After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Last night I basically preached on one word for our love feast and communion service. Normally I preach on a passage or paragraph. However, this one word carries so much meaning in its context that a full sermon doesn't do it justice. In fact, Charles Spurgeon has commented on this word that it "would need all the other words that were ever spoken, to explain it . . . It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it." The word in which I am referring is the Greek word tetelestai. It is rendered in most English translations as It is finished. This is one of seven utterances that Jesus made while hanging on the cross. He would have said this with His very last breaths. It is the last thing that He says before giving up His life.
The Greek term comes from the root word, teleios, which means purpose, goal, end. It is often used to convey the carrying out of a task. When Jesus cries this word out from the cross, He is declaring that His goal or purpose has been finished or accomplished. He did not say that I am finished but instead that it is finished. He was not referring to His life being over but His mission being completed. He had accomplished the mission for which He came to earth to do.
What was this mission? It doesn't take long for us to go through the Gospels to find out. In the opening chapter of Matthew's gospel, we read the angel who appeared to Joseph tell him regarding Mary that She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). His mission was to save His people from their sins. In fact, Jesus' very name indicates His mission. In Aramaic, Jesus is Yeshua, which means Yahweh is Salvation or Yahweh Saves. Jesus Himself stated that He came not . . . to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). His mission was to save His people from their sins by giving His life as a ransom. He came to live the obedient life that Adam didn't live and die to experience God's full wrath on the cross in place of those who would trust in Him. A wrath that He did not deserve because He was sinless but that everyone of us does deserve because of Adam's sin and our many sins. He came to serve as a substitute. This was the mission that He declares accomplished. The ransom had been made and the substitution complete.
Mission Fully Accomplished
This Greek word is an intensive perfect, which means that it conveys a full completion of the task at a specific point in the past. One could actually translate it as It has been finished. There is a finality to Christ's work of redemption that He accomplished on the cross. The work had now been "fully finished" and "completely completed." In fact, this Greek word, tetelastai, was often used in the marketplace during the time of Christ's life. It would be stamped upon a receipt after a purchase of a good to indicate that the transaction had been "paid in full." The debt of sin had been "paid in full" by Christ's death on the cross. All of the sins of those who would trust in Christ were paid for; whether they were past, present, or future.
This means that nothing more needs to be done pertaining to our redemption. There is nothing that we can add to Christ's work. We cannot add our own works. The work has been accomplished because of Christ's substitutionary death. Former president George W. Bush has stated that one of his regrets during his time in office was giving a speech after the Iraq insurgency in front of a banner that stated: "Mission Accomplished." This communicated to the American people that the work had been done in Iraq when as we all now know, much more work needed yet to be done. However, Christ could loudly declare "Mission Accomplished" as His mission had been completely accomplished. Nothing more needed to be done for those who would by God's grace be brought to Him. He did all that was necessary. This truth is communicated well by the author of Hebrews when he writes Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins of all time, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11-12). The Old Testament priests were never allowed to sit down when they were doing their duty of offering the annual sacrifice for their people. This was symbolic of the fact that their work was not done. The sacrifice offered would only symbolically cover the sins of the previous year. They would have to enter into the "holy of holies" once again the next year for the sins of that year. However, Jesus is said to sit down as His work was finished when He offered Himself as the perfect and final sacrifice. No other sacrifice for sin was needed after His death. His cry from the cross communicated this.
We celebrate this holy week the finished work of Christ. We celebrate the work of redemption that He has accomplished that Friday on Calvary. Praise God that Christ's work is finished!
Soli Deo Gloria!