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.
Lent is a season that should specifically remind us of what our focus should continually be upon; Christ and His crucifixion. Just as Jesus When the days were approaching for His taking up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) for the anticipation of His death on the cross, we should also be setting our face towards the cross during this time as well as every day. The significance of one of the last words that Jesus uttered while dying on the cross can serve as a good reminder of the importance of the reason behind our celebration.
The great Baptist preacher, 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 willingly giving up His life.
The Greek term literally means bring to an end, finish, complete, accomplish. It conveys the idea of carrying out a task. It is what one would say triumphantly after laboring hours or days at something and now having finished it. In fact, Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus said this with a loud voice or cry . This served as a cry of victory and not defeat.
Notice too that Jesus did not say I am finished but it is finished. He was not simply indicating that His life was over or that His end had come. The it referred to His mission, not Himself.
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 did not come 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 extensive 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 already completed work. We cannot add our own works. In fact, to do so would be to say that the cross was meaningless and that Christ's work had not been sufficient. 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 fully 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 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! Let's make sure that we trust the One whose work has been accomplished and live as if it has been complete by not trying to add our own works to the salvation equation.
Lifted up was He to die,
"It is finished," was His cry;
Now in heav'n exalted high:
Hallelujah what a Savior!
Soli Deo Gloria!