7 Last Words — “It is Finished” (John 19:30)
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
Chris reflects on the very last words of Jesus, and what they mean for our Christian mission here on earth.
Mission Accomplished. For the longest time in my childhood, the words “Mission Accomplished” were my two favorite words in the English Language because they always appeared with the completion of a particular level and/or scenario in a video game. Be it Super Mario Brothers, Harvest Moon or Grand Theft Auto, I enjoyed playing these games as they required the fulfillment of a designated mission. The completion of a mission often gave me a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. More importantly, however, the completion of a mission opened up yet another (unknown) level that I could further explore and with it came another mission to be fulfilled. This cycle was repeated until I finishedplaying the entire game.
Jesus too was sent to us to fulfill a divine mission mandated by God. In Luke 4:18 we see Jesus echo the words of Isaiah 61:1 that “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” Indeed, Jesus’ mission on earth was the eternal salvation of souls, so that you and I may no longer be held captive by sin and death. His mission to love, and to love radically – at the cost of His very life – was our redemption to eternal life.
Only when Jesus’ mission on earth was fulfilled could he have said, “it is finished” (John 19:30). And upon the completion of His mission, Jesus departed from us requesting we “wash one another’s feet” metaphorically in humble service (John 13:14) and commanding us to love each other the way He loved us (John 15:12). Indeed, to love and serve each other is our Christian mission. You and I have a mission to love, a mission to give of ourselves, every single day of our lives. St. Teresa of Avila famously said that Christ has “no hands, no feet on earth but yours”. Thus, it is important that we firstly recognise and therefore respond to our mission as Christians.
Our Christian mission demands a response. It requires initiative on our part because a mission is freely taken-up, received and accepted. The Christian mission is ultimately the recognition of a call and a call that we eventually grow to answer with the entirety of our beings. We are sent on mission to give to others what we have received in abundance; we are sent on mission to further receive and recognise God’s glory in the midst of our giving. We are sent on mission to embody our faith and exemplify the crucified Jesus and the resurrected Christ. However, we are only truly sent when we first respond to the call.
Our Christian mission also demands sacrifice. Indeed, the final endpoint of any Christian on the path of discipleship and on the mission to love is Calvary i.e. crucifixion. Loving and serving is no easy feat; loving and serving demands an enlargement of heart and a continued generosity of spirit. Often times, we may get hurt in the process of love and service, especially if those whom we are loving and serving are not exactly very “loveable”. Yet it is poignant to also reflect that Jesus did not just love the loveable ones of His society – He did not love because He could be loved back. Rather, He loved others because He recognised that everyone was made in the image and likeness of God. He loved the marginalised, detested and rejected ones in society; the ones whom He served were often times servants themselves. Unconditional love and humble service to others therefore demands sacrifice.
Lastly, our Christian mission demands holy detachment. Upon the completion of our mission, we too are called to “depart”, like Jesus and to go wherever the Spirit calls us to go. We need to be detached enough from our mission to recognise God’s ever present call – to stay when He calls us to stay and to move when He calls us to move. We need to be wary of mistaking the Christian mission for God; we need to be careful of making the mission an idol that replaces God. Indeed, it is imperative to realise that God works through us in the completing and fulfilling the mission. The mission that we choose to respond to, therefore, was God’s gift to us in the first place. We do not own our mission; we are merely stewards of our mission. The true initiator was always God.
I sometimes wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind when he articulated the words: “it is finished.” I like to think that He felt fulfilled – that His mission was accomplished. I like to believe that Jesus felt fulfilled to partake in the will of God, that He was able to drink from that bitter chalice of salvation, that He was able to bear the weight of the world’s sins utterly and completely. May we too, then, fully articulate the words of Jesus hanging on the cross, someday not with our words but with our deeds (indeed, our very lives) that – “it is finished”, that our mission on earth has been accomplished.
© 2018 Christ Centered Convo/Christopher Chok