Sermon by Bishop Ken Carter
Lenten Series, Week 4 – It is Finished, but it is Never Finished
In this Lenten sermon series, we are looking at some of Jesus’ most difficult moments on earth to see what we can learn from how He handled them.
Week 1: Jesus and the desert of temptation – Jesus defeated temptation privately before beginning His public ministry.
Week 2: Jesus and the Garden of Gethsemane – In times of great anguish, our own strength will not be enough. We need friends, and we need God.
Week 3: Jesus on the cross – Before we can really celebrate the resurrection at Easter, we have to acknowledge that there has been a death.
Today: Our guest speaker, Bishop Ken Carter, looks at some of the final words of Jesus on the cross and what they mean for us.
Here are the seven last things Jesus said while on the cross:
- To those who crucified Him: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34
- To the thief on the cross next to Him: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
- To His mother, Mary: “Dear woman, here is your son.” And to the disciple (John) “Here is your mother.” John 19:26
- “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34
- “I am thirsty.” John 19:28
- “It is finished!” John 19:30
- “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” Luke 23:46
- Read slowly through all seven of these statements, and try to imagine the situation and how Jesus felt. Share some thoughts that come to your mind.
- Read John 19:29-30:
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
- When Jesus said, “It is finished” here, it was actually all one Greek word “tetelestai” This word was stamped onto a bill or a note of debt in the same way we would write “paid in full.” What does this communicate to you about what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished.”? What did Jesus accomplish?
- Bishop Ken Carter shared several situations in daily life when we might say something is finished, like the end of a sports game, raising children, or even at someone’s deathbed. He said that in each case when we say, “It’s finished” we are acknowledging that something has changed significantly. What are some things that changed as a result of this moment on the cross?
- Earlier in John 12:24, Jesus had said: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” What did He mean by that?
- Jesus’ work on the cross of justification was finished at that moment, and yet, Bishop Carter added the sentence, “It is never finished.” What did he mean by that? What isn’t finished?
- What Jesus did on the cross is a free gift to us, and yet it is also a calling regarding how to live from here on. What does the cross call you personally to do, in light of Jesus’ free and complete gift of salvation?
- Bishop Carter quoted Paul Farmer from the biography about his life, Mountains Beyond Mountains as Paul alluded to a line from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The quote came after a lot of effort and money had been invested in a patient, and yet that patient still died, and some felt that it was a wasted effort. Paul Farmer’s response was, “In this work, we are fighting the long defeat.” What did he mean by that, and how does that quote connect to our life situation?
- On Palm Sunday back in Jesus’ last week in Israel, the Jews in Jerusalem sang “Hosannah!” to Jesus, which means, “Save us!” They wanted Jesus to save them from Roman oppression, but things in that situation did not work out as they had hoped. Bishop Carter pointed out that – then and now – Jesus didn’t come to fulfill everything we want Him to do, but He came to provide what we really need, which is a right relationship with God. Share something from your life that you wished God would do for you, that you eventually had to let go of and acknowledge that He wasn’t going to do that for you, but instead He provided something better.
- Bishop Carter told a story of his family being in a restaurant and discovering that someone had anonymously paid their bill. He said that when something like that happens, all you can do is accept it gratefully, and then seek to pay it forward to others. What are some ways we can do that in response to what Jesus did for us on the cross?