Today’s Reading: John 19:23-42 (additional reading: Psalm 119:129-152 & Proverbs 16:12-13)
At the age of 33, most people are saying about their life, “It is beginning.” But for Jesus, at age 33, as He hung on a cross, having paid the price for the world’s sins, He declared, “It is finished!” Note, however, that He did not say, “I am finished!” This was not a cry of defeat, but a shout of victory. In the original Greek text, this phrase is one word of ten letters – “Tetelestai” – which literally means: “It is finished, it stands finished, and it always will be finished.”
The word, “tetelestai,” was a word with which the people of Jesus’ day were very familiar. Today, I want us to think of some common ways in which the word was used as we consider the significance of this cry from the cross.
“Tetelestai” explains the mission of Christ. When a painter had completed his work, he would step back and say, “Tetelestai – it is finished!” “Tetelestai” was a word used by servants. A master would tell his servant to go and do something, and when the servant had completed the task, he would come back and say, “Tetelestai – I have finished the work that you gave me to do.” Jesus had been sent by the Father to complete a task. He spoke of this in Mark 10:45 (NIV), “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 fulfilled His appointed task through His suffering on the cross for our sins. Having suffered for the sins of the world, He could declare, “It is finished.”
“Tetelestai” was also a word used by priests. The Jewish people had to bring their sacrifices to the priest to be examined before it was offered on the altar, because it was against the law to offer an imperfect sacrifice. After the priest had examined the sacrifice, he would used the Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent of the word Jesus spoke from the cross, “Tetelestai – It is perfect.” Pilate said, “I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4). Even Judas said, “I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). Tetelestai! The priests used this word; it means “a perfect, faultless sacrifice.” You will not find any other sacrifice for your sins who is perfect, spotless and faultless. Jesus Christ is the only one.