When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. John 19:30
As I shut the door behind me and enter the patient’s room, the quiet darkness and peace envelop me. I can hear the noisy rattle of his breath, see the chest heave as his body struggles in what is likely his last hours of this earthly life. I step toward his bedside. I am with him to ensure his comfort and help him die with love and with dignity.
I am a nurse and I am privileged to be with people as they are dying.
Jesus’ words, “It is finished” were foremost in my mind this week when I passed by a room filled with loved ones singing a beautiful song in Greek to their dying family member. I paused outside their room, unable to understand the words they were singing, but I could feel the love and devotion being poured out upon this dying man.
The Greek word tetelestai literally translates as “it is complete” or “it is accomplished,” and at first reflection it seems to me that Jesus was letting out a cry of defeat when He uttered these final words upon the cross. But when I ponder it further, I see that like the beautiful Greek song I heard the family singing, this was a cry of love and triumph.
I’ve been with many people as they’ve taken their last breaths and I’ve never heard a cry of triumph like Jesus uttered on that first Good Friday. I wonder how his friends and family at the foot of the cross felt as they heard him say those words, the last of this man they loved and revered? “It is finished.” Why were these his last words and what did they mean?
I like to think that on that first Easter morning it all began to make sense for them. With Jesus’ resurrection came the fulfillment of his purpose on earth. He is telling us that He has come to do what He has set out to do, redeem our sins and offer us salvation. His mission completed, He can give up His body and His earthly life and by doing so fulfill God’s plan for him and ultimately for us.
I walk past the room where the Greek family keeps vigil. Day and night they stay by their loved one’s bedside. As he slips further into unconsciousness and his body further surrenders to death, I feel another aspect of those final words of Jesus wash over me. A patient may not utter many words, or any at all, as they near their last days, but there is no doubt that a feeling of “completeness” emanates from them. This is solidified for me at the moment of death, when a beautiful peace and quietness fills the now lifeless body and the energy and space of the entire room in which they lay. It is a beautiful, surreal, and deeply profound moment. Their struggles in life and in dying are over. Completed. It is finished.
Read all 7 reflections on each of the last words here.