Famous Last Words
We've been studying the previous few chapters which record so much of Jesus' last teachings and instructions to His disciples. Now we fast-forward to His last 3 words: "It is finished."
It's a powerful truth: You can talk a lot and say very little. And sometimes you can say so little, but it mean so much.
The little word 'if'. It has 2 letters, but it's a very big word. There's so much meaning there.
Your 2 year old is drinking their Kool-Aid in the next room and you hear them say, "Uh-oh!" Soooo much meaning!
You are having an argument with your wife, and there's plenty of back and forth, and then she says one little word: "Fine!"
Is everything fine?
'It is finished.' 3 little words...actually just one in the original language. 'tetelestai' =
Note that He did not say "I am finished." The Pharisees thought that He was finished. These religious leaders orchestrated His execution. They planned a sting, manipulated those in authority, brought false witnesses, and got Jesus convicted in a kangaroo court. And as Jesus was taken away to be crucified, they no doubt congratulated themselves on their brilliant maneuvers. "He's finished!" they must've said.
But it was far from over. It was only beginning.
For 3 days the devil thought he had won. He and his demons of hell must have had quite a celebration, because their enemy was dead.
'Was' = another little word with a lot of meaning!
To some degree, even the disciples thought He was finished. They should have known better, because for months now Jesus had told them He would be killed, buried, and come back to life on the 3rd day. He told them at least 6 times that we know of.
And yet, as they walked away from that 'day of the cross' they were in despair, in hiding, and in doubt. "It's over. He's finished."
But Jesus didn't say I am finished, but IT is finished!
Tetelestai - it is finished:
1. A servant's word = task completed.
Slavery was common in those days. It was different from early US slavery. Many were in debt, and indentured as servants to masters to whom they owed money. They would be assigned a task, and when completed, they would return to their master and say tetelestai, the task is completed. "I did what you told me to do, in the way you told me to do it."
John 17:4 [Jesus prayed to His Father...]
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
We should aspire to someday be able to say tetelestai to the Father.
2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
O to hear from His lips, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Make sure you are a servant in Christ's church. We are God's slaves, He owns us, and He is a wonderful Master whom we CHOOSE to serve, for He is worthy! We aren't saved to sit, soak, and sour, but to serve! It's how God's work is done on earth.
ill.--J.L. Kraft formed the largest cheese company in America in his day. He lived in Chicago, attending North Shore Baptist Church. He served as Superintendant of the Sunday School. W.A. Criswell was visiting from Dallas one day and asked, "How can you organize such a large s.s. when you must have so much work to do with your great cheese company. He replied, "God did not put me here to make cheese. That's the way I make my living. God put me here to do His work in His church." [pardon the cheesy illustration]
And whatever business God has you in, it is to support you in your real business of serving Him.
Did you know that tetelestai appears twice in Scripture? The other place is v. 28 = 'all things were now accomplished'. The task is completed!
2. A priestly word = a perfect sacrifice
This word was taken right out of OT worship, back when they had that elaborate system of animal sacrifices. God gave them that system for a time. The priest would examine the lambs brought for sacrifice, for they had to be without spot or blemish, so as to be a good picture of Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God Who was to come.
First, the priest would look in the lamb's mouth for anything wrong there. Next, the eyelids, and the ears, the hooves ... looking for imperfections. He would then run his hands thru the wool, looking for any dark hair. It had to be pristine white to qualify.
Once a lamb was qualified, the priest would hold it up and say [what would be translated in the Greek] tetelestai = this is a perfect sacrifice! It is finished. This is a sacrifice which will be accepted!
And when Jesus uttered those 3 words on the cross, He was qualified to do so ... the perfect Lamb of God!
This is why it is wrong for a person to try to get to heaven by their own good works - because it implies that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God was not necessary!
ill.--D.L. Moody rode one day on a passenger train, and the engineer had heard of him. He told the Conductor to go ask Moody if he wanted to ride up in the front of the train with him. Moody said, "That would be a pleasure." He sat down next to the engineer, and they began to talk. Soon, Moody was getting an earful of what a good person this man was, and how we would go to heaven because of keeping holy rituals, and the 10 commandments. At the end of the ride Moody looked at the engineer and said, "Sir, allow me to explain to you the difference between your way to heaven and the Bible's. You spell salvation DO. God spells it DONE!" Tetelestai!
About the blood: It all started back when Cain brought a disobedient sacrifice of his own making and Abel brought the blood of the lamb as they had been instructed. That blood propelled his sins forward in time to Calvary yet to come, just as our sins today can be rolled back to the same event.
And the scarlet thread of the blood continued to the doorposts in the Exodus Passover, to the priestly sacrifices, and on to Calvary, where Jesus, our Great High Priest, said, tetelestai, it is finished! The once and for all blood sacrifice has been offered! And how do we know it was accepted by God? He raised Him from the dead!
3. An artist's word = a masterpiece.
I'm no painter. But I can paint a wall. It wasn't long after we got new carpet in the boys' bedroom that I began repainting the walls, and it was going great, until I accidentally kicked the gallon can over in the middle of the room! I want you to know that I still walk funny! But I'm an artist, and there's now a beautiful decorative rug there!
The Greek artisans led their world in creativity. And when the last stroke of paint was applied to the canvas, or the last piece of marble was chiseled away, he would stand back and say in Greek, tetelestai. This is now a masterpiece!
ill.--remember Bob Ross? "Let's put a happy little tree over here. And a pretty little bird in this tree." [his hair WAS that tree!] It was amazing how he could complete a masterpiece in 30 minutes. And the first time you see him do it there's a surreal moment you witness, because though you've been watching him delicately work creative magic, he would now and then reach over and grab a big glob of paint and slop it on the canvas. "Oh no, he just ruined it!" you'd think. But no, he would skillfully manipulate that glob in beautiful strokes.
When Jesus died on the cross, it didn't fit in at all with what the disciples had pictured. His crucifixion was a big glob of paint slopped onto what was, up to that time, a work of art that they thought was coming together so well. It was ruined! But God was working His masterpiece!
We try to paint a rosy picture of our lives, and just when it looks like things are coming together a big glob of dark colors comes splashing down. The blues of depression. The grays of confusion. The black of grief. And suddenly it's all your eye can see. Enter God, working it all together for good. And you step back and watch Him work, and you realize that the dark colors are just as important as the bright pastels!
One day it will all come into focus. Maybe here on earth...maybe not until heaven. But God Himself will say, tetelestai, my masterpiece is completed!
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
'Workmanship' is the word poemia = - a poem, or a work of art. ["Pastor's sermon was ALL Greek to me today!"]
ill.--needlework can be beautiful - but it looks much different from the underside. I used to watch my grandmother crochet, and it looked pretty confusing until she'd bring me up on her knee and show me the front side.
Today we see God's plan from the underside, and the threads seem tangled and jumbled, but one of these days our Heavenly Father will raise us up to view the other side, and it will all make sense - what a masterpiece ... we are His workmanship. Tetelestai!
The plan of salvation has been finished for a long time...there's no need for man to be adding to it, taking from it, or trying to improve it...it's a finished masterpiece, a work of perfection!
4. A merchant's word = paid in full.
In business transactions, a man who owed his creditor would pay his bill. And the merchant would write across the bill - tetelestai = paid in full!
Jesus took my sin debt and wrote 'paid in full!'
I'm not going to heaven because God has overlooked my sin, turned a blind eye, or swept it under the rug. Sin must be paid for, and Jesus paid for mine so I won't have to!
Attention, all human beings: Your sin will either be pardoned in Christ or punished in hell!
Why choose to continue on the path to hell, where you'll have to pay for your sins, when Jesus paid it all?
5. A warrior's word = victory.
This word was used in battle. When the battle was over, the soldier would report to the general that the victory was won, saying, tetelestai.
This just gets better and better. Jesus went head to head with the devil in his own backyard. And Jesus faced Satan, not in the form of God, but as a man, and He turned the tables on that slimy serpent, crushing his head with the very heel he had nailed to the cross, and as He did that on the cross, He said tetelestai, the battle is over, and the victory has been won!
"It is finished, the battle is over. It is finished, there'll be no more war!
It is finished, the end of the conflict. It is finished, and Jesus is Lord!"
Jesus won the victory over death, hell, and the grave - and then He gives that victory to us. This is good, because death will occur, the grave takes the body, and hell awaits the soul. Aren't you glad that battle was fought for you, and it's already over? It's only the shadow of death that any of us face, if we are saved, for the battle is already finished, and the war has been won!
I'm glad God is able to finish what He starts.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
perform = finish
You may feel like things are falling apart, or maybe that YOU are finished. It may at times seem like God has forgotten you, but be reminded today from God's Word, that He finishes what He starts, and when He said on the cross, tetelestai, He was thinking of you, and all He was going to do in you. That work is still in progress, but rest assured, you are His masterpiece, and you will be completed!