Summary: Your debt to God has been paid in full - a Good Friday meditation.
John 19:30: “IT IS FINISHED”
1) O sa-cred head, now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded, With thorns your only crown,
O sa-cred head, no glory Now from your face does shine;
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call you mine.
2) Men mock and taunt and jeer you, They smite your countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear you And flee before your glance.
How pale you are with anguish, With sore abuse and scorn!
Your eyes with pain now languish That once were bright as morn!
3) Now from your cheeks has vanished Their color, once so fair;
From your red lips is banished The splendor that was there,
Grim death with cruel rigor Has robbed you of your life;
Thus you have lost your vigor, Your strength, in this sad strife.
4) My burden in your passion, "Lord," you have borne for me,
For it was my transgression, My shame, on Calvary.
I cast me down before you; Wrath is my rightful lot.
Have mercy I implore you; Redeemer, spurn me not!
In the name of our Redeemer, dear friends. What must have it have been like to stand at the foot of the cross that fateful day? The sight of Jesus must have been horrifying for those that followed him, and loved him. There was the sign above his head, that mocked him. You could hear the religious leaders of the people mocking him. The soldiers were standing guard, and cast lots for some of Jesus’ clothing. What must it have been like?
There was that uncomfortable darkness that settled on the earth from noon until 3 in the afternoon. There was the site of Jesus’ mother, crying. But what must have been most interesting were the words that Jesus spoke as he hung from the cross that day. It’s amazing that he was even able to speak. He had been up all night the night before. He hadn’t had any food for awhile. He was dehydrated. He had lost a lot of blood from the abuse that he had taken. He couldn’t breathe very well as he hung on the cross – ultimately, that was how people died when they were crucified – they suffocated to death. He was physically exhausted.
And yet, he was still able to speak. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” – words of grace and mercy on upon those who were sinning against him. “Woman, here is your son, and son, here is your mother” – words of love to Mary, his mother, making sure that she would be taken care of after he was gone. “Today you will be with me in paradise” – words of grace and mercy again, this time to that thief on the cross, who in the final hours of his life came to faith in Jesus. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” – words of pain, as he experienced the very essence of hell while he hung from the cross – having his Heavenly Father turn his back on him, and suffer for the sins of the world all alone. “I am thirsty” – words that remind us that Jesus was really human as he hung from that cross – he wasn’t just God, pretending to be in pain. This was very real for Jesus. “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” – words that look forward to leaving this earth and going to heaven.
But there was one other sentence that Jesus spoke from the cross that I didn’t mention – do you know what that was? The sentence “It is finished.” “It is finished!” Jesus shouted, as loud as he was able, right before he gave his spirit to his heavenly Father. This evening, we’re going to ponder what that phrase means, why that little sentence is so important for us as Christians. “It is finished” our words that every Christian can hang onto, and receive a great deal of comfort and hope and strength from. Let’s think about what those words mean, this evening.
In the original language that the Bible was written, “It is finished” is actually one word: “tetelestai.” “Tetelestai” was a word that was connected to the idea of paying off a debt. Archeologists have uncovered many scraps of paper and papyrus that were first century bills, or bank notes. And at the bottom, if that bill was paid or that debt was paid off, you would find the word “tetelestai,” “it is finished.”
When Jesus said, “tetelestai” right before he died, some of the people at the foot of the cross heard it. The soldiers would have heard it. And the picture that would have popped into their heads would have been the idea that something has been paid in full, some debt has been taken care of.