On the cross Jesus gave seven statements, all of which are important, but perhaps none are as important as his last. “Jesus knew that His mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture He said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to His lips. When Jesus had tasted it, He said, ‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.” John 19: 28-30. It is Finished, in English it is 3 words, but in Greek it was simply one word, Tetelestai. In the Greek, it is in the perfect tense meaning an act that has complete fulfillment. In other words, what is happening in the present, has secured the past and perfected the future. The Greek word can also be translated PAID IN FULL. Tetelestai is the greatest word ever spoken by the greatest man who ever lived on the greatest day in all of eternity. Never has a more powerful word crossed the lips of a human being. No word ever uttered has changed the history and destiny of mankind.
Charles Spurgeon said of this word, “It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. IT IS FINISHED is the most charming note in all of Calvary’s music. The fire has passed upon the Lamb. He has borne the whole of the wrath that was due to His people. This is the royal dish of the feast of love.”
“Eternity will be needed to make manifest all that TETELESTAI contains.” -A.W. Pink
John 19:28 says that Jesus knew that “all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled.” The word “accomplished” is the same word that he would shout as he died. It is finished, it is accomplished and the debt is paid.
It is finished, TETELESTAI is not a cry of defeat from a dying Man, but a cry of triumph of a Living, Life Giving Redeemer, a divine proclamation that the WORK OF REDEMPTION had been fully, finally and forever accomplished. Perhaps a great question that should be asked is, Exactly what was finished? What was accomplished?
The separation between God and man was finished. Luke gives us greater insight into two phenomenal events that took place as Jesus uttered the statement in John 19:30. Luke 23:44-45 says, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.” Darkness fell upon the land for 3 hours, and as Jesus screamed “It is finished” He does so in darkness. Why the darkness? Because the Father had turned his face away from his Son. Jesus quoted Psalm 22, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” All of His life He knew only the glow of the stare of his Father. Numbers 6:24 indicates that the blessings of God were to have his face looking upon you, “The Lord bless and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you.” Therefore, the darkness was a sign that the Father’s face had turned away and the blessing of the light of his stare, had now become a curse has he turned his head. At this moment of separation the pain of the nails and the flayed back was nothing as compared to the pain of separation and feelings of being forsaken by the Father. “He made him who knew no sin to become sin for us..” 2 Corinthians 5: 21.
The temple veil was torn in two, it was rendered. What was the temple veil? Hebrews 9 tells us that in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies—the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—from the rest of the temple where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin. Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year to enter into God’s presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins.
There was a temple veil because there was sin in the Garden of Eden. The veil was the separation between God and man, which on this day was torn apart. And because Jesus suffered separation from His Father, we will never have to suffer separation. Sin separated us from the Father, the Son reunited us with Him.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10: 19-22.
The Sacrifice for us was finished. Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Hebrews 9:27 says that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sins.” The exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt was only made possible through the Passover lambs which were slaughtered and whose blood was placed on the door post of the home using a hyssop branch. It was on a branch of hyssop that the soldiers offered Jesus the sour wine.
Priests would examine animals for blemishes before they were sacrificed. If the lamb was faultless, perfect, and acceptable, the priest would say, “TETELESTAI!” Jesus is the Lamb of God Who alone was “without sin” and thus he exclaimed “TETELESTAI”, “I am faultless, perfect and acceptable to you My Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” The Father examined the Son and found that he was a worthy sacrifice and thus, TETELESTAI. He was so worthy that his sacrifice would forever put out of business the brazen altar, no more sacrifices would be needed.
The Redemption Offered from God to Us was Finished. Jesus drank every drop of the cup of suffering for us so that we could drink deeply from the cup of the New Covenant. In Genesis 3, after the sin of man, God kicked his creation out of his presence and said, “GO!” In the Gospels he entered into our world and said, “COME.” Jesus was salvation offered, a gift given. His death on the cross provided the payment for our debt, He served our sentence and took our punishment. When a Roman citizen was convicted of a crime, he was thrown into prison. A “Certificate of Debt” listing all his crimes was nailed to his cell door so that anyone passing by could know what he had been accused of and the penalty assessed. When the prisoner had served his sentence and was released from bondage, the indictment was taken down from the door and the judge who put him in prison would sign the indictment and write the word TETELESTAI. The freed prisoner was then given this document and if questioned as to why he was out of jail, he could point to the indictment on which the judge had written TETELESTAI. He could rest in safety and security because the word TETELESTAI guaranteed his deliverance and his liberty. The charges for those crimes could never again be brought against him.
Spurgeon said, “Once again—when He said, ‘IT IS FINISHED,’ Jesus had totally destroyed the power of Satan, of sin and of death. The Champion accepted the challenge to do battle for our soul’s redemption against all our foes. He met Sin. Horrible, terrible, all-but omnipotent Sin nailed Him to the Cross. But in that deed, Christ nailed Sin also to the tree. There they both did hang together—Sin and Sin’s Destroyer. Sin destroyed Christ and by that destruction Christ destroyed Sin.”
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2: 13-15
Three days later, Jesus would walk away from his own tomb thus saying again, IT IS FINISHED. The grave is out of business. It has been well said that Christ’s RESURRECTION is the Father’s “AMEN” to His Son’s declaration “IT IS FINISHED.” Looking at the Cross we see the work of redemption completed. Looking at the open tomb we see Jesus’ finished work fully accepted by the Father.