When Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” . . . When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:28-30 (NRSV)
In a small museum in Assisi hangs a crucifix from 1236 by Giunta Pisano. My guide had told me to look for it, because it’s famous for being the first in western Christianity to show Christ suffering on the cross.
Images of Jesus in agony were well-known in the east, but before Pisano (for 1200 years!), Roman Christians looked at the cross and found a triumphant savior staring back at them.
Usually I downplay John’s version of the crucifixion. If you’ve never noticed, it’s the one where Jesus is in charge: He gets to declare when things are finished. No one takes his spirit; he gives it up. Sure, he drinks sour wine but only to fulfill scripture. It’s all a little too inhuman for me. I miss the one crying out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Instead, John gives me the God of the Universe, in control even from the cross.
And this year, I am grateful for it.
Usually, I want a Jesus I can relate to. But today, I’m taking comfort in a Christ who is above it all.
Who is invulnerable to empire and unimpressed by human power. Who won’t give the violent, hateful ones the satisfaction of raising his voice. Who is already looking toward the gates of hell, ready to destroy them.
This Good Friday, I am looking up into the eyes of the triumphant one.
Christ be my strength.