Alfred Place Baptist Church

15:37 The loud last cry

Mark 15:37 “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”

What did Jesus shout out at the end? This “loud cry” that Mark refers to was something as shattering as his previous words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” That was also with a loud voice – two great shouts from the central cross. There was a quality of the heavenly about this second cry as though God himself were shouting the words. Notice that the Roman commander in charge of the execution squad was struck to the heart by what he heard; “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ (v.39). What was it that Jesus shouted aloud? Certainly it was not a shriek of pain. There were no notes of despair in Jesus’ voice; it must have been a word resonant with confidence and triumph for the centurion to respond as he did.

The gospel writer John is the only one of the four evangelists who tells us what was the word Christ said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). It is just a single word in Greek, ‘tetelestai’. It means ‘accomplished,’ ‘fulfilled.’ There is an ocean of meaning in that one word. It shows us that Christ was in complete control of the situation even up to the last seconds of his life. He was not delirious; his life was not even ebbing away. These were not the words of a defeated man, but of one who managed his very dying – as he had managed all his living also. Sinners slunk away from Golgotha with their heads down, “they beat their breasts and went away” (Lk.23:48), but Christ would leave the place with such a shout of triumph on his lips as made the very arches of heaven resound with the echo. We can imagine the angels turning to one another and saying, “Did you hear that?” What a burst of acclamation sounded in the presence of God.

You will observe that Christ did not shout out, “I am finished!” He had begun his life so promisingly and was now ending it nailed to a cross, and you might wonder if he was overwhelmed with a terrible sense of failure. No, Jesus is not suggesting, “At last the end is near, and I must face the final curtain.” Nothing like that came from Christ. The word ‘finished!’ was not an announcement that his life was almost over. So what do we have in this last shout?

1. WHAT THE LORD JESUS MEANT BY THAT LOUD CRY.

It means that everything God had given him to do when he was sent into the world Jesus had done. There was nothing left undone; Jesus was carrying no burden of work left incomplete; he was not dying under a load of ‘if only’s’, crushed by vain regrets. Whatever his Father had asked the Son to do he had accomplished perfectly, when he’d started life as a baby, and then an infant, a boy, a teenager, and young man right up to his prime – he was God’s beloved Son doing everything his Father desired at every stage of his development. A father will have ambitions for his son and many a father is disappointed in how his son turns out, but our heavenly Father was thrilled with everything his Son Jesus did. In the stable of Bethlehem , as a refugee in Egypt , in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth , in his ministry in Galilee, preaching in the temple in Jerusalem , in Gethsemane and finally on Golgotha – Jesus perfectly achieved everything he’d been sent into the world to do. Think of it! We dream our dreams; we aim for so much and fail, but Jesus accomplished everything he set out to do.

Now he is standing before the abyss of death; he is about to breathe his last breath and he has a life of total achievement behind him. He is the ‘Fulfiller.’ He has done everything that God himself had required of him. He completed the work God gave him to do. Lifted up was he to die, “It is finished,” was his cry. These are the words of exultation of the man Christ Jesus. Aren’t we delighted to finish a great task? You type the very last footnote of the Ph.D. thesis – three years work – “it’s finished” you say to your husband. You walk out of prison after a ten year sentence – “it’s finished” you say. You make the last payment of a thirty year mortgage – “it’s finished.” You complete rebuilding a derelict house from the foundations to the roof with additional extensions – “it’s finished.” You sail around the world single-handed and finally step ashore in the harbour you left months earlier – “it’s finished.” Here is the God-man Christ Jesus expressing a deep inward sensation of relief. He had been looking forward to setting down this enormous burden. His Father had sent him into the world as its Saviour over thirty years earlier, and he knew what lay before him, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Lk:12:50). He became increasingly focused as he made his way to Jerusalem . His disciples heard him speaking about his death more frequently, and he led the way to his own crucifixion with a spring in his step, to their utter perplexity. In the teeth of their opposition he continued even to the death of the cross, and now he has finished the work.

2. WHAT WAS NOT FINISHED?

The final cry is so helpful because it enables us to grasp what specific goals our Lord had during his thirty or so years. The evolutionist is coy in specifying any grand overall purpose to life. “You live . . . you stay alive . . . you exist; that is the most you can say about the purpose of life.” But here is Jesus Christ, and his life was dominated by a magnificent obsession and he – alone amongst men – achieved it. What did he finish? Let me first clear away some misunderstandings at this point.

i] It was not the work of the Messiah, the anointed prophet and priest and king. That was not all over. Absolutely not. He must rise from the dead; he must speak of the things of the kingdom of God for forty days to his disciples; he must ascend and be seated at the right hand of God with all authority in heaven and earth. His Messianic work was not all finished.

ii] It was not that he has finished satisfying the rectitude of a sin-hating God. He will not have satisfied the justice of Jehovah until he delivers the kingdom to the Father in the last great day.

iii] It is not even that his work of being the Servant of the Lord is finished, because though he is seated in the midst of the throne of God he has still a heavenly work to do. He is no longer praying with strong crying and tears. All that is behind him, but until the end of the world he ever lives to make intercession for all his people. He is still serving the church from heaven itself. The One who intercedes in heaven is less than the One to whom he intercedes. He is still the Servant of the Lord in glory and that work will not be finished until the last great day.

iv] It is not even that Jesus’ humiliation is finished at his shout, because he now must taste death. He must know the rending apart of his soul from his body. His spirit must go immediately into the presence of God in paradise, there to welcome the dying thief and present him to his Father, while his body must be buried and experience the reign of death for three days. All that is part of a humiliation yet to come.

v] It is not even the fact that he has been appointed a curse that is finished, because who is the one seated at the right hand of God? It is not the lion of the tribe of Judah . It is a lamb as it had been slain. The curse has been exalted and is now the object of worship by an innumerable company of angels. His wounds are indeed visible above – in beauty glorified.

“No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright”. (Matthew Bridges, 1800-1894).

The cursed offense of the cross is still being preached throughout the whole world with the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus from heaven. So what was finished? Let’s approach it by asking this question;

3. WHO WAS CHRIST ADDRESSING TO TELL THAT HIS WORK WAS FINISHED?

We can answer that question in three ways:

i] Sinners. Christ is speaking to Sinners, telling them that his God-forsakeness was Finished.

Never again will the Son of God experience the loss of his Father. He cries, “It’s finished, my being forsaken by God,” and so he can affirm this sure confidence, “Father into thy hand I commend my spirit.” The torment of the dereliction is finished. The sufferings of propitiating the wrath of God against our sin are all over. Christ says, “Tetelestai!” All the church have been fused to Christ for ever in the red-hot heat of Golgotha’s furnace of dereliction, and as Christ ascends his people have to ascend with him, and now they are seated with him in the heavenlies, in the very midst of the throne. The terrors of law and of God have nothing to do with them.

“By nature, and by practice far – how very far from God.
Yet now by grace brought near to Him through faith in Jesus’ blood.
So near, so very near to God, I cannot nearer be;
For in the Person of His Son I am as near as He.” (Catesby Paget).

Archaeologists have found business documents dating from Jesus’ time. They show that when someone paid off his account the businessman would stamp across the invoice “tetelestai,” this very word that Jesus cried out. It means, ‘paid in full.’ I can affirm today that Jesus’ great word is stamped across the account books of all the elect in the records of heaven. We are all discharged bankrupts. The last penny of the wages of sin has been paid in full by Christ. Is that happy word stamped on the book of your life? “Paid in full – by Jesus Christ.” If your whole trust for acceptance by God, for forgiveness and for entry into heaven is lodged in Jesus Christ today then there is nothing that you’ve ever done, or will ever do, that can affect your destination. Henceforward you will always be where Jesus Christ is. If he had ended his life rotting in the grave then that would be the destination of our lives too, but Jesus rose and ascended to heaven and where he is there we will be also. There was joy set before him for which he endured the cross and despised its shame, and the same joy awaits us.

The late Paul Tucker said, “A letter I received some time ago explained why the writer felt no need to come to church. The reason he gave was that he was a regular contributor to the N.S.P.C.C., and he felt that this good work was enough to make him acceptable to God. Many people strive to live upright, respectable, law-abiding lives in order to be pleasing to God. Yet the teaching of the Bible is utterly plain. If we could be acceptable to God on account of our own good works, if they’d been enough to cancel out our guilt, there’d have been no need for the Lord Jesus Christ to die at all. But there is no do-it-yourself salvation. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Tit. 3:5). There is nothing we can do, and nothing we can cease from doing, except repent for our sinning and accept the offer of salvation from Jesus Christ. We must believe his gospel, trust in him, the Lamb of God, who has paid the penalty of our sin for us willingly, freely, and for ever.

“Many years ago a very earnest but somewhat unusual evangelist, by the name of Ebenezer Wooten, went about the rural areas of England preaching the gospel. On one occasion he was taking down his tent after conducting a series of meetings in a certain village (in those days the evangelist had to do almost everything himself) when a young man came to him and asked, ‘Mr. Wooten, what can I do to be saved?’ Mr. Wooten was pulling up the tent stakes from the ground, and without looking up he said, ‘You are too late young man’. The young man was rather taken aback and asked, ‘Do you mean that now the meetings are over I am too late to be saved?’ ‘Oh no!’ replied Mr. Wooten, ‘That is not what I mean; you asked, “What can I do to be saved?” and my reply is that you are nineteen hundred years too late to do anything. The Lord Jesus did all that needed doing on the cross. All you need do is fall on your knees, repent and ask Jesus to receive you, trusting him to be your Saviour.’ We were glad to read that the young man did just that. That is all we can do. Have we done it? We can confess our sin and receive Jesus Christ as our Saviour and take our forgiveness from that which he completed upon the cross at Calvary when He cried, ‘It is finished.’ ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31)” (Paul Tucker, “Jesus Crucified For Me”, Evangelical Press, 1966, pp. 64&65). So Christ is saying, “It is finished” to sinners. His work is a finished work.

ii] The Creation: Christ is Speaking to the Whole Groaning Creation saying that the Foundations of the New Heavens and Earth have been Completed.

That was the work which the Father gave him to do, to become the Master Builder of a new universe which will be filled with righteousness. He wasn’t called to be creative, or inventive, or original. His goal was not to cry at the end of his life “ Eureka !” – “I’ve found it!”, but “Finished!” Our Lord wasn’t to be the architect or designer of the new heavens and earth, but he was their sole builder, and during his years in this world he laid eternal foundations on which for the next two thousand years he would build his church. He would tell the world at the end of his life he had done it. Let his triumphs sound through the caverns of hell, where demons gnash their teeth in despair, and let God approve the word with a smile.

This word “finished” is found in two other places in the Bible, the first in announcing the conception of all things and the second in announcing the consummation of all things. The alpha and the omega is Christ. First there’s the word in Genesis 2:1, “thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” The solar system that God made was completed, and the galaxies were all in their place. Every animal and virus and all the currents in the oceans and every atmospheric layer were all finished. Man himself was made in God’s image, and he was not a Neolithic man, nor an ape-man, but a bone-of-our-bones-and-flesh-of-our-flesh-man, completed and ‘very good.’ Without Christ was not anything made that was made, and he finished all things that he’d made without sin, without the curse, and without death.

This word “Finished” is also to be found at the consummation of all things, in Revelation 16:17, “The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’” It is the call that ushers in the end of the world, that closes the history of the church, with the salvation of the last Christian. The world is brought to its goal not by the forces of evolution but by the work of God. When that day will dawn then all evangelism is done; the suffering of the pilgrim church is done; all preaching and witness-bearing is done. All that Christ shed his blood to obtain has been obtained, a righteous cosmos. Christ has not allowed the world he made to be destroyed for ever. What a new sight John sees, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City , the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Rev. 21:1-5)

There are these two events, the creation and the consummation of all things, and in between them lies the fall of man and the groaning creation and the coming of God’s great Surety to redeem this world. He is the Saviour sent by the Creator to transform – all by himself – the cursed universe into a blessed universe, completing the work he’d began. He once set out to deliver the world from its bondage of corruption and bring it into the glorious liberty of the children of God, and he has finished that work. He took all the curse away by being made a curse for us and he has made a new heavens and earth redolent with his own righteousness. “It is done!” the angel cries.

Without the finished work of Christ what future does mankind face? We have Bertrand Russell’s appallingly bleak vision of the destiny of the world in these infamous words of atheistic despair; “Man’s origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s salvation henceforth be safely built.”

These are the two messages before you today, on the one hand the unmitigated pessimism of Bertrand Russell – the inevitable climax of the religion of Stoicism – and on the other hand the glorious hope of the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, the one who spoke and gave life to the dead, at whose words the winds and waves were stilled, he who said at the end of his life, “Finished.” So Christ is crying “Finished!” to the universe.

iii] His Father: Christ is Speaking to his Father Telling him that his Work for God is Finished.

A] All the millions of the children God gave him are saved.

He has saved all whom the Father gave him before the foundation of the world. This is the report he can give his Father. You are buying a car and you ask an official from the Automobile Association to examine it and give you a report on its value and road worthiness. You are going to stay in a Bed and Breakfast for two weeks in a town you’ve never visited before and you search for some report on the accommodation. “Have you been thee?” you ask a friend. You are thinking of studying in a college far from home and you comb the Internet for any evaluation of that school of learning. You are buying a house and you ask for a surveyor’s report. Before we venture into any costly enterprise we gather as much information as we can so that our choices are educated choices.

Here is the greatest enterprise of all which I set before you week by week. Come with us on a journey from this world to heaven, from sin to the presence of God. Christ promises that he can take you there. “In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . and I will come again and take you to myself that where I am there you may be also.” In fact Christ claims that he is the only man who can take us there; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” “Anyone could make that claim,” you protest. Of course, but the man who said those words preached the Sermon on the Mount, told the most moving parables, gave extraordinary discourses in the Upper Room to his disciples, healed every sick person who was brought to him, and lived a blameless loving life. No accusations of bad behaviour that were made against him stuck. He said that he had come from God and was going to God and could take us with him. This is what his life achieved and at the end of it he cried, “Finished.” “I’ve done it.” In other words, “All the men and women you gave to me before the foundation of the world are safe and sound and saved.”

At the end of his life Christ’s prayer to his Father was not, “Do you have another cup for me to drink?” All that is over. The cup of hell he was given has been drained; none has been lost – except Judas the son of perdition. All the work of living the sort of life we should have lived, and suffering and dying for our redemption – everything that was in the cup he’d been given to drink is finished. Now he is saying to his Father, “Well, I did the work you gave me to do,” and his Father says to him, “you are my beloved Son in whom I’m well pleased.” This is the dialogue of trust. It is not the language of fear. You don’t hear this in the voices of hell; there is only tension in the pit. Nothing is ever finished in hell. “Rest in Peace”? Not in hell, not for the wicked, just eternal gnashing of teeth, but the Son at the end of his life can complete his report to his own Father, “Finished!” and then he can rest, “Into thy hands I commend my Spirit.” Soon he will be seated at the right hand of the majesty in heaven. We often say that with all the furnishings of the Old Testament Tabernacle and the Temple – tables and curtains and candlesticks and altars and baths – one piece of furniture missing was a chair. There was nowhere to sit because the work of the priests was never finished, but in the centre of heaven there’s a chair where our great high priest Jesus Christ sits. He is seated on that throne because there is no more work of suffering for him to do; “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever sat down on the right hand of God.”

So here is Christ saying to his Father, “It’s all finished.” God is speaking to God, and he is talking about our redemption, and there is no tension as he mentions the children the Father has given to him, no worries about them at all. They are all safe and secure; soon they will all be with him in heaven. Then there is something else.

B] All the Scriptures that spoke of the humiliation of the Messiah have been fulfilled.

The Scriptures must be fulfilled. The Lord Jesus was always fulfilling Scripture. Scripture was always there; it was Jesus’ guide on his road of destiny. Sixteen times it says in the Gospels, “He went as it is written of him . . .” Of course he is particularly thinking of these events surrounding the end of his life. Other Scriptures had been fulfilled before. God had prophesied where he would be born – in Bethlehem . It was prophesied how he would be born – born of a virgin. It was prophesied of his ministry, that wisdom would lift up his voice in the streets. God prophesied of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, of his betrayal, of those that would cast lots for his possessions, that he would cry from the cross, that he would be thirsty and take a drink, amazing details that were all fulfilled in his life and in his death. Accomplished! Finished! While the other Scriptures concerning his burial, his resurrection and his ascension would soon also be fulfilled. Jesus could claim, “Father, it’s all finished as you required.”

There were not only spoken and written prophecies to fulfill, but what we may call ‘picture prophecies.’ Some Bible scholars call them “types.” There were almost more of those than there were spoken prophecies. Think of all the sacrifices for sin that were offered daily first in the Tabernacle, and then in the Temple . They were picture prophecies. They could never take away sin, but they were pointing forward like sign posts to the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world. The holy priesthood and the holy Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur – all were to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ on the cross. The rituals of sacrifice would be accomplished, fulfilled and ended. The order of the priesthood were going to be accomplished, fulfilled and ended, the shed blood of victims accomplished, fulfilled and ended. That is what Jesus means. All is now fulfilled. The prophecies God gave him to fulfill were all completed.

There were numerous other scenes of the divine redemption which were pointing forward to their fulfilment in Christ’s life and death: for example, who can read the story of Abraham ready to offer Isaac told in Genesis chapter 22 and not think of God sacrificing his own precious Son on the Cross? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Or, who can read Exodus chapter 12 and the story of the first Passover and not think of Jesus dying as our Passover Lamb? “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1 :29). “For Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7).

There were those two confused and despondent travelers on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus joined them as they walked along. He showed them that the entire Old Testament was really foreshadowing the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem . Jesus gave them the same report that he had given to his Father. “The bruising of the serpent’s head by the Seed of the woman – I did it and I suffered in the process. The serpent lifted up so that all who looked to him were healed – that was the Messiah. The suffering servant of God whom Isaiah spoke about – he has come. It was I who fulfilled all that was prophesied.”

Christ finished all this “work.” “My food, “said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). That word “finish” comes from the same root word as “tetelestai,” the same word he now uses on the cross. “My purpose in living,” Christ said, “was to do that work which God gave me to do.” And here on the cross, he says, “I’ve done it. Now I’ve accomplished it.”

4. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST FOR US?

What practical uses are we to turn this declaration of our dying Saviour? He rested gratefully in the thought that his work for us was finished. Then shan’t we try to enter into all the consequences of God the Son achieving rest for us? “Come unto me and I will give you rest?” He can offer sinners rest on the foundation of his own finished work. Shan’t we enter into his rest? The forgiveness of all our sins rests in the finished work of Christ. Our acceptance with a holy and righteous God, rests in the finished work of Christ. Let’s put our sole, immediate, and entire trust upon this finished work of our Redeemer; let us believe that whatever obstacles our guilt may throw at us our sins have all been removed. However holy and righteous a God the great lawgiver in heaven may be, whatever integrity there is in his law – and the law of the Lord is perfect – whatever demands for atonement God requires, everything has been rendered by the Lord in his finished work. All our salvation from beginning to end has been accomplished by Christ. Let us look on him as the way of access to God, that it is open to us now; let us take his offer of pardon; let us enter into peace with God; let us bring all our guilt and bury it in the depths of his atonement. Let us lay hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothe ourselves with it in the Divine presence. Let us treasure that reconciliation with God that has been effected by the death of his dear Son. Let us throw open our whole mind and heart to the blessed influences of Christ’s love, his life, his sufferings, his death, his entire example. Let us mix them all with faith so that they make us less selfish, more loving, more patient, less proud followers of the Lamb.

What will you say at the end of your life? What’s been your meat and drink in life? I mean, what is your purpose in living? What sustains you and drives you on? Why do you live? Jesus said, “I came not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Do you know that all of us were sent into this world? None was born by accident. Jesus was sent into the world, but there is a sense in which you were sent into it and I was sent into it. If somebody said, “Why was Geoff Thomas sent into this world?” I suppose you would say, “To be a pastor and a preacher.”

Why were you sent into it? Are you living to be what God wants you to be, and to do what God wants you to do, wherever that is, and whatever it is? Or have you never found that out? Students, don’t waste your life so that at the end you can have no tetelestai. Only regrets. You who are older don’t say “Pastor, it’s too late for me.” No! Do you know, we believe in the God of regeneration, and even if you are in your retirement years then you give him whatever is left of your life. The best is yet to come! Christ is so powerful that he can accomplish much that will endure so that your works will follow you to heaven. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. “He will restore unto you, “says the Bible, “the years which the locusts have eaten.” Why not come to him right now whether you are young or old, single or married, a parent, a homemaker, whatever, and say to him: “Father, I want my meat and drink, that purpose in life which sustains me, to be and do whatever you have appointed for me. And all I ask, Father, is that you show me what it is you want me to do and help me to fulfill it. Remember –

“I only have a little time
To love and serve the Lord;
I only have a little time
To hear and learn his Word.”

Consider how Paul had so wretchedly spent the first half of his life persecuting and killing those who served Jesus Christ, but when the grace of God entered his heart what a change took place! These were his words at the end, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Paul finished the race that God set before him.

Many other Christians have had that same assurance. One of the great Christian leaders from County Durham was a man called Bede who never went outside the borders of Northumbria all his life. He was one of the most educated Christians in Europe . In the last months of his life in the year 735 he was translating from the Latin John’s Gospel into Anglo-Saxon. He was very ill, having to lie on a couch and dictate it hour after hour to a young Christian, a man who loved him dearly. “Go on,” he urged the young man when he grew weary of being hunched over a manuscript in a cold room hour after hour, “I don’t know how much longer I’ve got. I don’t know whether I’ll finish this work or whether my Maker will take me away,” but they had to blow the candles out and sleep for a few hours. On the next morning the young man said to him, “There is still one chapter needing to be translated. Are you well enough to go on?” Bede said, “take the pen and ink and write as fast as you can.” Other people were in the room weeping to see Bede so frail so that he turned and urged them not to cry, “It’s time for me to God – he who formed me out of nothing. I’ve lived long. The time of my departure draws near; I desire to die and to be with Christ.” It got darker and they lit more candles and finally the young man said to him, “Master, just one sentence not translated.” Bede said, “Write quickly these words, ‘Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written’ (Jn 21:25).” The young man said, “The book is now finished.” “It is well,” said Bede, “you’ve said the truth. It is finished.” He paused, “Hold my head in your hands,” and so with his head held up Bede prayed his final prayer and the men in the room sang together, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” Bede died almost immediately and went to be with his Lord and Saviour. He finished the work God gave him to do and went home. This can be possible for you at the end. Don’t waste the one lifetime you have. Spend it doing the work of the living God!

“A charge to keep I have;
A God to glorify;
A never-dying soul to save
And fit it for the sky” (Charles Wesley, 1707-88)

Remember Jesus’ public ministry of teaching and healing lasted but three years. He did not do all he might have done but he did fulfil all he was given to do. That is what I plead with you, that from now on you do what is the will of God for your life, and you do it with the energy that he supplies. Then at the end you may say, “Finished!”

11th December 2005 GEOFF THOMAS