“When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.” –John 19:30
What did Jesus mean when He said, “It is finished!“?
This was not a statement of defeat, but rather a declaration of triumph. “It is finished,” three word in English, one word in Greek – “TETELESTAI.” Derived from the greek word “teleō,” it means to complete, accomplish, finish, or pay off. We may use this same terminology to say, “I’ve completed my dissertation paper for graduate school.” Or, “I crossed the finish line of my first marathon.” Or, “I just completed the Dave Ramsey plan and paid off my last debt.”
In all these examples, there’s a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment by finishing that which was set out to do. There’s also a sense of purpose and intention in completing the task. It didn’t get finished by accident or by half-hearted effort, but there was a plan that was strictly adhered to from the beginning.
The five illustrations outlined below sum up what Jesus meant when He uttered “TETELESTAI” on the cross:
- ILLUSTRATION OF SERVANTS/SONS – A servant would report to their master, “I have completed (TETELESTAI) the work assigned to me.” Or a father may send his son on a mission and the son was not to return until every step of the mission had been completed.
- John 17:4 – “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.“
- ILLUSTRATION OF PRIESTS – A priest would always examine the animals brought to him for sacrifice. Only those animals spotless and without blemish were acceptable for the offering. When one such animal was found, the priest would say, “TETELESTAI!”
- John 1:29 – “The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’“
- 1 Peter 1:18-19 – “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
- ILLUSTRATION OF ARTISTS – Frank Boredom writes, “When the painter or the sculptor had put the last finishing touches to the vivid landscape or the marble bust, he would stand back a few feet to admire his masterpiece, and seeing in it nothing that called for correction or improvement, would murmur fondly, ‘TETELESTAI!'”
- Hebrews 10:12-14 – “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from the time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
- Hebrews 1:3 – “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
- ILLUSTRATION OF MERCHANTS – During the days of Jesus, when a promissory note was paid, the one holding the note would write, “TETELESTAI” across it. Also, when someone had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write, “TETELESTAI” on the certificate of debt signifying that it was paid in full.
- Romans 6:22-23 – “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Colossians 2:13-14 – “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
- ILLUSTRATION OF PRISONERS – When a Roman citizen was convicted of a crime, he was thrown into prison. A “Certificate of Debt” listing all his crimes was nailed to his cell door so that anyone passing by could know what he had been accused of and the penalty he was to serve. When the prisoner had served his sentence and was released from bondage, the indictment was taken down and the judge would sign the indictment and write “TETELESTAI” across it. The freed prisoner would keep this as proof that his sentence had been served and that charges for those crimes could never be brought against him again.
- Isaiah 53:6 – “But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
- Romans 8:1-2 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
POINTS TO PONDER
- Are you living like “it is finished” (TETELESTAI)?
- Are you walking in freedom or still in chains of bondages?
- Are you trying to earn your salvation or have you accepted it as a free gift?
- Do you feel shame from your past or do you approach His throne with boldness?
- Have you forgotten the significance of the cross?
Father, I thank You for loving me so much that you would send Your only Son into this world to die so I can live. What love is this, Lord? I stand amazed at Your goodness and mercy and grace. Father, forgive me of all my sins. Wash me clean from all my iniquity. Thank you for removing my sin as far as the east is from the west. Thank you for eternal life. Thank you for Jesus Christ. May I never take the cross for granted. May I never become calloused to the price Jesus paid for me. May I always remember. And may I always share the gospel of the cross with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.