Of the Seven Words of Jesus upon the cross, three are recorded in the Gospel of John. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit (Jn 19:26–30).
When we think of the final words, “It is finished,” we tend to think that Jesus means that He has finished suffering the punishment for our sins. The wrath of God has been finished and appeased. The Law can no longer accuse us as sinners, because all of our sin has been put upon Jesus and paid in full. This is true. It is finished! But there is more to what Jesus says. Consider when Jesus says these words: After He had given Mary and John to each other, knowing that all things were now accomplished. Only then does He say, “It is finished.”
It’s not enough for just the punishment of our sins to be finished. That’s not all that Jesus does for us on the cross. What we also need, what is necessary, is for Christ to establish a Church and a new family by water and blood. The night before Jesus had prayed to His Father, saying, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none” (Jn 18:9). How is it that Jesus loses none? Because He places those for whom He has suffered into the Holy Ark of the Christian Church, the Church that is birthed of the water and blood that flows from His pierced side.
When Jesus gives Mary and John to each other, He is creating this new family, a family bound together by something stronger than the natural ties of blood. They say that blood is thicker than water, but they’re wrong. The water of baptism is thicker than the blood of natural family. This is the water mixed with blood that flows from the side of Jesus, the water that grants you adoption into the family of God. As His suffering is completed, Jesus establishes His Church from the cross. Then, and only then, does He say, “It is finished.”
Mary is Jesus’ mother, and Jesus calls John one of His brothers. As His mother and brother, Mary and John represent the whole Christian Church. For as Jesus says, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Whoever hears the word of God and does it” (Mt 12:48; Lk 8:20–21). The care that Jesus shows from the cross is not simply that of a dutiful Son for His mother, but that of the Heavenly Bridegroom for His Bride, the Church. Jesus will not lose one that the Father has given Him. Therefore, having paid for all of our sins, Jesus most then provide for our ongoing care by placing us into the Church. “Behold your mother. Behold your son.”
Jesus promised that He would not leave us as orphans. And He has kept that promise. By His Holy Spirit, He caused you to be born again into His family. You are not simply a member of the Church, you belong to the Church, and the Church belongs to you. And within this family, we are bound together by ties thicker than natural flesh and blood. We are united by the water and blood that flow from the side of the Son of God. We are joined to one another and to Christ through Holy Baptism, and as members of His family, we drink the Blood of the New Testament that He sets before us. This is the tender care that our Lord showed to us with His dying breath. And when He had done this, knowing that all things for our salvation were now accomplished, then Jesus said, “It is finished.” Amen.