Have you discovered that it’s easier to start something than it is to finish it? Probably all of us can remember some unfinished project, something we “will get around to completing one of these days.”
I'm so thankful that Jesus completed the work of redemption and atonement on the cross! His sixth word was, "It is finished" (John 19:30).
The Greek word Jesus declared from the cross is Tetelestai. It was a common word of the 1st century and means something is finished or paid in full. For example, when a promissory note was paid, the one holding the note wrote Tetelestai across it. A deed to a property was not in effect until it was dated and signed, and when this was accomplished, the clerk wrote Tetelestai across the deed. When someone had a debt that was paid off, the creditor would write Tetelestai on the certificate of debt signifying it was "Paid in Full".
While Tetelestai was in common use during the 1st century, it is no ordinary word. Bible scholars have called it "the greatest Word from the greatest Man on the greatest Day in all Eternity!" It is only one word, but no word ever uttered has so changed the history and destiny of mankind.
The great Bible scholar J. C. Ryle declared, "It is surely not too much to say that, of all the seven famous sayings of Christ on the cross, none is more remarkable than Tetelestai." And A. W. Pink proclaimed, "Eternity will be needed to make manifest all that Tetelestai contains."
Since the word Tetelestai is so important, we must understand what Jesus meant. In other words, what was finished?
Jesus was not referring to His suffering on the cross or the end of His physical life. He did not say, "I am finished."
So what was finished?
1. His Mission and Purpose were finished.
Why did Jesus come? To answer that question, we must first determine why He did not come. For example, He did not come just to heal the sick, feed the multitude, cast out demons and many other wonderful things He did while here on earth.
What was Jesus' Mission? He gave us the reason why He came in 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." He came to give His life as a ransom. He came to pay the price for sin, to destroy the bondage of sin, to erase the curse of sin.
He said in Luke 19:10 that He came to seek and to save the lost. What or who is lost? Everyone that is away from the Father. All who are not in relationship with Him are lost to Him and will be lost for all eternity.
What was Jesus' Purpose? In John 4:34, He declared, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work." His nourishment, His sustenance was to finish the Father’s work.
What was the Father's work? To save sinful man.
Salvation is the joint work of all three members of the Trinity. The Father judged sin; He poured out His wrath on the cross. The Son received the Father's judgment and wrath on sin and paid the penalty in full by His death on the cross. And the Spirit raised the Son to life to prove His work on the cross was effective.
Christ’s purpose is that, in the fullness of time, He would be born as a man, born of a virgin to become the atoning sacrifice. He performed miracles, signs and wonders. He even raised the dead. But if He had died a normal death, His life would have meant nothing to you and me. His purpose from the beginning was to die as the Passover lamb. Even at His birth, in the stillness of the stable near the manger of the newborn child, is the shadow of a cross.
He is on the cross in John 19 and His purpose, His death, is almost accomplished. Three days from now, He will miraculously break the bonds of death and prove His divinity and His completed work by rising from the dead. But for now He cries, "It is finished." And He bows His head and gives up His spirit.
2. The Payment for the Penalty of Sin is finished.
John the Baptist, Christ's forerunner, announced, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When the Jews were delivered from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 12), the Passover lamb was killed and its blood was shed to "cover" the home so that death would "pass over". John recognized that Jesus' death would be required to pay the penalty for sin and save mankind from spiritual death.
1 Peter 2:24 tells us: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you were healed."
Jesus could have healed multitudes, taught crowds, fed thousands, and all the other wonderful things He did. But if He had not given Himself as a sin offering - to be our great Substitute - He would be no different than Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, and all other religion founders.
But the work of atonement and redemption is finished! Tetelestai! We don’t need to add anything to salvation because there is nothing to add. It has been Paid in Full!
An evangelist was approached by a young man who asked, "What must I do to be saved?" The evangelist replied, "It's too late!" The young man became alarmed and cried, "Is it too late for me to be saved? Is there nothing I can do?" The evangelist declared, "It's too late! It's already been done! The only thing you can do is Believe."
You do not have to live under the bondage of sin. You do not have to struggle any longer under sin’s harsh mastery. It is Finished! Everything has been Paid in Full!
3. Our Redemption is finished.
What does Paul proclaim in 2 Corinthians 5:21? "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." Bible scholars call it the Great Exchange. Jesus carried our sin on the cross and gave us His righteousness. He took our guilt and shame and gave us His holiness. He took our imperfection and gave us His perfection.
One of the songs we sing is: "I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me. I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus and He lives in me. What a joy it is to know my heavenly Father loves me so and gives to me my Jesus. And when He looks at me He sees not what I use to be but He sees Jesus." Wow!
There's more. We now have full and unhindered access into the presence of God. Matthew 27:51 tells us the curtain that separated mankind from the Holy of Holies (the Presence of God) was torn from the top to the bottom. The finger of God opened the way for us to enter into His presence.
Wayne Grudem, theologian and author, states, "If Christ had not paid the full penalty, there would still be condemnation left for us. But since he has paid the full penalty that is due to us, 'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus'" (Romans 8:1). We can receive redemption from sin, full and free!
The great missionary Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, meditating on "It is finished" wrote, “There dawned upon me the joyous conviction that, since the whole work was finished and the whole debt was paid upon the Cross, there was nothing for me to do but to fall upon my knees, accept the Savior and praise Him forevermore.” Amen!
Rejoice! Jesus is alive! He finished His work on the cross (Tetelestai!) and is now at the Father's right hand, ever living to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Let's give Him all the praise and glory. He deserves it all!