Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Finished

So much is wrapped up in these final words of Jesus on the cross:

"It is finished."

The torment of a cruel execution. The weight of the world's sin. The strain of the most difficult mission ever undertaken. The grip of sin on the helpless souls of humanity. The burden of the Law on the backs of believers. Separation from His Father.

All of this, finished finally when Jesus breathed His last.

We have the benefit today of knowing the rest of the story, unlike all those witnesses who saw this happen, felt the earth shake beneath them, wondered at the darkened sky, and later encountered people long since dead. Jews who heard rumors of the temple veil being found ripped apart, stories of people claiming to have seen Jesus again, reports of miracles performed by His apostles.

It was a time of great events, events that required decisions on the part of everyone who heard of them. To believe, or not to believe?

But from Jesus' perspective, a phase was complete. Everything He had come to earth to do was done. For better or worse, it was done. Whether everyone believed, or no one believed, it was done. He was going back home to prepare for His next visit.

This attitude is evident in the written record of what Jesus did when He appeared to people after His resurrection. He appeared to the women who came to His tomb the third day. Walked and spoke with two travelers who initially didn't recognize Him. Grilled fish on the beach with His disciples. Appeared suddenly inside a locked room and comforted them. Offered his hands and side to Thomas, who decided he didn't need to touch them after all. Bestowed His Spirit upon them, issued the Great Commission, and ascended to Heaven.

It's interesting that there is no record of any confrontation with the Jewish leadership who wanted Him dead. No appearances to folks who had boldly disbelieved His claim to be the Son of God. No "How Do You Like Me Now?" moment with those who had dared Him to come down from the cross. No "Remember Me?" visit to Pilate. Apparently, no last look at the old wood shop, no contemplative visit to the garden to reflect on that last prayer. No retracing of the steps to Golgotha, no scanning of the ground for drops of blood spilled along the way. No search for the cross. No last cleansing of the temple. No last eradication of disease.

Every post-resurrection moment for Christ on earth was focused on the future, not the past. His appearances were spared for those who believed in Him, and dedicated to preparing them for the events recorded in Acts.

Everything that had gone before was, in a word, finished.

How could Jesus feel such a sense of completion regarding such dramatic and meaningful, even painful, events? How could He be at peace with all that had just happened? Did Jesus just not feel the emotions you and I feel? Of course He did, as we know from His tears over the death of Lazarus, even knowing full well he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.

In all our talk about asking what Jesus would do, has anyone asked how Jesus would approach life after trauma?

How many souls who live through tragedy and turmoil, for whatever reason, never see these events finished in their lifetime? How many of us relive, revisit, feel again, suffer anew, and possibly hurt others with our inability to finish? And how many of us who don't finish, ever really want to?

Is it God's will for His children to keep salt sprinkled on their wounds, or to pierce those wounds periodically and make them bleed again? While scars may be unavoidable, does He really want us never to heal? Never to be at peace again?

Consider a contrast: The Apostle Paul on one hand, and King David on the other.

Both of these men lived lives marked by dramatic events, even tragic events. Paul somehow considered finished his previous life as a persecutor of the church. While he acknowledged his past as evidence of his opinion that he was the chief of all sinners, he did not allow those deeds to impede his efforts to secure the church's future. He accepted that God's grace was sufficient for him, and that he didn't have to resolve it all. It was in God's hands, and Paul was at peace.

King David certainly gave the appearance of a soul at peace as he lay dying and about to turn over his kingdom to his son Solomon. But the appearance was deceiving. It turns out David's business on earth wasn't finished at all, as he saddled his son, the newly anointed king, with the burden of two vengeance killings to be carried out after David's death so he couldn't be blamed for them. As grievous as David felt these two men's offenses were, he had clearly given the appearance of having made peace with the facts and let the matters go. But this was not the case. In David's mind, it wouldn't be finished until two men were dead.

In a small Texas town live two families who each lost a small child to the same type of accident: backing over the child with a family vehicle. These two families are just as much a study in contrasts as Paul and David.

One family, while never ceasing to remember their lost son, has long since allowed God to carry this burden for them, and has carried on to contribute to their community, and even to have more children who will only meet their lost brother after this life. The ache in the heart will never completely go away, but the incident and its related trauma are finished for this family.

The other family was destroyed by the accident, with the husband and wife descending into alcoholism, infidelity, and neglect of their other children. The end of that fateful moment will never be seen by this family, as every trial they suffer from now on will be linked back to it in their minds. Unless they make a major change of course, they will never know peace. It will never be finished.

When we suffer, and after we have suffered, what is it we seek?

Answers? Reasons? Numbness? Escape? Rectification?

We do seek these things, but God does not promise them. What does God offer?

" the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Peace. He offers peace. The knowledge of being secure in Him in spite of not having answers, reasons, numbness, escape, or rectification. His presence, as real as the pain we suffer, and many times stronger. The confidence that eternity with Him will dwarf even our best recollection of the worst pain we endured on earth. (Romans 8:18)

The fluke accident that claims a child's life.

The job lost to unfair circumstances.

The deceit that claims a chunk of your heart and years of your life.

The reputation falsely injured.

The cruel disease that cripples a body.

The loved one lost to war or murder.

Any of these disasters and countless others could enter a Christian's life and open a bleeding wound. Healing isn't easy or automatic, nor will it occur at the same pace for everyone. No one forgets a traumatic event. No one should. No one survives such a moment uninjured. And again, no one should.

But after the trauma? What then? Will we claim His peace, or search in vain for the things He never promised?

Will our moments of trauma be landmarks along the road behind us, significant but finished, or will they be wet clay in our hands for us to mold, re-mold, re-work, and make a mess with, never quite finding the shape they should take?

What would Jesus do?

What did He do?

What would Satan have you do?

2 comments:

Warren Baldwin said...

I don't know what I would do after a trauma, but, as best as I am able, I have already commited my future to Christ. I've seen people like the one couple you described hold onto faith under unbelievable trauma. I pray I could do the same.

Good post and discussion. I find it searching the ACU links!
My blog: http://warrenbaldwin.blogspot.com/
Warren

David T. Copeland said...

Thank you for this wonderful post!