I was thinking all afternoon about Jesus’ last words and the phrase “It is finished” and the problems many people have in understanding or explaining these words. It struck me that Jesus’ words “It is finished” are similar to those of the family chef saying “the turkey is done” at Thanksgiving. What the chef is saying is, the turkey is completely cooked, ready to be eaten, and all of the pathogenic microorganisms have been heated to destruction. Jesus was also saying that God’s original plan is completed, salvation has been made available to humankind, the devil has been completely overcome in Jesus’ own sinlessness.
The turkey is finished, yes, but the family members must still choose to get off the couch, to dish up their own individual plates, feed themselves, and keep the food in their own stomachs in order to digest it and receive nourishment. Likewise, humanity must choose to come to Jesus, to open their hearts and minds to God’s word, and to reflect upon it in order to receive God’s blessings. Each person must chew and swallow her own portion of turkey, and while each person may like more or less salt and pepper, more or less stuffing and cranberries, each person must choose to eat the turkey for herself. Likewise, each person must come to Jesus for herself, and while different people may prefer different versions of the Bible (NIV, King James, New King James, etc.) or different devotional authors (Ellen White, Max Lucado, T.D.Jakes, etc.) each person must choose Jesus and the Gospel truth for herself. Just as I could load my husband’s and my children’s plates with food but cannot force them to swallow (or prevent their vomiting the food later), I also can bring them to church and read Bible verses to them, but I cannot force their hearts. Each person must do this for herself.
Finally, we all look forward to pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner. Looking forward to pumpkin pie, enjoying the dessert, in no way detracts from the fact that “the turkey is finished,” and that it is a complete and whole event in and of itself, with its own value, that can stand alone. Similarly, the fact that we look forward to Jesus’ return and our joyous reunion in Heaven in no way lessens the work that Jesus finished at the cross. In fact, just as most mothers would tell their children that they get no dessert until they eat dinner, it is also true that there could be no ever-after in Heaven for humankind if Jesus had not suffered the consequences of our sins on the cross.