Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are thrr-in-one:
One of the most difficult experiences I ever had was also one of the most rewarding. It was the dreaded pre-seminary Greek class. I say pre-seminary because you had to complete the class and get a passing grade on the qualifier before you could even start seminary classes. Here I was just having moved my family down to St. Louis Missouri and I must pass this incredibly hard class just to get in. As you can imagine, the tension was thick in the air for about 10 weeks.
But what once was a heavy burden has become something I truly enjoy. The Greek language is a beautiful one, full of color and meaning. On studying the Greek for this evening, my eyes were drawn to verse 30 and the word Tetelestai. It’s a very important word that brings in a whole world of meaning. It means, “It is finished.” This one beautiful Greek word encompasses the culmination of all of Christ’s ministry. Other translations can be “It is accomplished,” or “It is completed.” In other words, the work is done! These words weren’t a cry of defeat but a shout of victory! Christ had accomplished what He had been sent to do. His work on earth was done. His time with the Father was approaching. It is finished and it will always be finished. Sin and death had been defeated and a new covenant was about to begin.
When a Greek servant would complete a particular task assigned him by his master, he would say Tetelestai. When the teacher had finished with a particular class he would say Tetelestai. After a long battle had been won, the commander would say Tetelestai. It is therefore appropriate that this word would come from Jesus lips as He breathed His last. His task had been completed, His earthly teaching was done, and the victory over sin and death had been won.
What Jesus had to endure for us just to say these words is beyond comprehension. The barbaric way He died was extreme. The amount of suffering he had to endure seems overkill. But sin and death are worthy adversaries and Christ did what He must to defeat them.
In his book, “The Day Christ Died,” Jim Bishop conveys the horror of this kind of execution. He writes: “The executioner laid the crossbeam behind Jesus and brought Him to the ground quickly by grasping His arm and pulling Him backward. As soon as Jesus fell, the beam was fitted under the back of His neck and, on each side, soldiers quickly knelt on the inside of the elbows…The thorns pressed against His torn scalp…With his right hand, the executioner probed the wrist of Jesus to find the little hollow spot. When he found it, he took one of the square-cut iron nails…raised the hammer over the nail head and brought it down with force.
Two soldiers grabbed each side of the crossbeam and lifted. As they pulled up, they dragged Jesus by the wrists. With every breath, He groaned. When the soldiers reached the upright, the four of them began to lift the crossbeam higher until the feet of Jesus were off the ground. The body must have writhed with pain…When the crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner…knelt before the cross. Two soldiers hurried to help, and each one took hold of a leg at the calf. The ritual was to nail the right foot over the left, and this was probably the most difficult part of the work. If the feet were pulled downward, and nailed close to the foot of the cross, the prisoner always died quickly. Over the years, the Romans learned to push the feet upward on the cross, so that the condemned man could lean on the nails and stretch himself upward [to breathe].
What Jesus had to endure just to say this one word should be a lesson to all of us as to how great His love is for us. He didn’t say this word to end His own suffering but so that we could end ours. We were the beneficiaries in the end. Through His most gruesome death, we have been given life.
So what, exactly, did we gain and how was a new life given to us?
First, with this simple word we were given the message of atonement. His was the perfect sacrifice. The sacrifices of the past could only cover our sin, they couldn’t take it away, but with Christ’s perfect sacrifice, we are seen as perfect in the eyes of God.
Not only did it save us from sin, but it continues to work its miracle of forgiveness on all of us repentant sinners today. It constantly cleanses us from sins of commission and omission, sins of ignorance and indifference, and even those sins we don’t realize we have committed. By God’s grace alone, this one Greek word, Tetelestai, became the signal of complete forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:13-14 says, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God”
Ephesians 1:7 adds, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
In this one little word that allows for death, we also find death defeated because to rise again one must die. And because He rose, death is no longer our enemy.
Jesus came to die. It was His purpose, because only the perfect sacrifice would suffice. He suffered so we didn’t have to. His blood replaced ours and for that, we receive the riches. His exit from this earth was not calm and peaceful, rather it showed in its agony the seriousness of sin. It was His pleasure to pay the price for us. It was His will to take on the curse so that we might be free from it. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the law.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
When Jesus said, “Tetelestai,” it immediately reconciled us with God. No greater explanation of this is given then in Romans chapter 5, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
This one word was a signal to all believers that we had been made right with God, something that was unachievable until this word was spoken. This seemingly insignificant word ushered in a new life for all believers because they were said with a promise. Because Christ died for us, we can be assured of our salvation.
Colossians 1:19-22, For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,”
This beautiful word, “Tetelestai,” gave us access to the holy of holies and access to God Himself. Because of this word all other sacrifices are useless. Because of this word we have found acceptance by God into a new life and a new relationship with Him that will last for all eternity.
Through Christ there is no more enmity between us and God, our salvation has been assured, our suffering is finished and our place in heaven is guaranteed.
One little word meaning something that we have read a thousand times, “It is finished.” In this one beautiful word, Tetelestai, the entire work of redemption had been brought to completion.
Praise God that He would love us enough to see His plan completed, even at the death of His only Son. No more sacrifices, no more sin bearing, no more curse. Victory is ours because of Jesus, because He faced the cross and was able to say, “It is finished.” Amen