When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 NIV
I have a certain trait that Jayne finds very peculiar in me. And you may too. When I start reading a book, I must finish it. No matter had bad it is. There have only been a couple of books in my lifetime that I could not get through. Do not know what drives me this way. Maybe it is because I tend to be an optimist and keep thinking that it will get better. Until I read the last page and realize that the book was a real stinker. But at least I have the self-satisfaction that I got through the whole book and finished it.
This week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is known as Holy Week or Passion Week. Passion is probably a more apt term for it, for during this week we remember the immense pain that Jesus endured on his way to the cross, and the unbearable suffering he experienced as he died on the cross. And it is on the cross that Jesus utters the powerful words “It is finished” that ring throughout history as a sign that sin is forever defeated, and the power of death broken. The Greek translation of this phrase is one word, “tetelestai.”
Tetelestai is a fascinating word. One way it is used is when a servant would return to his master with a completed task, he would say “Tetelestai.” “I finished the project you commanded me to do.” Another way it would be used is when a merchant would place a stamp on a piece of paper when someone had paid a debt in full: “Tetelestai—you don’t owe anything more.” A final way that this word was used is when a lamb would be brought to the temple for a sacrifice. If the priest determined that it was an acceptable sacrifice, he would say, “Tetelestai, you have brought the appropriate sacrifice.”
Jesus chose this phrase as his final words on the cross. We can see how this phrase perfectly describes what Christ accomplished. God’s plan is complete. We do not owe anything more for our sins to be forgiven. The sacrifice is a perfect sacrifice for the atonement for our sins to restore our relationship with God.
What is also fascinating about this word is that it is not easily translated into English. You see it actually means “it is finished and it will continue to be finished.” What a great assurance for us. Christ’s atoning work on the cross was not just something that happened in the past. Yet, we can be confident that the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of new life in Christ is continually working in our lives today and forever. This is the joy we receive and that we abide in each Easter Sunday. We continually share as God intervenes in our lives to takes those dying parts of our existence and give them new life. Christ is continually working in our lives to bring us hope and the promise of new life, even amid death and despair. As we remember the suffering that Christ endured for us, we can rejoice in the great love he showed to us in his suffering, and more significantly his resurrection.