At the age of 33, most people are saying about their life, "It is beginning." But for Jesus, at age 33, as He hung on a cross, having paid the price for the world’s sins, He declared, "It is finished!" Note, however, that He did not say, "I am finished!" This was not a cry of defeat, but a shout of victory. In the original Greek text, this phrase is one word of ten letters - "Tetelestai" - which literally means: "It is finished, it stands finished, and it always will be finished."
The word, "tetelestai," was a word with which the people of Jesus’ day were very familiar. Today, I want us to think of some common ways in which the word was used as we consider the significance of this cry from the cross. In so doing, we will find that the word "tetelestai" explains two important truths for us.
1. "Tetelestai" Explains The Mission Of Christ.
A. "Tetelestai" Was A Word Used By Artists.
When a painter had completed his work, he would step back and say, "Tetelestai - it is finished!"
Jesus came to give us a full portrayal of what God is like. He was God in the flesh, come to make Himself known to us (John 1:1; 14, Hebrews 1:1-3).
“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God himself. And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.”- John 1:1; 14 (Amplified)
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.”- Hebrews 1:1-3 (NLT)
When you read the Old Testament, you have a rather difficult picture. In the Old Testament are ceremonies, types, prophecies and mysterious symbols. Even those of us who have been studying the Word of God for many years often find serious difficulties as we study the Old Testament. The reason for this is that the Old Testament portrayal of God is an unfinished portrait. However, the revelation of God that is found in Christ is complete.
Each Old Testament prophet is like an artist that came along and put their own unique “brush mark” on the canvas of history. One by one, they came, each putting their particular color and touch on the canvas. Then in Christ, we have the final brush stroke which completes the picture of God for us. With Him, the revelation of God to mankind is finished!
With respect to God’s revelation of Himself to mankind, “It is finished.”
B. "Tetelestai" Was A Word Used By Servants.
A master would tell his servant to go and do something, and when the servant had completed the task, he would come back and say, "Tetelestai - I have finished the work that you gave me to do."
Jesus had been sent by the Father to complete a task. He spoke of this in Mark 10:45 (NIV), "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." He fulfilled His appointed task through His suffering on the cross for our sins. Having suffered for the sins of the world, He could declare, “It is finished.”
A few years ago, television news captured the drama of a brave man who gave his life for others.
A flight from Florida crashed into the icy waters of the Potomac River, a few feet short of the runway at National Airport. Within minutes, a rescue helicopter was at¬tempting to ladder-lift the survivors, whose limbs were frozen and paralyzed by the chilly waters.
Suddenly, a lone man dove into the frigid water and hoisted five people onto the ladder before disappearing beneath the waves.
He gave his life for those he did not know. Jesus gave his life for those He did know. That’s the amazing part!
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” - Romans 5:6-8 (NLT)
Yes, Jesus knew us. Yet, despite what He knew, He gave Himself as a ransom for us anyway. He did it out of love for us and in obedience to the Father. Therefore, as a servant would say to his master, Jesus declared, "It is finished!"
2. "Tetelestai" Explains The Meaning Of The Cross.
Not only was "Tetelestai" a word used by artists and servants, but. . .
A. "Tetelestai" Was A Word Used By Priests.
The Jewish people had to bring their sacrifices to the priest to be examined before it was offered on the altar, because it was against the law to offer an imperfect sacrifice. After the priest had examined the sacrifice, he would used the Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent of the word Jesus spoke from the cross, "Tetelestai - It is perfect."
Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, was God’s per¬fect, faultless sacrifice: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. How do we know Christ is a faultless sacrifice? God the Father said that He is. When the Lord Jesus was baptized, God the Father spoke from heaven and said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). God the Father put His seal of approval upon God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit came down as a dove and added His witness (see v. 16). Even the demons admitted that Jesus was the Son of God (see 8:28,29). His enemies had to admit that He was faultless, because they had to hire liars to bear false witness against Him. His followers found no fault in Him. None of the apostles ever said, "We heard Jesus tell a lie" or, "We saw Jesus do something wrong." He is the spotless, perfect sacrifice.
Pilate said, "I find no fault in this man" (Luke 23:4). Even Judas said, "I have betrayed innocent blood" (Matt. 27:4). Tetelestai! The priests used this word; it means "a perfect, faultless sacrifice." You will not find any other sacrifice for your sins who is perfect, spotless and faultless. Jesus Christ is the only one.
Many horror stories emerged from the countries of Eastern Europe as their Communist dictator¬ships were overthrown. None surpasses the cruelty of former Romanian dic¬tator, Nicolae Ceausescu’s Home for the Deficient and Unsalvagcable.
By Ceausescu’s order, children throughout Romania who were found to have some mental or physical deformity were sent to this home. Any child judged by the state to be less than perfect was taken from his parents and sent to this home to die so that valuable resources would not be "wasted" upon him. No ugliness or imperfection was tolerated.
How thankful we can be that God did not use such a standard with His love and grace. If he had, then none of us could ever know His love. No, He chose to love us all, despite our imperfections.
The One Who was perfect, chose to give Himself for the imperfect, so that we, who are imperfect, might become perfect in Him! Right now, I am imperfect, but one day, because of Jesus, I will be made perfect. Right now, I am unfinished, but one day, because of Jesus, I will be finished! And when God is finished with me, I will be just like Jesus!
B. "Tetelestai" Was A Word Used By Merchants.
To merchants, "Tetelestai," referred to the paying of a debt. If you purchased something, the merchant would take your money and then would give you a receipt of payment. The receipt would say, "Tetelestai - paid in full."
As sinners who were in debt to God for an amount we could never pay, we were in need of someone to pay the debt for us. In Christ, God took it upon Himself to pay for us what we owed to Him, thus making it possible for us, through acceptance of the payment He has made on our behalf to receive a full pardon! No wonder the Bible refers to eternal life as a gift (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9)! Because it is a gift, it is free. But also because it is a gift, it must be received.
George Wilson was sentenced to hang after he was convicted of killing a guard while robbing a federal payroll from a train. Public sentiment against capital punishment led to an eventual pardon by President Andrew Jackson. Unbelievably, Wilson refused to accept the pardon. Can you do that? The case became so confusing that the Supreme Court was called on to bring about a ruling. Chief Justice John Marshall delivered the verdict: "A pardon is a parchment whose only value must be determined by the receiver of the pardon. It has no value apart from that which the receiver gives it. George Wilson has refused to accept the pardon. We cannot conceive why he would do so, but he has. Therefore, George Wilson must die."
Consequently, Wilson was hanged. God’s grace becomes a pardon from sin only to those who receive it.
Conclusion: In one sense, the work of redemption is unfinished. God wants to bring the salvation Jesus fully paid for on Calvary to the hearts of individuals, and as long as there is one person who has yet to receive the pardon Jesus died to provide them, the work is unfinished.
Some of you have some unfinished business with God. he has completed His part. You need to bring to completion your part by receiving Christ as personal Savior and Lord.
For those of us who do know Christ, our work will never be finished as long as there is one person left in this world who has yet to finish their business with Jesus.
There is only one kind of person in this world - a person for whom Christ died - and you and I are called to go to all them we can to tell them the good news Jesus proclaimed on the day of His crucifixion - "It is finished," the price has been paid - eternal life is a free gift - you need only receive!