the Cross becomes most sharp – when it calls radically into question what we call the Good Life. We are happy enough for it to judge those parts of our lives of which we are ashamed, but we don’t want ALL of our lives to be taken to the Cross. The Offense is that ‘good life’, the things of which we are proud – the things which we have done which we want God to reward us for – those things are judged at the Cross. Everything is. This is The End of All Things.
To live for the Glory of God leads in human terms to humiliation and death. The Cross is The End of all of our attempts to ‘make a name for ourselves’ – to live a ‘good life’ within terms that we set out. To keep anything for ourselves – to try and steal the only Glory, that which comes from God.
Yet the flesh doesn’t want to die – it thinks if it keeps wrestling on and on, it will win out – but there is no on and on. ‘It is finished’ – The Cross is the End.
What do we see in Christ crucified? The judgement of our lives in their entirety? The End of our Lives?
Let the same mind be amongst you as was in Christ Jesus . . . who made himself nothing, taking the form of a slave, and being found in likeness as a man, became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave to Him, the name that is above every name . . .