There is no greater reality in our lives than the fact that Jesus died for us personally, as well as for the sins of the whole world. The cross shows us just how much Jesus cares about people. There were powerful words that Jesus spoke, but none more powerful than his last, uttered upon Calvary’s tree. His last words, possibly little more than a whisper, are what we consider today. And of those seven perhaps none more profound, so filled with meaning, than what we hear in John’s Gospel today.
"It is finished." John 19:30
Lest we feel the cross in only one dimension, these words of Jesus cause us to ponder another aspect of the cross. On Good Friday, there is a tendency to emphasize the sense of loss and sorrow and suffering by Jesus on the cross, and not realize that the cross was the greatest triumph ever realized. Lest we forget that today is GOOD Friday, let us listen closely to the dying Master, and see the victory of the cross.
The three words in English are translated from a single word in the original language, the Greek word Tetelestai. It is a word rich in meaning, for its meaning is always determined by the context in which it appears. Thus it meant different things to those who heard it, and in these many meanings we gain even richer insight into the many facets of the work of Christ on the cross.
To a servant, the word Tetelestai was the word uttered when he returned from the fields following a hard day's toil. It was the word signifying the completion of work, that all was done.
And is this not true of Christ? When Jesus said "it is finished" on the cross, he spoke for the finished work of our redemption, the fact that there are now no impediments between man and the attainment of eternal life. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross needs nothing more on our part for its power; there is nothing more that we need to add to realize a complete and total salvation.
How should the completeness of the sacrifice of Christ affect our confidence? How many of us are still plagued by our insecurities, trying to gain our acceptance and approval by the regard of others? We need to rest in the finished labor of the one who "finished the work that you have given me to do." If we are saved, it will not be through our attainments, but only through the completeness of his atonement.
To a Jewish priest, the Hebrew equivalent for "It is finished" was the word that was spoken following the daily inspection of the sacrificial animals before they were slaughtered.. The word meant that the particular animal had been inspected and been found to be perfect, without any blemish or any flaw. Then that animal was worthy to be offered as a sacrifice before God.
Ironic that after the sacrifices of all the Passover lambs in the Court of the Gentiles, there was still one spotless Lamb left unexamined. What a picture of Jesus Christ! Truly the words of the Apostle Peter are most appropriate here in this context:
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. I Peter 1:19
To a merchant, the word Tetelestai was marked on a receipt after goods were purchased. In the world of buying and selling, the world of business, the term Tetelestai meant "it is paid."
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Isn't this the essence of the gospel? It is all paid! there is nothing more to earn, nothing more to purchase, nothing that we could ever earn:
To an athlete, the word Tetelestai was the word the crowd cheered when the marathon runner finished the race. It was the cry of the gladiator upon vanquishing his foe. It was the cry of triumph in battle; it was the cry of victory in a great and thrilling contest.
Isn't that true of Jesus on the cross? Calvary was not the defeat of a good teacher, but the most powerful death of the most powerful being who would ever walk on this planet. What appeared to be the greatest defeat was turned, upside down, into the greatest victory. At the cross Jesus met Satan at his stronghold—at death itself—in front of the Gates of Mordor--and the two were locked together in mortal combat.
What had been preliminary skirmishes during the ministry of Jesus--the temptations in the wilderness, the suggestions by Peter regarding Jesus' messiahship, the faithlessness of his own disciples--was now a time of total warfare, with Satan unleashing every weapon in his demonic arsenal to undo Jesus from his mission of rescue. Just when Jesus was about to die, the satanic host had thundered "Check" to the forces of heaven, and all seemed lost. But Jesus, confident of the righteousness of his cause, confident of the power in his flawless sacrifice had the last word-- Tetelestai--Checkmate!
If there was anything that Jesus meant by this word he spoke, certainly it was the victory of the cross. This was no whimpering cry of defeat; these were no wounded words of a dying failure, but they were the bold victory cry of the conqueror. Jesus bested Satan on the cross; it was his finest hour!
Let us pray.
Lord, we see you breathing your last and nearing death. We see you doing this for us, and we honestly don't know what to say. It is hard for us to imagine the depths of your love for us. It is difficult for us to understand how someone could be so selfless and giving of oneself. Lord, you stayed the course. You persevered until the very end. You not only lived, but also suffered and died so that humanity could once again return to God. Lord, we thank you for your love. We thank you for your courage. We thank you for the example of how you lived and how you died that we should follow you; help us to become worthy bearers of your love. Help us to stay the course, to remain faithful until the very end of our lives. We know that we can do this only with your help. So help us, Lord, please help us. Mary, our mother, pray for us.