Saturday, April 03, 2010

It is accomplished

Eucharist and Orders, Fruits of the Spirit

For Holy Thursday 1998 as a part of his preparation for the Holy Year of 2000 John Paul II writes in a letter to his priests:

In tender and mysterious language, the Gospel of John tells the story of the first Holy Thursday, when the Lord, at table with his disciples in the Upper Room, "having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end" (13:1). To the end! : until, that is, the institution of the Eucharist, which anticipates not only Good Friday and the sacrifice of the Cross but the entire Paschal mystery. At the Last Supper, Jesus takes bread in his hands and for the first time utters the words of consecration: "This is my body which will be given up for you". Then, over the chalice filled with wine, he proclaims the words of consecration: "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven," and he adds: "Do this in memory of me". Thus, in the Upper Room and without the shedding of blood, Christ completes the Sacrifice of the New Covenant, which will be accomplished in blood on the following day, when he will say on the Cross: " Consummatum est " - "It is accomplished" ( Jn 19:30).

Eloi, Eloi Lema Sabchthani

Translated this means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and according to Mark and Matthew this phrase is a citation of the Hebrew or Aramaic text of Psalm 22:1. It is one of several allusions to Psalm 22 in the narratives of the death of Jesus. There are six other utterances from Christ on the cross as noted by the Gospel writers. "I thirst," 1 "Father, forgive them," 2 "Woman, behold your son; here is your mother," 3 "Today you will be with me in Paradise," 4 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," 5 " Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," 6 and "It is accomplished."7

Each evangelist presents the death of Jesus from his own perspective. For Mark, the death of Jesus was the occasion for the unveiling of the messianic secret. Only at the crucifixion could he be acknowledged as the Son of God 8 Mark may have been offsetting the view that exaggerated the miracles as revelations of Christ's divinity. For Matthew, the cross was Israel's rejection of the Messiah. Because of it, God's judgment came upon the nation at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. 9 For Luke the death of Jesus at Calvary and his following assumption into heaven 10constituted a major crossroad in the account of salvation, launching a new period of the church and its widespread mission. This period would be go on to be covered in the book of Acts.

However the Gospel of John progresses like a pendulum. It opens by proclaiming, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" Then the story arcs in a descending sweep, as the Word becomes flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The earliest disciples accepted Jesus cheerfully. They dubbed him as Rabbi, Messiah, Son of God, and King of Israel, and jovially went along with him to Cana's wedding feast. But the pendulum kept on plunging, as people became more and more bewildered, cynical, and unreceptive to Jesus' claims; they charged that he was a blasphemer, tried to stone him, and finally they pulled out all the stops and began plotting his execution. The low point comes in the middle of the gospel, when Jesus' public ministry comes to an end, and it's clear that even though he had presented all of these signs they still refuse to believe. All that is left to do is to throw down the challenge and prove his case. Craig R. Koester explains in his manuscript The Passion and Resurrection According to John:

The Fourth Gospel... portrays the crucifixion as the glorious completion of Jesus' ministry and the fulfillment of God's will. In contrast to the other gospels, John says that Jesus went out "bearing his own cross" (19:17); there is no suggestion that Simon of Cyrene had to help Jesus reach Golgotha. Unlike the other gospels, there is no reference to darkness or mocking at the cross. Instead, the text stresses that the cross brings Jesus' ministry to its telos or "goal." Jesus knows that all is now "accomplished" (telein, 19:28a) and asks for a drink "to accomplish" the scriptures (teleioun, 19:28b). His final words are "It is accomplished" (telein, 19:30). The cross is the completion, not the interruption of Jesus' ministry.

The Old Testament scriptures provide further clues to this Johannine perspective. An ordinary observer would assume that the soldiers divide Jesus' clothing and cast lots for his tunic for the sake of their own personal gain. But John explicitly states that these actions fulfill Ps 22:18, indicating that the scene is governed by divine purposes (John 19:23-24). Again, Jesus' words "I thirst" (19:28) could be a simple statement of human need. But John points out that this too accomplishes God's will, since the vinegar fulfills Ps 69:21.

The work of Christ

The phrase the work of Christ it is intended to describe the saving significance of the Christ event or soteriology. The original Christian traditions recorded in Acts does not draw attention to the death of Christ, but addresses the Christ event in its entirety as God's act of salvation. Over the course of time, more exact descriptions were established to understand the implications of Christ's death and it is John who shifts the focus away from the cross and spotlights the revelation that Jesus brings in his earthly life. 11

His death looks on the surface as if to be no more than the occasion when he retuned to the Father from whom he came 12 But this miscalculates the magnitude of Christ's death in the Fourth Gospel. The words and works are all eclipsed by the hour of the passion. 12 When he states, "It is accomplished" Jesus conveys that he has done his part and what happens next, is up to the power and love of God. Earlier in Luke, Jesus gives a hint to his disciples as to the divisions that are to come and uses this phrase for the first time saying, 'I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished.' 13 By the time he repeats the expression again he has been convicted by both the Romans and the Jews and is hanging from the cross. As was customary for the times, a notice is fastened to his cross. It is a charge sheet and every criminal who was crucified received one so that people would know what happens to those who would commit similar crimes. The two greatest charges against humanity at this time are the crimes of defying the rightful authority of God and of trying to set oneself up in the place of God. Jesus has been found guilty of treason and blasphemy.

As Jesus hung from the cross for six hours Luke notes that there was darkness over the land. Vinegar is offered to him for the first time. It is refused and then Jesus accepts the second offering, then John writes that he says, 'it is accomplished or completed or fulfilled —tetelestai. Having spoken his last, Jesus bows his head and hands over his spirit or wind or breath —pneuma.'(John 19:30). Theologian Derek Morphew, in a book on Gnosticism says, "Tetelestai means 'it is accomplished' or 'it is consummated.' Christ was declaring His sacrificial work to be completed."

Despite of all of the confusion, the secrecy and plots, the conspiracies of Herod and the Pharisees to trump up charges and set the stage for the subsequent conviction. Up until this split second, all of the miracles and mysteries lead up to what Jesus would finally complete on the cross. It is the instant where he brings in the new order that he represented by the changing of the water into wine. 14 It is when he makes his flesh accessible for the life of the world, 15 that he heals the blindness of humanity, 16 and that he bestows eternal life. 17

It is also on the cross that all the claims made in his great "I am"s are confirmed. The I ams are the sayings of Jesus that not only raised a lot eyebrows but also goad the community leaders into taking action against him. After saying, "I am the bread of life," Jesus left most of his disciples scratching their heads, grumbling that it was a "hard teaching" that no one could figure it out. After declaring, "I am the good shepherd," many people called him a lunatic, saying he was "raving mad." Finally, John tells his readers, it was when he said, "I am the resurrection and the life," that the case against Jesus was cinched and the chief priests quickly set into motion the judicial wheels that would get Jesus arrested and put to death.

Throughout his gospel John emphasizes that it is because of what is accomplished on the cross that Jesus is the true bread from heaven, 18 that he is the light of the world, 19 the door of the sheep, 20 the good shepherd, 21 the resurrection and the life, 22 the way the truth and the life, 23 and the true vine. 24

Additionally, it is through his accomplishment at the cross that the Spirit-Paraclete is released which leads the Johannine community into all truth. 25 So it was the death of Christ and his glorification that made it possible for the Fourth Gospel to not only ascribe the "I am" sayings to Jesus but to demonstrate that the work of Christ as complete.

In spite of the noticeable concern of the author on the Revelation with the events leading up to the end and with the new heaven and the new earth that lie beyond, the cross for John played a crucial role in salvation history. Later on it would be the central Christological image in Revelation as the Lamb that was slain, along with Jesus' fulfillments of the prophecies in Psalms, that would establish the new covenant with God and determine future course of history.

Sources:

Fuller, Reginald H. The Oxford Companion to the Bible,(1993) p. 184.

Koester, Craig R. "The Passion and Resurrection According to John"

Accessed May 7, 2005.

Pope John Paul II. Letter of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II to Priests
Accessed May 7, 2005.

Sarris, Chris. It is Finished Six Hours One Friday
Accessed May 7, 2005

Tiller, Patrick A. The Oxford Companion to the Bible,(1993) p. 184.

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