02 April 2010

Good Friday Homily

Tetelesthai.” One word in Greek. Three in English: “It is finished.” More literally: “Fulfilled, Completed, Accomplished, DONE.” Strange words to hear from the mouth of a man who is preparing to give Himself up into death. They are the words one expects to hear when the artist has finished the masterpiece, when the poet lays down her pen after writing the perfect poem, or when the craftsman runs his hand along the table he’s been laboring over and at last is satisfied that it’s all he intended it to be. “It’s finished.”

Friday. Good Friday. But Friday. Day number six of the week. This day recalls the first Friday there ever was. “And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them.” And we recall how like a craftsman or an artist, God had been inspecting his work all along those first six days, and had declared: “Good. Good.” And at the very end: “Very good.” Tov maod, in Hebrew. Which is to say, exceedingly, overflowing bang on. And so, it is finished.

The Craftsman of the first creation, “through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that has been made”, is today finishing up a new project as He hangs upon the Cross and its dejavu all over again. A creation that had fallen from its perfection, its good and very good, by the deceit of the devil and the sin of humanity, now restored.

Here is a good and a very good Friday. For here we meet not only the Carpenter through whom the world was made, but we meet Him as a man, the Carpenter from Nazareth. As the new Adam born of the Virgin soil of Mary. He stands in the place of the first Adam to whom dominion over this world had been entrusted, and who surrendered it all to the devil and brought in sin and death and placed this world out of joint with God, under wrath and judgment. Here we meet the new Adam. And unlike the old, this one has no truck with the devil. This one has come to destroy the works of the devil, to expose his lies and to deliver humanity from his clutches and to hand back to His Father.

Satan had implied that God was holding out on Adam and Eve and so they’d best look out for themselves, and we’ve been doing it ever since. But here for once stood a man, true man, our very brother, who refused the lie. Who knew that His Father was not holding out on man, but holding out to man more hope and life than man could ever desire or deserve. And He was that gift in our flesh.

So Good Friday. For on this day in our flesh He completes the task given. Obedience. Human obedience. The unbroken yes of His life in our flesh. Obedience to death, even death upon a cross. The obedience which man owes his Creator and which we have failed to render in countless ways, He, the Creator Himself, comes into our flesh to offer for us, on our behalf, to His Father, that He might give it to us as our very own.

Tetelesthai. Finished. Done. Perfect human obedience rendered in our place and now offered to us as our own. And so a new creation. And in this creation, the verdict of “good and very good” rests secure upon you, for its basis is not in YOU, but in HIM. In His finished, completed work of obedience, exquisitely rendered to the Father on your behalf.

How can you know it was on your behalf? By the blood and water. They run together from His riven side. And they testify to you that God "has given you eternal life and this life is in His Son." This water, rich in blood, has splashed your life in Holy Baptism. That’s where He lavished on you His perfect “yes” to the will of the Father, His unbroken obedience, gave it you as your own, covering all your disobedience and death, breaking sin’s power in your life. And this blood, rich in the water of life, He pours down your throat in the Eucharist, toxic to sin, rich in the Spirit, imparting life. And both cry out together: “For you! Offered in your place! Your sins forgiven, forgotten and gone. Hidden and dissolved beneath this blood and water. It is finished!”

The old liar, Satan, wars against the Lord’s tetelesthai, His “it is finished.” He screams at you: “No, it’s not over. It’s not finished. You can’t rely on Him and His work. Don’t believe Him!” Satan gladly entices you into sin and then hands the sin squarely back into your arms and tells you: “Oh, my. Deal with it! It’s yours. You’ve made the mess, haven’t you, and you’re going to have to face Him and He’s a meanie and worse!”

Against his lying mutterings, learn to take up the deep joy of the Lord’s “tetelesthai.” To remind the evil one and your own doubting heart: “No, you see, it really is finished. A perfect obedience that is mine as a gift. In my Baptism and in His Eucharist God has given me the blood in which is life because it was the blood of the perfect “yes” to the Father’s will - the blood that atoned for my sins not in part, but in whole - and not mine only, but the sins of the whole world.”

Good Friday, people loved by God! Good because on this day a goodness was brought to perfection in human flesh by our Lord Jesus in which we may all live forevermore. Tetelesthai!

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for by Your Holy Cross You HAVE redeemed the world.


Rev. James Leistico said...

never seen it in print, but Dr. Steven Mueller (prof at Irvine) told me that tetelestai was written by the banker on the loan document when you paid it off

Rev. Allen Yount said...

I loved the chiasm (I think that's the correct term) made between Holy Baptism and Holy Communion: "water rich in blood...blood rich in the water of life." It really highlighted the connection between forgiveness of sin, life and salvation being achieved for us by Christ on the cross and forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation being distributed to us in the Means of Grace.

Anonymous said...

nicely finished words on the wood, craftsman of the Gospel! Harvey Mozolak

William Weedon said...

Beautiful insight, James. I wonder what his source is?

Thanks Allen. Then it did the job.

Harvey, coming from you that means the world. God bless your gift-giving in these holy days!

Rev. James Leistico said...

dunno. I looked up the word in BAGD, and the verse in my John commentaries and in ACC, but nothing about a banking use.

Rev. Allen Yount said...

Both Kittel and Louw-Nida say that teleo can refer to "paying taxes." That's about as close to banking that I could find.

Rev. James Leistico said...

thanks, Allen. I wanted to look in Kittel, but I only have the first 6 volumes and teleo comes too late in the alphabet!