Blog: John 19: It Is Finished!

The movie scene is intense, and has the audience sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what will transpire during the tension filled press conference.  Harvey Dent, Gotham City’s District Attorney in the movie “The Dark Knight,” is addressing reporters and the city in a live interview in which everyone anticipates that the true identity of Batman will be revealed.  The city has been gripped by fear due to the psychotic actions of the Joker.  The Joker has terrorized the citizens of Gotham and now has assured the city that if Batman turns himself in he will stop his murderous ways.  The city is paralyzed with fear and is willing to sacrifice someone who stands for justice in order to ease their apprehension.
Harvey Dent knows that giving in to the demands of evil, personified in the Joker, will only weaken the city and lead them down a path of uncertainty and chaos.  Dent knows the difficulty of standing up for what is right.  Criminals have already tried to take his life, but that has not stopped this intrepid District Attorney.  Dent appeals to the city not to sacrifice Batman, but remain strong and determined as they endure the evil of the Joker together.  As he nears the end of his plea, he makes this statement; “The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
I believe the crucifixion and death of Jesus is by far His darkest time on earth.  Jesus has spent the last three years of His life impacting the lives of everyone He came in contact with.  He transformed people’s lives by healing them of all sorts of diseases and physical limitations.  Jesus offered people a new life through believing in Him.  He brought hope to the hopeless and proclaimed freedom to the captives.  Jesus gave all that He was and all that He had for the very people who now were crying out, “crucify Him, crucify Him.” 
Evil has powerfully responded to Jesus’ message of hope and new life and now evil is celebrating as the loving and compassionate Christ is hanging on a cross.  As Jesus hangs on this cross He is enduring more than He has ever experienced before.  Jesus, the sinless Son of God, is taking upon Himself the sin of the world.  Not only is He taking our sin, but also the punishment for our sin.  Jesus feels the pain our sin inflicts on us and the world.  He is now riddled with the guilt and shame that always accompany sin.  The full fury of darkness has descended upon Jesus and He must endure all the pain and suffering the darkness brings.  Finally, Jesus raises his voice one last time and speaks to the heart of the darkness saying, “It is finished.” 
At these words evil must have rejoiced as never before.  The darkness had succeeded in extinguishing the light of Christ in one twenty four hour period.  While darkness and evil are ecstatic, the followers of Jesus are crushed when they hear His last words.  Is it really finished?  Were the last three years for nothing?  At this point darkness seems to have won the victory, and even the reader of the Gospel must acknowledge defeat if she or he does not already know the ultimate ending.  Truly the night must have seemed so dark and the dawn was nowhere in sight.
The darkness was unbelievably dark as Jesus was uttering His last words, but was there a ray of light shining on this day?  John specifically mentions two unlikely individuals who are there for Jesus on His darkest day.  Joseph of Arimathea is part of the religious structure that has sent Jesus to the cross.  This whole ordeal must have been unbearable for Joseph.  When he sees an opportunity to do something for Jesus, he offers to provide the burial site for our Lord, even though he would no longer be a secret follower of Jesus.  Joseph was willing to stand up to the darkness even though I am sure he believed the ministry of Jesus was finished.  He could no longer keep his love for Christ a secret and he shows us a tiny ray of light.
Joseph of Arimathea is helped by a very interesting and profound character in the Gospel of John.  Nicodemus is the man who approached Jesus at night and asked how he could enter the Kingdom of God.  Jesus responds by telling Nicodemus to be born again.  As far as the reader is concerned, Nicodemus leaves Jesus just as confused and wrapped in darkness as when he first approached Jesus; however, clearly this was not the case.  At some point, Nicodemus appears to have understood the message of Jesus because he is now stepping out of the darkness and serving Jesus when all others have abandoned Him. 
As a reader of the Gospel of John, I must ask; if Jesus was able to overcome the darkness in Nicodemus’ life, could He overcome this darkness that has now consumed Him?  The crucifixion and death of Jesus is undoubtedly a dark day, but this is not the last of Jesus.  When Jesus said “it is finished,” he meant for sin, death, darkness and evil.  Even in this dark hour, Jesus knew that the light was coming.  No matter how dark our lives become, maybe we should remember that the night is darkest just before the dawn, and Jesus has promised the dawn is coming and the darkness will have no place to hide. 


Blog: John 18-19: Allowing Darkness a Foothold

Good versus evil and light versus darkness are themes we see throughout our daily lives.  The struggle between good and evil pervades all aspects of society, sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of darkness and at other times the light disperses the darkness and brings hope and security.  The entertainment industry has realized how effectively the struggle between good and evil draws an audience into the story.  “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” and numerous other books and movies portray the conflict and tension brought about when good and evil collide.  In my opinion, the one movie saga that captures the epic nature of the relationship of light and darkness or good and evil is “Star Wars.” 
There may be some who are uncomfortable with “Star Wars” being the favorite movie of a pastor.  I assure you I am not converting to the Jedi religion in any way; of course I have tried to summon the remote control to my hand only using my mind, but who hasn’t done that?  “Star Wars” actually illustrates the battle between light and darkness very effectively.  The original trilogy started out with the movie titled, “A New Hope.”  The Galactic Empire, ruled by the Emperor and Darth Vader, rule the Galaxy with an iron fist and this empire symbolizes evil and darkness.  The light is represented by the small but determined group called the Rebellion.  By the end of the movie the Rebellion and the Empire have an epic battle and the Rebellion is able to destroy the Death Star and bring about a new hope to the galaxy; however, just like life, evil is still waiting around the corner.  In the second movie, “The Empire Strikes Back,” the Empire is able to reorganize and force the Rebellion into hiding.  Good and evil battle one another throughout the movie saga just as they do in life today.  In the final movie, good overcomes evil, but not without difficulty and determination by the Rebellion.
In John 18 we begin to clearly see the power of evil as Jesus is arrested and then taken to trial.  Over the past few chapters Jesus has been talking to the disciples about His goodness and how they have the opportunity to help spread His goodness throughout the world.  Darkness will not quietly allow the light of Jesus to drown out the stronghold of evil in the world.  The one person who is the epitome of goodness, love and light in a dark world is now going to be attacked full force and ultimately killed.  This must have been an unimaginably difficult time for Jesus and he could have used all the support he could get.  The support did not come and darkness descended on the earth as never before.
There are three different responses to Jesus in chapters 18 and 19 and each response allows evil to continue the work that had been started.  The first response is that of Peter, a fierce and devoted follower of Jesus.  In the heat of the moment during Jesus’ arrest, Peter impulsively cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.  Now Peter finds himself with time to think and when the question is posed to him regarding his relationship with Jesus, Peter denies knowing Jesus on three separate occasions.  Peter was so scared he would be put through the same thing Jesus was going through that he felt the need to deny and abandon Jesus when Jesus needed him most.
Pilate’s response to Jesus ultimately paved the way for Jesus to be crucified.  Pilate acknowledges the fact that Jesus is innocent and even proclaims Jesus is king of the Jews, but in the end the pressure of the crowd and fear of what others would think prevented Pilate from doing what was right.  The third response in these two chapters is seen in the religious leaders.  These were God-fearing people who desired to follow God and were looking forward to the coming Messiah; however, they were entrenched in the man-made traditions of their religious façade.  If God was not going to conform to their understanding and preconceived ideas then even God would be allowed to be nailed to a tree.  Each of these responses allowed evil to gain a stronghold that would lead to the Messiah being crucified like a common criminal.
I wonder if sometimes our responses to Jesus allow darkness to gain a stronghold today.  Jesus has called us to be light bearers in this world today which means we live our lives for Christ each and every day.  Sometimes we may respond as Peter.  For the most part we live for Christ and serve Him, but when following Jesus will cause personal difficulty, will we deny Jesus as Peter did?  Are we still concerned more about our personal comfort and security than following Christ?
 Maybe we respond as Pilate; we know the right thing to do, but we are afraid of what others might think.  Does maintaining our social status keep us from ministering to all people no matter who they are?  Do we put what others think about us above what God desires for us to do?  Finally, I am afraid that at times we respond the way the religious leaders responded to Jesus.  How often do we let tradition keep us from ministering in a new way?  Do we only follow Jesus in the areas were we feel comfortable or are we willing to see Jesus from a different perspective?  If we allow anything to keep us from serving Christ, we are allowing darkness to overcome the light.    
When we are struggling to follow Christ, I hope we will remember that Jesus himself faced evil and overcame the darkness.  At our weakest moments, when we are tempted to disregard God’s calling in our life we must remember to turn our focus on the one who has overcome the darkness.  Jesus faced all that evil could throw at Him and He conquered death and darkness with life and light.  I hope we will take part in pointing people away from the darkness and into the light that Jesus revealed when He overcame death and radiantly burst forth from the tomb.