Summary: The last word Jesus spoke from the cross, as John records it in his Gospel, was the word: "Tetelestai", "It is finished." At the time of his death, the place where he spoke that word was not a pretty sight. But through the centuries the beauty and power
It was not a pretty sight. Made of roughly hewn wood and splattered with human blood after having served its gory purpose, the cross was anything but beautiful. It symbolized worldly secular power brutishly exercised over any perceived foreign evil that might threaten Rome. It was a place of punishment reserved for only the worst of non-Roman criminals to meet their end. And yet because of what God accomplished through his Son’s sacrifice on this bloody instrument of torture, the cross became not something ugly and vile but something beautiful.
Today crosses adorn the necks of graceful beautiful young women as well as successful athletes and rock stars. Jewelry stores fashion it out of gold and rare metals while sometimes adorning it with precious gems in lavish, artistic designs. For some it has become only a charm, instead of the charter of salvation that it truly is.
Tonight we remember the price for sin that was fully paid by God on the cross. Jesus summed it up with his last words before he died when he mustered his final breath and announced to those close enough to hear “It is finished.” Those are the words St. John, an eyewitness to the event, records Jesus saying as his very last words. Tετέλεσται.
I know that there are some who mistakenly think that when Jesus died on the cross that God was paying a ransom price to Satan, but it was actually God the Father who demanded and received the perfect atoning sacrificial offering for our sins. Only the blood of his only begotten Son could pay the price completely. All of the other sacrifices that had been made beforehand by God’s people simply foreshadowed the one final, ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us all.
Good Friday is God’s Friday. Did you know that the etymology for Good Friday came from the phrase God’s Friday? That is how people originally spoke of it. Just like the word “goodbye” came from another old English phrase: “God by ye.” It was how people said farewell to one another and was a way of saying “God go with you.” But on Good Friday Jesus did not say goodbye to the world. What He said goodbye too was sin and death and everlasting condemnation.
After Jesus no other sacrifice would be necessary. Therefore Jesus’ final words on the cross were his final pronouncement, not over himself, but of a death sentence to sin and death. “It is finished.” Sin and death would never have a death grip hold over the world.
Tετέλεσται. “It is finished.”
The phrase has usually been applied to Jesus’ ministry and his life’s work on earth to atone for the sins of the world, but it just as easily could be applied to the iron grip that sin, death, and the devil held over the world itself.
Jesus sacrifice finished sin’s reign of terror. In Him, God the Father was now approachable for all. That’s why the fact that he called us his brothers is so significant. The locks on the gates of hell that separated man from God were now shattered.