It Is Finished!
This sermon was delivered at Christ United Methodist Church on Sunday, April 1, 2012. Scripture for this service was read responsively. The text can be found here.
Jesus said, “It is completed.”Bowing his head, he gave up his life.
John 19:28-30d, Common English Bible
In preparation for our time together, I’ve wrestled a lot with the reality that two local kids in the past two weeks—a 14 year old in Lafayette and an 11 year old in Rensselaer—took their own lives as a result of supposed bullying. I’ve wrestled with the reality that, just a few weeks ago, a U.S. soldier, part of a peacekeeping force, in Afganistan allegedly killed 16 civilians in their homes. I’ve wrestled a lot this week with the reality that in Sanford, Florida, a 17 year-old could be killed because the color of his skin made him, in the eyes of his killer, look “suspicious.” I’ve wrestled and mourned this week with the shear amount of violence which seems to surround us. “What have we devolved to as a people?” that we would continue to allow such violence to exist?
My heart is deeply troubled by the sheer amount of violence, hatred, bigotry, and anger in our world. As I read the Scriptures for today, I was reminded
that our present context has much in common with the violent society that Jesus encountered in biblical times. What is more brutal than a Roman crucifixion? What words are more horrifying than those of the psalmist [writing hundreds of years before Christ] who cries, “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:9, NRSV). The penchant for solving life’s problems through deadly force seems to be an age-old practice.
Still, Jesus offers a peaceful act to the people who lived in the violent context 2000+ years ago. Despite death threats against him and the coming betrayal by one of his own disciples, Jesus enacted the dramatic entry into Jerusalem declared by the prophet Zechariah “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, o daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey…” (Zechariah 9:9, NRSV)…
Jeremiah used a loincloth to speak to the pride of Judah (Jeremiah 13:1-11, NRSV). Ezekiel shaved his hair, then burnt, struck and scattered it to symbolize the coming siege and deportation of the Hebrews (Ezekiel 5:1-4, NRSV). [Jesus] dramatically rides on a donkey declaring himself the prince of peace to a people who sought a conquering king. 
The expectations of the people were dashed: the voices of the crowd quickly turned from shouts of “Hosanna” on Sunday to shouts of “crucify him” on Friday. The people who sought a king who would rule by force were met on the streets of Jerusalem by the Prince of Peace. And, they were–we are–reminded once again of the prophet Isaiah’s (55:8-9, NRSV) words:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In a violent world, Jesus offered peace by standing firm to the principles he taught his disciples when he said love one another (c.f. John 13:34), but don’t stop there, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27d-28, Common English Bible). It amazes me how committed Jesus was to these principles. We don’t see Jesus seeking revenge—calling lightning bolts from the sky—to payback the people who seal his fate in the courtyard. We don’t see Jesus retaliate against the soldiers who scourge him—picking up a whip and fighting back. He willingly walks–beaten and bruised–from the Praetorium to the Place of the Skull. After being nailed to the cross, Jesus did the unthinkable. He blessed those who cursed him and prayed for those who falsely accused him. In his final breath Jesus gasped, “It is finished.” The violence was over. And, we know how the story ends…love prevails.
Two teens committed suicide in the Greater Lafayette area. A U.S. soldier brutally killed 16 Afghan civilians. A neighborhood watch captain shot a 17 year old young black man for walking through an “upscale” neighborhood. Brutal acts of violence.
Friends, it is time for us as followers of Christ to say, it is finished!. The violence has to stop. Love must prevail. We must stand firm to the principles Jesus taught and demonstrated to his disciples: LOVE with all that you are without hesitation and without prejudice. Love all persons, even your enemies. Do good to those who hurt you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who falsely accuse and spread rumors about you. For today “it is the finished.” Today the violence will end.
I believe that violence, hatred and bigotry are the absence of love. And, I truly believe that if we’d all allow the love of God to rule in our hearts and overflow into the work of our hands, the words of our mouths, and the way we treat one another that violence would cease to be…
…if only we’d look to the cross and stand firm to the principles Jesus taught his disciples and demonstrated on the cross. So
27…“I say [once again] to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
32 “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35 Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 36 Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.
37 “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”
Hold firm to these principles and I truly believe that the prayer Jesus taught his disciples–“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”–will be answered. Violence will cease to exist. For today, “it is finished!”
 Kwasi Kena, “Weekly Evangelectionary for Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012,” from Evangelism Connections <http://www.evangelismconnections.org/blog/2012/03/26/weekly-evangelectionary-for-palm-sunday-april-1-2012/> Accessed March 29, 2012.
 Kwasi Kena, “Weekly Evangelectionary for Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012,” from Evangelism Connections <http://www.evangelismconnections.org/blog/2012/03/26/weekly-evangelectionary-for-palm-sunday-april-1-2012/> Accessed March 29, 2012. Emphasis added.
 Luke 6:27-38, Common English Bible.