When we think of the word “victorious,” our mind goes immediately to celebrations that take place in life. We think of what transpires following a basketball or football game when the victorious team celebrates. We think of what takes place when a new born child arrives to a family that has struggled to get pregnant. We think of the celebrations that occur when someone is declared cancer free.
Those are victorious moments, filled with glorious celebrations, and moments of triumph.
Nothing, my friends, about this moment that we have arrived at tonight seems victorious. At first glance, nothing about that moment on Golgatha’s hillside seemed like a victorious moment.
Instead, we see everything that appears to be the opposite. We see a darkness that fills the skies. There is a feeling of gloom and despair among the supporters of Jesus who gathered at the cross. Finally, there is the death of Jesus that stands as a dark contrast to what would traditionally be considered a victorious moment.
Thus, we come to this day – this Good Friday – and we sit in the darkness and ponder its meaning. The sanctuary’s decorations have been removed. The altar and pulpit have been covered. There is a darkness that is over us as the rain pours down. Yet, we claim this day as good and victorious. For those who doubt or have questions about faith, I think this identifying title for this day comes as a struggle.
So, what do we make of this day? What do we make of the darkness? What do we make of Jesus’ death on the cross? To answer these questions, we turn to this last word that Jesus spoke from the cross. A word that announces this day’s importance. We find that word in John 19:30. There Jesus says, “It is finished.”
It is finished. A word and phrase that is of completion. A word that announces something about Jesus and his work to the people who are there at the cross, both those who supported him and those who had no interest in Jesus being the Messiah and King of all.
John tells us that Jesus spoke these words after he received the bitter vinegar wine to quench his thirst. More than that, these words come at the end of a long and challenging week. It began with Jesus heralded as king as he entered Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations and ended with the chants of “crucify him” at Pilate’s headquarters. It was a week where Jesus challenged the religious authorities and sought to finish the work of establishing God’s reign and redeeming all people.
It was a week that had its climax in this moment and with this last word from the cross. The way John writes these words we get the sense that Jesus cried out this final word from the cross, much like the other Gospel writers tell us that he did with some of the other seven statements that he speaks.
Our inclination might be to expect that this cry and these words were a sign of defeat and agony. There is none of that. Jesus does not offer a cry of resignation. He is not dejected in the face of death. Quite the contrary, Jesus’ cry is a shout of victory. “It is finished,” is a victorious announcement to the entire world – and all of creation – that the struggle is over. Jesus has won.
The struggle is not of Jesus’ life, but of his mission to redeem all of creation. Jesus’ death signifies that the work he came to do has been accomplished. The work of redeeming the people – all people – has been won through his death on the cross.
Jesus came to engage in a cosmic struggle between death, darkness, and sin. He came to win the victory over the things that seek to destroy us and take us away from the Father’s love. It was a victory that could only be won through his life and the self-sacrificial and loving act of giving his life for all. His death is the act of victory and the moment that changed the world.
In the darkness of the moment, Jesus announces that death does not win. That sin does not win. That darkness does not win. Jesus has won. Though it may not appear to be the case to the mourning supporters, the victory in the struggle that Jesus has been engaged in has been secured.
The victory was won for all us. It was love that led Jesus to secure this victory and to give of his life for all of us. His love for all people and all of creation led him to give of his very life, so that we could be redeemed and reconciled with the Father.
That is the good news about the cross. Jesus has won the victory over all the things that seek to destroy us and seek to prevent us from being in a relationship with the Lord. Take a moment to reflect on your life. All of us have things that we are not proud of or things that we wish were not the case. All of us have things that we believe there is no way God could forgive or that God could never do anything about.
We do not have to feel this way, because the cross announces something else. Jesus took on all of our hurts, all of our pains, all of our disappointments, all of our frustrations, and he won the victory over them. When Jesus went to the cross, he took on all of these things that have defined us, all the things that have been done to us, all the things that have taken place in the world, and he paid the ultimate price for them. He goes to the cross to offer forgiveness, grace, a second-chance, truly redemption for each of us and the entire world.
No matter what burden we carry, no matter what darkness clouds our life, Jesus paid the victory over them. There is nothing in our life that Jesus’ love that was expressed on the cross cannot redeem or forgive. The cross is the sign that the things that hold us back no longer do so.
In order to experience this, though, we have to see Jesus’ victory touching us on a deeper level. We have to see ourselves at the cross and seeing Jesus’ act as redeeming us. The only way the victory of the cross means anything to us is if we believe that Jesus has redeemed and restored us through his act of love.
We have to let go of holding on to the things and believing that it us up to us to do the work of redeeming and restoring. It is only God who can do the true work of redeeming and restoring in our lives. Only God can do the work or recreating us in his image, of picking up our broken pieces, of taking our hurts, and recasting them into something new and beautiful. It something God has done through Jesus’ act of love on the cross. It is only something we can experience when we let go of these things and believe that Jesus’ victory is our victory and our invitation into a new and deeper relationship with God.
Each of us have something we are struggling with today. It could be something that we have not asked for God to forgive us. It could be something where we are questioning if God is at work. It could be a hurt that has been done toward us. It could be a sickness or deep struggle. Whatever that is, I want to invite you to go to the cross and give that thing over to Jesus. Allow Jesus’ victory on the cross to be the victory in these places of darkness in our lives.
On this Good Friday, may we see that Christ has won the victory. The work is finished. The work of redemption is done. The work of rescuing us from our sin has been accomplished. May we live into the victory and claim what Jesus did on the cross as our own victory.