Jesus’ last words on the cross are, ‘It is finished!’
What is finished? Nothing. Nothing is finished, not yet, not until Sunday at least.
So why does Jesus cry out, ‘It is finished!’?
He is reciting Psalm 22.
Psalm 22 is a Psalm of David. God had promised to David that he would never forsake him—and God keeps God’s promises. In Psalm 22, David wrestles with circumstances that cause him to feel like God has abandoned him, and unwavering hope knowing that this is not the case. And from earliest times, the followers of Jesus understood the crucifixion to be a dramatic recital (and, at times, interpretation) of this psalm.
When Jesus cries, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ he is reciting Psalm 22:1, 2.
When the crowds mock him and the religious leaders hurl insults at him, and wait to see if God will rescue him, they are reciting Psalm 22:6-8, 17.
When Jesus entrusts his mother Mary and his disciple John to one another, he is reciting Psalm 22:9-11.
When the soldier’s spear pierces his side, the soldier is reciting Psalm 22:14.
When Jesus says that he thirsts, he is reciting Psalm 22:15.
When the soldiers divide his clothes among them and cast lots to decide which of them will take his most precious garment, they are reciting Psalm 22:18.
When Jesus commends his spirit into God’s hands, he is reciting Psalm 22:20, 21.
When Jesus asks his Father to forgive those who do not know what they are doing, that they might be restored to come before the Lord, on account of hearing his petition, he is reciting Psalm 22:23-24, 27.
When Jesus promises the penitent thief that he will be with him that day in paradise, he is reciting Psalm 22:29.
When Jesus cries out, ‘It is finished!’ he is reciting Psalm 22:30, 31, the culmination of the psalm, the resounding: future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.
He has done it.
And after Psalm 22 comes Psalm 23. Jesus walks through the darkest valley fearing no evil, for the Father is with him, a comforting presence. And having passed through the darkest valley, Joseph and Nicodemus come, and take him and lay him out in the presence of his enemies—soldiers literally standing guard over them—and anoint him with embalming oil. Even so, goodness and mercy shall follow him, and life, in the house of the Lord.
It is finished.
To be continued.
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