The following is a guest post from Dr. Jerry Root
We will never get to the bottom of any of Christ’s words on the cross, and this is certainly so with “It is finished!”
Years ago, I was invited to preach an Evensong at one of the Oxford University colleges and to eat at the high table after the service. Huge paintings of famous graduates looked down from the walls, reminding those who ate that they sat in a place of privilege. Long student tables ran the length of the hall and perpendicular to these, elevated three steps, was the high table for the faculty. The students ate roast beef while the faculty ate prime rib. Everyone was dressed in academic gowns. A Latin prayer began the meal and you could cut the pretense with a knife. None of this was a problem provided one did not take himself too seriously; unfortunately, in that environment, the temptation to self-importance is strong.
I was introduced as one who preached the Evensong service. The historian sitting across from me asked, “So, Jerry, why are you a Christian?” I thought she was inquiring for personal reasons.
After the meal, someone who knew this woman told me he thought she asked because she wanted to make me the source of entertainment at that dinner. I responded to her inquiry, answering out of a sense of my own brokenness and need of the finished work of Christ:
I am a Christian because I am aware of my own failures and shortcomings. I am aware of incongruities in my life. I believe in the high ideal of love, yet there have been times when I’ve spoken sharp words with those I say I love most in this world. I am aware of hypocrisy and injustice in my life—not all of it, but enough to be ashamed. It was out of the deep recognition that things are broken in me and need fixing that I have found the message of God’s love and forgiveness compelling.
The historian was taken aback by what I said.
She replied, “Well, I can appreciate what you are saying, but that’s just not my issue!” I was surprised by her response, believing that anyone who looks honestly at his or her life must be aware of its many shortcomings and deficiencies.
I responded, “I think I understand what you are saying. In fact, when I became a Christian in college I didn’t become perfect overnight—that took two or three weeks to happen.” As I said this the whole table burst into laughter. When things settled down I said to this woman, “Your laughter just betrayed you.”
She asked, “What do you mean?”
I answered, “We just met, so you couldn’t possibly know specifics in my life making that statement laughable. Your response indicated that either your read of history or your read of your own life provided awareness it was nonsense.”
She responded, “You got me.”
I asked, “Then knowing of your own struggles in life, what gets you by when you make an honest inventory of your life?”
She answered, “I have faith in humanity!”
I inquired, “May I ask you a couple of questions about your faith in humanity?”
“Have you ever been wounded by another human being?”
Then I asked, “Have you ever wounded another human being?”
She said, “I suppose so.” She was softer on herself than she was toward those who had wounded her.
I asked, “How does this faith in humanity work when we live in a world where we have been wounded and we have wounded?”
At that moment, one of the other Dons at the table asked, “How does it work for Christians?” And we spent the rest of that evening at high table talking about the love and grace of God. These are the riches to be found, and re-found anew each day, in the work of Christ which was finished on Calvary long ago.
It is the place where we acknowledge our brokenness that we discover the treasures held in store for us in Jesus’ words, “It is finished!”