As recounted by the Apostle John, the last thing Jesus says on the cross before he dies is the Greek word tetelestai, which is commonly translated as, “It is finished” (John 19:30). What did he mean by this? That this terrible ordeal was finally over?
I don’t think so. His whole life had been pointing to the cross. This was not something to be over with in one horrible day.
Jesus had previously clarified that nobody takes his life from him , but that he willingly lays it down (John 10:18). Similarly, here I doubt he would end his earthly life by saying something like, “OK, now that’s over.” Rather, I think he would mean something more like, “I did what I came here to do.”
And what is that, exactly? What did he come here to do?
Start a religion? Nope.
Give us a reason to feel special and better than those people? Nope.
Give us a rule book? Take away all our fun? Make us get a haircut or squirm when someone drinks or dances or plays cards? Not even close.
The Beautiful Exchange
Jesus came to offer us a great deal.
Early in this season of Lent, it occurred to me (and so I posted about it) that as we grow in deeper relationship with him, we shouldn’t focus on the paltry things we give up by choosing to follow him. Instead, we should focus on what Jesus freely gives us in return.
Nowhere is this beautiful exchange more starkly contrasting than in the sacrifice Jesus makes for us on Good Friday.
Evil can flow all too easily through the dark rivers of our hearts. But just like the priests with Joshua stepping into the Jordan river (Joshua chapter 3), Jesus puts one foot into those rivers of darkness and stops them from flowing.
Jesus takes the punishment we deserve for a lifetime of evil thoughts and actions. In return, he gives us life eternal in paradise.
Jesus takes the curses we’ve hurled at him and his sons and daughters, and gives us blessings in return.
Jesus takes our fear, uncertainty, and doubt. In exchange he gives us hope and peace and joy that should baffle those around us. He takes our burdens and gives us rest.
Jesus takes our grumbles and replaces them with gratitude.
Consider the Cost
I can’t imagine why I ever thought it would cost me too much to follow Jesus. Look at how much it cost him to have me as a follower. Sitting at the foot of the cross, I can’t escape the fact that it cost him everything to pay my debt. But thanks to him, it is paid in full, now and forever.