Summary: This is the sixth sermon in a Lenten Series on the Seven Last Words of Christ. I also have information on dramas that may be used as a introduction to this and all the other messages in this series.
The Ending That Doesn’t End
“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport! The thrill of victory . . . and the agony of defeat! The human drama of athletic competition! This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports [--http://ask.yahoo.com/20060213.html]!” These are the celebrated words of Jim McKay that introduced ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” every weekend from 1961 to 1998, including the coverage of twelve Olympic Games [--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_McKay].
Vinko Bogataj became ABC’s icon for the “Agony of Defeat.” As a Yugoslavian he was competing at the World Ski Flying Championships on March 21, 1970, in Oberstdorf, West Germany. As Vinko began his third jump, the snow was quite heavy. Half way through the jump, he sensed the weather conditions had made the ramp too fast. He tried to compensate by lowering his center of gravity and terminating the jump, but he utterly “lost his balance, rocketed out of control off the end of the ramp, tumbled and flipped wildly, and crashed through a flimsy retaining fence before a crowd of frightened sport fans in coming to a grinding halt.” Miraculously he sustained only a minor concussion, but from that moment he became ABC’s poster boy for “the agony of defeat [--http://en.wilipdeia.org/wiki/Vinko_Bogataj]. Jesus’ exclamation, “It Is Finished” proclaims the “triumph of victory, not the agony of defeat.”
This testimony of Jesus is a single word in Greek—“tetelestai!” Tetelestai is impacted with meaning. Basically it implies “to achieve, fulfill, execute, succeed, bring to an end.” It conveys the message of realizing something that has long been desired, promised, or predicted. Tetelestai is an affirmation and testimony that what has been promised and prophesied is now achieved, realized, and carried out. In shouting, “Tetelestai,” Jesus is proclaiming that all God’s promises to redeem His people from sin have now been fulfilled. It is one thing for a person to make a promise; it is something else to fulfill that promise. Tetelestai is Jesus affirmation, “I have fulfilled all My promises, I have met all My obligations to the fullest.”
“Tetelestai—IT IS FINISHED!” P. T. L!!! Hallelujah!!! Amen!!! Tetelestai in antiquity is specifically applied to sacrifices. Are you familiar with Apocalyptic literature? Apocalyptic simply refers to literature that is prophetic and deals with the end times and return of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament The Book of Revelation is Apocalyptic. In the Old Testament the Book of Daniel, much of Ezekiel, Isaiah 56-66, and Zechariah 9-14 are Apocalyptic. In such Jewish Apocalyptic prophecies Tetelestai means “The Last Time.”
In shouting, “It Is Finished” Jesus affirms His death on the cross is the very last sacrifice ever to be made for sin. Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 all record that at the moment Jesus shouts, “It is finished,” the veil of the Temple was “torn in two.” Matthew’s account is explicit in Chapter 27, verses 50 and 51: “Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.” No longer would a human priest be needed to go into the Holy of Holies and make a yearly sacrifice as atonement for sin. Jesus is God’s Perfect Atonement. “IT IS FINISHED!”
Atonement is the means by which we as sinners are reconciled to our holy God. The word itself is not found in the Greek New Testament but abounds in the Old Testament. To atone is to “make payment for sins or crime.” In Hebrew the world means to “cover over.” In the Old Testament the sacrifices of bulls and goats were only a temporary covering of sin, but in the death of Jesus Christ, our sins are completely taken away.” The Bible says in Hebrews 10:3-4, “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Old Testament sacrifices had to be continually repeated over and over time and again to “cover over sin,” but the blood of Jesus takes away our sin forever. John the Baptizer pointed his disciples to Jesus in John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’” I John 1:7 bears witness that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” What Old Testament sacrifices could only cover over, the blood of Jesus completely cleanses and takes away. In the death of God the Son, our Perfect Sacrifice, “It Is Finished.” The Supreme Sacrifice has been made once and for all, never to be repeated again.
Psalm 103:12 assures us that the atonement Jesus won for our forgiveness is total and complete: