03 April 2015

It Is Finished

In the beginning was the Word.

As we consider the “seven words of Jesus from the Cross,” it is well to remember that there is really the one Word of God, that is, our dear Lord Jesus Christ Himself: the almighty and eternal Son of God, who has become flesh and tabernacles among us.  It is chiefly that one Word of God, which the Father speaks in the Body of flesh and blood upon the Cross, crucified for all your sins, which you are called upon to hear and receive on this Good Friday, and no less on Easter Sunday, and on Pentecost Day, and at Christmas, and throughout the whole year and your whole life.

It is with that Word of God in Christ that the holy evangelist, St. John, begins his record of the Holy Gospel.  For Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son, was in the beginning with God; and He is God; and by Him were all things made, as God spoke His Word, and it was so.  In taking up that divine Word, St. John proclaims the Gospel in the Light of Genesis and the Creation.

In fact, there are a number of points and places in the course of St. John’s Gospel that manifest the Lord Jesus as the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  And He has come in the flesh in order to redeem and sanctify His own Creation, to bring it to the fulfillment of His good and gracious will for those whom He has made in His Image and Likeness.

In the first place, He is the Light of the world, and He is the Life of men, as in the beginning He called forth the light out of the darkness and breathed His Breath of Life into Adam.

And as He separated the land from the water and brought forth the fruits of the earth on the third day of Creation, so it was “on the third day” that Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, manifesting in advance the dawn of the New Creation.

So is He the One who gives new birth through water and the Spirit; Who also works and heals and gives life, even on the Sabbath.  For as the Father is always working, creating and preserving life, so does the Son — the Word of God — continue to work and give life, thus providing rest for man.

Indeed, He is the Resurrection and the Life, so that all who believe in Him, even though they die — as did His friend Lazarus — yet shall they live — as surely as Lazarus was raised from the dead.

For all of that, even His raising of Lazarus is still only the anticipation of the Hour of Jesus, when He will finally accomplish and manifest His divine Glory in the flesh.  In fact, ironically enough, it is His raising of Lazarus that precipitates the Hour of His Glory, the Hour when He is lifted up for the life of the world in His death upon the Cross, and He thereby draws all people to Himself.

So it is that the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Author and Giver of Life, Who is Himself the Life and the Light of the world, comes into His Glory by way of suffering and death.

What is the point and purpose of God in all of this, in the Person and work of His incarnate Son, Christ Jesus?  What does it mean that He is glorified in Crucifixion?  How can this be?  And why?

Once more, we must begin with the beginning, when the Lord God created all things out of nothing, by and through His Word, for the sake of His own divine Love.  That is to say, it is the Father’s divine, eternal Love for His Son — and the Son’s divine, eternal Love for His Father — in the Holy Spirit — it is for this Love that the Holy Triune God created the heavens and the earth.

He created all things, and man in particular, in order to share His own divine, eternal Life — His own Being of Love — with others outside of Himself; to love and serve His own creatures.

More to the point at hand, and also to put this more personally, He created you in order to love you.  That is why you exist: namely, so that God may love you with Himself.

Thus, again, the Holy Triune God created man in His own Image, in the sense and for the purpose of sharing Himself, His Life and His Love, with man; so that all the children of man, receiving these gifts and graces of God, would also reflect the Glory of God in both soul and body.

In thus creating man in His Image and Likeness — out of the dust of the ground, into the flesh — and breathing into man His living and Life-giving Spirit — the Father was already anticipating the Incarnation of His dear Son, our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Image of God.

Tragically, though, in contradiction of God’s good and gracious will for us men and our salvation, when we fell into sin through unbelief and disobedience, we brought death and destruction upon ourselves.  We cut ourselves off from the Word and Spirit of God, and thereby rejected the Life and the Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Incarnation of the Son of God was therefore undertaken for a two-fold purpose:

On the one hand, the Incarnation is the way and the means by which God has firmly established His divine Image in the flesh and blood of Man, in the Person of Jesus Christ, in the very Body of Him who is both true God and true Man.  He thereby accomplishes in Himself the primary purpose of His Creation.  And on the other hand, in the same Lord Jesus Christ, He rescues man from sin, death, and hell through the forgiveness of sin, the defeat of death, and the satisfaction of judgment.

Thus, what began with the creation of all things by and through the Word of God, is fulfilled in the Incarnation of the same Word, culminating in His voluntary Cross and in His Resurrection.

It is for the sake of the same divine Love for which all things are made, that God Himself in the flesh lays down His own body and life in loving Self-sacrifice for the salvation of His creatures.

All of this the Lord our God has done, for you and for all people, by subjecting Himself to the utter depths of that death and damnation which you brought upon yourself by your sin.  So that, even there — in your death and damnation — you are no longer separated from His Life and His Love.

Indeed, He has spoken His Word — His “Let it Be!” in the flesh — in the midst of the darkness to which you had succumbed.  He has invaded the nothingness to which you had returned by your sin, and He calls you to come forth again from out of your tomb, out of your hole in the ground.

Once more, the Lord God creates out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) by and through His Word, precisely by submitting Himself, in the Person of His Word, His only-begotten Son, to the utter depths of death and the grave.  Everything is thereby turned inside-out, because the Light of God has entered the darkness, and the divine Life has stormed the gates of Hades.

So does He also, then, “give up the Spirit.”  Which is to say, in this Holy Gospel, that He hands over and restores the living and Life-giving Spirit of God to the children of man, who otherwise return to the dust from which they have come.  So it is that, in His Resurrection, Jesus breathes the Spirit upon His disciple — and through them into you by the Holy Absolution of all your sins.

This forgiveness of sins by and from the Cross, unto the life and salvation of your body and soul — that is the Glory of God, and the Hour of His Glory.  Thus, “It is finished,” as He says from the Cross.  What is “it”?  The point and purpose of God’s Creation.  And how is it “finished”?  By the death of God in the flesh, for the redemption and salvation — and the restoration — of Creation.

Once again — as in Genesis, when God had finished all His work and He rested — so does Christ also rest in His tomb on the Sabbath — whereby He sanctifies and establishes this perfect Sabbath Rest for man.  Therefore, even death is no longer able to frighten or alarm you, because it has been filled with the Peace and presence of Christ.  As He who is the Light of the world and the Life of men has entered into your tomb, so are you called to enter into His rest by faith in His Gospel.

And in the Light and Life of this completed New Creation in Christ, a brand new day begins — a day beyond the Sabbath, a never-ending day beyond the days and weeks of this temporal world: A new eternal “Eighth Day” dawns for you in His Resurrection from the dead on Easter.

That new, eternal Day begins, and it is manifested in His Resurrection for the whole world to receive and enter into it and live forever in Christ Jesus, because all of His work of Creation and Redemption has been accomplished, completed, and perfected on this day, on this Good Friday — the Sixth Day — in the Cross and Crucifixion of the incarnate Son of God.  Everything henceforth is the “It Was So” of this final “Let It Be!”

And the Lord God saw all the works of His hands, which He had finished, and, behold, it was very good!  So may you also rest in His Peace, both now and forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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