Summary: Christ's cry, It Is Finished, was not a cry of despair but of glorious victory. Christ's sacrifice was stainless, perfect, complete. Also, Satan and the powers of evil received a death blow from which they never will recover.
The Cry of Victory
In John 19:30 we read, “When Jesus had received the drink he called out with a loud voice, it is finished!” In the original Greek language of the New Testament this phrase, it is finished, is one word of 10 letters,TETELESTAI! It has been affirmed to be perhaps the greatest single word ever pronounced on planet Earth.
That cry, IT IS FINISHED, was heard on earth, was heard in heaven, was heard in hell. Today, it echoes around the walls of our churches. At the end of time it will be heard, not from the cross, but from the throne of God.
Notice Jesus did not say, I am finished; it's all over with me; you will have to work out your own salvation. No, this word was not a wail of despair. Three Gospel writers tell us it was uttered in a loud voice. It was a shout of triumph, completion. It was not the cry of defeat, but the cry of victory.
If the hands of Jesus had not been nailed down I think he would have raised a triumphant fist toward heaven crying- TETELESTAI.
In Bible times,this was a word often used in business transaction. If you had purchased something, the merchant would take your money and then give you a receipt. The receipt would say TETELESTAI; meaning the debt had been paid in full.
You and I as sinners, are in debt before God and we cannot pay. We have broken God's law and we are bankrupt. The wages of sin is death. But Jesus came and paid the debt for us.“Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”
It also was the word used in the Temple. When some devote worshipper, with heart overflowing with wonder, love and praise, brought to the temple a lamb without blemish or spot ,the pride of the whole flock. The priest would exclaim over this perfect Lamb, it is finished.
In the fullness of time, when the sinless Lamb of God offered himself willingly on the altar of the ages. The sacrifice was stainless, perfect, the debt paid in full.
At this point we may ask a question, what was finished? What precisely is the meaning of that strange cry from the cross? I don't pretend to understand it all or explain it fully.
1. First of all, I believe this cry teaches us that the atonement of Christ, the work of redemption was completed. Christ had finished the task for which he had come into the world. It was a work that was begun before the foundation of the world, for Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But that great work reached its climax, its consummation on the cross. Let us take a few moments to review the great drama of salvation as it runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
In Genesis 3:15 we have the promise that God gave to man after his fall into sin. That someday a deliverer would come and crush the head of Satan.
We think of the covenants God made with Noah and Abraham. The deliverance of the Jewish people from the bondage of Egypt. The giving of the law and the 10 Commandments. The tabernacle and the Temple with their altars of sacrifice.
The prophecies and preparations concerning the coming of Christ into the world. His virgin birth, his baptism in the River Jordan and by the Holy Spirit. His temptations in the wilderness. His parables, his miracles, his prayers, his tears. His Last Supper with the disciples. His agony in the garden of Gethsemane. His betrayal by Judas, his denial by Peter. His trial, the awful scourging, the crown of thorns, rejection by his own people.
All of this, up to the last nail was driven into his hands and feet and the spear thrust into his side. It was all part of God's plan of salvation. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. He came to seek and to save the lost. To give us life in all of its fullness. He came to die the just for the unjust to bring us to God. Now all that work is finished, complete. And Jesus, seeing that all things were accomplished, cried with a loud voice – it is finished! His sacrifice was stainless, perfect, complete.
2. But let us go one step further. I believe that when Christ uttered that cry it not only meant his atonement for sin was finished but also the kingdom of Satan was finished. The Prince of darkness was crushed and defeated.
The story of Samson in the Old Testament might illustrate what I'm trying to say. You remember how through disobedience and sin Samson lost his strength. And we find him blind and bound in prison grinding out the corn for the Philistines. Then one day the Philistines took blind Samson or of his dungeon into the Temple of Dagon, to make sport of him and mock the God of Israel.