Disheveled Theologian: The seven last words of Christ: triumph
I remember the elation I felt when I finished my least favorite class in college (German). I remember the relief I felt when I finished working my first real job (housekeeping at a run-down resort on the island where I grew up). I remember the satisfaction I felt when I finished writing my 18-page Statement of Faith in seminary (a detailed and stressful requirement for completion of my master’s degree). The pleasure I felt in finishing those requirements was real. But it was nothing to the elation, relief and satisfaction — the triumph — that Jesus must have felt when he completed his mission here on earth.
“Triumph” is the traditional word associated with the sixth “Last Word of Christ.” It’s not a word I would have thought of myself, concerning this sixth phrase spoken by Jesus on the cross, but it makes total sense. Jesus had just received his drink of vinegar, as we saw last week, and then, according to John’s version of the story, he knew the end had come. His work was done. He was finished … and that was, indeed, reason to be triumphant.
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30 NIV
Jesus came to earth for a reason. He wasn’t a random baby, born to regular parents. He was the son of God, sent with a purpose: to die on the cross for our sins. And, after 33 years, he’d accomplished everything he had to do in order to fulfill his mission. He was finished. His goal had been reached. He was minutes from death. And in that completion — in his obedience to his calling to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins — he was triumphant.
Success! Completion! Perfecto!
Nothing was left but to breath his last.
Well, and to rise again, proving that he was God. But that was like the epilogue. The coda to his symphony. The “PS” at the end of the letter of his life.
That was Phase Two: Eternity.
But Phase One: “The Life and Death of Jesus Christ”, was over.
Jesus anticipated hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21,23) from his father, just as we too, will hear if we’ve lived the life God has called us to live.
Yes, it’s nice when we successfully finish a task, whether the job was a pleasant one or not. We can triumph in that moment, in our part in its completion. But nothing we ever do will compare to the task Jesus completed for us.
Our job, in response to his sacrifice, is simply to accept what he did on our behalf. When we do that — when we allow the blood of Christ, shed on the cross, to cover over our sins — then we, too, can bask in his triumph.
Jesus’ sacrifice was complete. And that completion lives out in us as we live our lives to his honor and glory.
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.