“After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19: 28-30 NRSV)
For weeks Christians around the world have been on a journey. This journey leads us down a path of exploration, of sacrifice, of strong emotions. The self examination that can be done during Lent can shine a light into our darkest places, where our secrets and our innermost feelings and fears are laid bare.
That journey, that path we travel has an end point. The path leads us to Jerusalem, where just a few days earlier the crowds were singing with joy “Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord!” Today those same crowds shout “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Imagine yourself in that crowd. What would you be doing? Would you be shouting “Crucify him?” You might. I might. Perhaps you just want to go along with the crowd, after all, that’s the path of least resistance. Perhaps you really had a strong hope in Jesus, that he would be the powerful king that the people had waited for. Now look at him, standing there after being beaten and whipped. He looks pitiful with a gnarled, bloody robe and a crown woven from thorns. You’re disappointed. You’re done with this. “Crucify him!”
Maybe you’re one of the few people trying to save him. Maybe you’re trying to talk some sense into the crowd. You’re fighting your way to the front, where your voice might be heard by Pilate. “No! Release Jesus, this man has done nothing wrong! You’re being tricked and lied to! Let him go!” Someone in the crowd doesn’t like your plea, and sucker punches you in the stomach, dropping you to the ground. As you start to get yourself together the crowd cheers and you look up, seeing the soldiers pushing Jesus out of view….off to be crucified.
The crowd reforms on the street and you see Jesus carrying his cross to the hill of The Skull. The crowd is yelling many things, nearly all of them unimaginable insults. People spit on him. Someone breaks through the line of soldiers and pushes him to the ground, the heavy wooden beam falling on his back, crushing into him and ripping into his skin.
The crowd laughs. The soldiers laugh.
You run into the path and try to help him. As you attempt to lift the wood from him, he looks up at you. He’s breathing hard, sweat and blood pouring from his brow where the thorns gouge his scalp. He speaks no words, but his eyes…..what do you see in his eyes?
Just then you hear a voice behind you. “Out of the way or you’ll be next!” You turn just in time to see a wooden club brought down on your head.
You come to a few minutes later, your head pulsing with pain, feeling like someone is beating a drum in your brain. Then you start to realize that you’re hearing a real sound. You’re hearing a hammer pounding large nails.
And you hear an otherworldly scream each time the hammer drops.
You gather yourself enough to stagger the rest of way up the path, to the hill, where three crosses now stand. As you look up at Jesus you see the sign above his head that reads
“King of the Jews.”
How did it come to this? He healed so many. He raised people from the dead. How could this have happened? What could you have done to prevent it? You find your mind grasping at straws in an attempt to answer these and other questions.
You don’t know how long you’ve been standing there, but you’re driven back into the present by a loud crack of thunder. You look around, wondering when it got so dark, it’s only about 3 o’ clock! The earth shakes under your feet as the crowd around you starts to panic. Even the Roman soldiers seem to have a bit of an anxious look on their faces.
Then he speaks three final words that pierce into the sky, into your soul, and into the souls of everyone around you.
It is finished.