Summary: In one word in the Greek, "Tetelestai!", Jesus proclaimed that his mission was finished. His death covered all our sins, and the pursuit of his mission to the end motivates us to pursue our God-given mission as we accept his forgiveness from the cross.
Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 6 * John 19:28, 30
It must be spring! In the last couple of weekends, I cut the grass twice, weeded, helped prepare a gravel and stone walkway, gathered up dead branches, and pruned the shrubs. It felt good to tackle some things, but it seems like we barely made a dent in what needs to be done. There is always more to do.
I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking how smart you were to move into a retirement home! But I bet you have other tasks you have trouble completing, even if outdoor lawn work is no longer one of them. Maybe looking back on your life, you can remember chores left undone, bills unpaid, schooling never completed, honey-do lists outstanding, relationship issues unresolved, bucket lists still open. We all have unfinished business in our lives.
In fact, there is only one human being who finished all he set out to do, and that is Jesus Christ. We are in a series of messages looking at his seven last statements from the cross. Today, with Easter just a week away, we focus on his sixth statement. Right before he had said, “I thirst,” and soldiers had touched his lips with a sponge soaked in wine vinegar. Then, with that added hydration, he shouted in a loud voice. Matthew and Mark note the shout, but only John tells us what he said, one word in the Greek: “Tetelestai!,” which means, “It is finished!”
Just a couple of observations about this word:
Observations about tetelestai:
1. “IT” is finished. Jesus said “IT is finished,” not, “I am finished.” He wasn’t talking about his life ending; he was talking about something else being done. And not just being done, but being done for good. Because also consider,
2. It is “FINISHED.” The verb “finished” is in the perfect tense in the Geek. That’s important because it indicates that something was not only completed, but that it remains completed to this day; it will always remain completed. What Jesus did on the cross is final, for all time. It...is...finished!
So what was the “it”? First and second century Greek culture gives a powerful clue. Archaeologists have discovered hundreds of papyrus scraps with the word tetelestai written or abbreviated across them, because it also means, “Paid in full.” Jesus paid our sin bill, a bill so large we could never pay it. He paid it in full. And that brings us to some applications. What does it mean for us that Jesus said, “It is finished. Paid in full”?
1. Accept the free gift of salvation.
Jesus paid your debt, not just partially but completely. The prosper response is not to attempt to add to what he did by working harder to earn God’s forgiveness. The proper response is to live in gratitude. There is nothing you can do to earn more of God’s love. Conversely, there is nothing you can do to lose any of God’s love. God’s love for you is complete, perfect. Your sin debt is paid in full. All you have to do is accept the great gift of forgiveness and become God’s child.
Becky and I had our middle child while I was in seminary. We were a typical poor seminary family. God took good care of us, but we were living pretty frugally. We only had the basic emergency health care plan, and having a baby wasn’t considered an emergency. After we brought Emily home from the hospital, we got a doctor’s bill for about $5,000. That was a lot of money back then. (In fact, it still is today!) Well, we mailed a $20 check faithfully to that doctor every month! After about a year of that, we got a letter in the mail from the doctor’s office, stating, “The doctor has decided to forgive the rest of your debt.” In other words, “consider it paid in full!” Hallelujah! It was a great blessing for us.
I could have felt guilty about that. I could have kept sending checks regardless of what that doctor had said. I could have gone to his office and tried to prove myself worthy somehow of being forgiven, maybe by doing free office chores for him, filing, cleaning the restrooms. I could have tried to add to his gift. But did I do any of that? No! I just sent a very nice thank you note.
As Ray Pritchard said, “If Jesus paid it all, you don’t have to. If you try to pay for your salvation, it means you don’t think he paid it all.” It...is...finished! Jesus did it all. Accept that. Secondly,
2. Pursue God’s mission.
Consider Jesus. He was a man with a mission, and he pursued it with everything he had. What was his mission? He summed it up pretty well when he said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Or Mark 10:45, “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.” When he shouted, “It is finished,” he said it with a note of finality. “Mission accomplished!”