Summary: “IT IS FINISHED” was the triumphant shout of our Lord as He died on the cross for us.These words remind us that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. What need to be done has been done by Christ.
U.S. history records the building of a great transcontinental railway which united the country by rail from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In its day it was a tremendous undertaking which at one point was suspended because of financial problems.Eventually, however, it was completed. The last rail was laid on the border between New Mexico and Colorado. Plans had been made to make that day very special. Special laurel wood ties and two silver spikes, one for each state, were used.The governor of each state drove the two silver spikes into the wood tie, thus uniting the States and completing a way of transportation from coast to coast.As the governors drove in the spikes, the crowd applauded and a telegraph wire flashed the news to the rest of the country that the task was finally finished.
Two thousand years earlier there was a day when some spikes were driven, not into a laurel tie, but through the hands and feet of the Son of God and into a cross.They were spikes of iron and they were driven in while heaven and earth looked on. When the last spike was driven, a shout went out and the news flashed forth. “IT IS FINISHED” was the cry of our Savior. The way was now open from earth to heaven! A means of access to God had finally been completed.
The spikes that were driven through the Son of God on that old rugged cross brought God and man together. The distance between man and God was spanned by his reconciling death. Our debt of sin was paid; the cost was great. Such is the message of our morning text.
A crowd had gathered to watch the crucifixion of three condemned men. One of them was the sinless, Divine Son of God. Scripture declares that “GOD BECME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US” in the person of Jesus Christ. (John 1:14) Just before He breathed His last breath, our Lord cried out saying, “IT IS FINISHED.”
What a cry of hope that was for our sin-stricken world. The race of Adam, long under the curse of sin, received the joyful news that a full and free salvation had been provided for all. Let’s look in depth at the meaning of this powerful sixth word that fell from the lips of our dying Savior.
“IT IS FINISHED”
Biblical expositors point out that the three words found in our English text, “IT IS FINISHED”, are a single word in the original Greek. It is the word tetelestai. This was a familiar and very descriptive word in Jesus’ day. It had a number of connotations including “it is complete” or “it is accomplished.”“A master would tell his servants to do something and when the servant had completed the task, he would return and say, tetelestai - meaning ‘I have finished the work that you gave me to do.’Jesus used this word because, on the cross, He had finished the work that God had given Him to do. In John 17:4 Jesus prayed to the Father saying, “I HAVE FINISHED THE WORK YOU GAVE ME TO DO.” Tetelestai also meant “the debt is paid.” Archaeologists have repeatedly found its Latin equivalent scrawled across tax receipts used in those days, indicating a debt was paid. Romans 6:23 says “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH….BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETRNAL LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.” In dying on the cross, Christ paid the debt of our sin.
Our debt of guilt has been paid in full.
Tetelestai was also a common phrase used to describe a victor’s triumph. It was a word used by a runner as he was the first to cross the finish line. It was a cry of victory! When Christ uttered this word, He was not whimpering some weak, sad farewell. He was not submissively resigning Himself to the last final throbs of life before death. Rather, He was shouting forth triumphantly like a victor. Jesus used this word to signify the full accomplishment of God’s plan for our salvation. Victory over sin had been completed. Christ had finished His mission; He paid our debt. We can, therefore, be assured of salvation and eternal life in heaven.
ASSURANCE OF SALVATION AND HEAVEN
Allen Iverson, superstar guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, often talks about the death of a close friend of his who was murdered and his thoughts about the afterlife. Iverson says, “When I die, I want to see my friend. I know he’s in heaven and before I die, I want to know that’s where I’m going. I don’t want to guess. I want to know that’s where I’m going.” The good news of the gospel is that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt! Why can we be so sure of heaven? Simply because heaven depends upon Christ not us. It depends upon the finished work of Christ rather than our good works. Heaven is ours if we “rely in faith on the finished work of the cross which God has been pleased to accept.”