It is Finished

11 04 2009

savingprivateryan

James Ryan arrives at a headstone, and falls to his knees, tears in his eyes. On the headstone is the name “John Miller”.   Ryan looks up to his wife by his side and asks, “Have I been a good man? Tell me I’ve lived a good life.” His wife looks down and assures him that he has. However, the tears continue because James Ryan does not seem to be able to believe that he has been good enough.

Many immediately recognize this scene from the movie  Saving Private Ryan by Steven Speilberg.  The movie is well written. John Miller is portrayed by Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks who is tasked with taking a squad of men to find James Ryan. Ryan is the fourth son of a woman who has lost three son already  in World War II.  Military commanders have decided that Mrs. Ryan will not lose her last remaining son. Miller’s squad eventually loses 8 men so that it can save this one.

Miller dies in battle with Ryan by his side side. With his last breath, he looks at Private Ryan and whispers, “Earn this.”   Back at  Miller’s headstone, Ryan has clearly lived his entire life with a tremendous weight on his shoulders. Has he earned the sacrifice of John  Miller and his men? Miller himself, earlier in the film, says, “He better be worth it. He’d better go home and cure a disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb.” 

Christians too often hear these words, “Earn this,” coming from Jesus’ lips as he dies on the cross. We live our lives trying to earn it, to become someone for whom such a sacrifice isn’t so incredibly incomprehensible. We turn into James Ryans, questioning if anything we do could ever be quite enough. 

“It is Finished” is in the Gospel text the single word tetelestai.  Being in the perfect greek tense, it means literally, “it has been and will for ever remain accomplished, completed, finished.”  

Christ’s salvation is a free gift.  He purchased it for us at the high price of his own blood.  There is nothing left for us to pay.    IT IS FINISHED.  There is nothing left to contribute.  Not that we now have a license to sin.  On the contrary, the same cross of Christ is the most powerful incentive to a holy life.  But this life follows the cross, it does not purchase it.  First, we must humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgement, that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness.  

But Jesus doesn’t say, “Earn this” from the cross. He says, “It is finished.”  The message of the Gospel is diametrically opposed to John Miller’s “Earn this.” Miller applies the law to Ryan’s future in a way that Ryan can never escape. No matter what Ryan may ever do or who he may ever become, Miller’s words will never allow Ryan to live in peace, or safe from Miller’s judgment-from-beyond-the-grave. One word of law destroys the grace Miller shows in giving his life for Ryan. 

No word of law escapes Christ’s lips from the cross. Incredibly, the word of law is applied to Christ (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). We are freed, and safe. Don’t allow your ingrained pride to rebel against God’s grace.  Instead of stumbling on the cross because you insist on trying to earn God’s favor, bow at the cross and receive his gift.

Jesus doesn’t say, “Earn this.” He says, “It is finished.”

*Some of the information used within this post originated from the Christianity Explored DVD Series by Rico Tice.  Rico is a personal friend of mine and has preached at my church.  Christianity Explored is a wonderful evangelism tool of which I serve as a North American Advocate. 





The Agony of Grace

20 03 2008

Giovanni Antonio Bazzi’s high renaissance painting “Procession to Calvary” was created over 500 years before Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion”; however, each are masterpieces in their abilities to capture the torment of Christ.  Bazzi, also known as II Sodoma, masterfully reflects the majesty, although willingly lowered, of Christ here.  He is a strong and muscular figure with the light of glory reflected throughout His being.  Here is God.  He is bowed but is there any doubt that it is by His choice? 

We are in the painting as well.  Bazzi portrays our ability to be both kind and cruel but in both sinful.  On one side of the painting are those with clinched fists, angry expressions, and aggressive stances.  On the opposite side there are those with open palms and saddened faces, but they do nothing.  We do see Simon from Cyrene appearing to grasp the cross as he begins to take it for our Lord.  But we know that even he  did not do so willingly.  No one was without fault.  No matter if their sin was intentional of passive, it was all sin and how horrible sin must be to have brought God’s Son here and place that look of agony upon his face.

The process of separation has begun and it is this truth which Bazzi captures so clearly.  This strong muscular figure, this one with the glow of glory so clearly communicating His divinity has the face of agony.  The agony we see here is not from nails, nor blood, nor humiliation.  The agony is from the separation which has begun.  John Calvin tells us that Christ “paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in His soul the more terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.”  In the face of the Son of God we see a soul experiencing a pain we can never fathom.

God came.  God kneeled Himself willingly.  God allowed Himself to experience the pain we see here in this tormented face and it was all just beginning.  The agony you see is the look of grace in the face of our Lord and there is nothing cheap about it.  How He must love us. 

Amazed by His Grace,

Darian