By Pastor Glenn Pease
It could very well be that the greatest word ever spoken on this earth was the word Tetelestai. Herbert Lockyer, the great English Bible scholar, says of this word, "The greatest, most momentous word in the history of human language and the most wonderful proclamation every to fall upon human ears since the beginning of the world." This Greek word is translated by 3 English words. It is the 6th word Jesus spoke on the cross just before He died. He said, "Tetelestai-it is finished." This is the ultimate utterance of Jesus, for He was not just saying my life is over, but He is announcing the total completion of God's plan to atone for the sins of fallen man.
Never did one word convey so much meaning. One word can be life changing, and as when a woman says to the man proposing, "Yes." That one word changes all of the future for that couple. But here is one word that changes all of eternity for the multitude of the redeemed. It is finished-the battle is done, the victory is won. The enemy is vanquished. Salvation is achieved. Sinners are set free. Heaven is opened. The holiness of God is satisfied. The power of death and hell are defeated. Eternal life is secured. The once for all sacrifice was completed and it was a total success. It never needs to be repeated. Jesus finished all that needs to be done for the salvation of any person in all of time.
A cabinet-maker was saying to his friend who was witnessing to him, "I don't get it about the atonement on the cross." The friend lifted a plane and said, "What if I plane the top of this polished table?" "Stop!" cried the cabinet-maker. Don't you see that it is finished? You will ruin it if you use that plane." He responded, "That is what I have been trying to tell you about Christ's work of redemption. It is a finished work. If you try to add to it, you only spoil it. You have to accept salvation as a finished gift. You cannot add to it or improve it. All you can do is accept it as a finished product."
Jesus died a complete success, for He did all He was born to do. This word is a word of satisfaction. He is saying, "I did it! I have achieved all that my Father sent me to achieve. It was a hard goal to achieve with obstacles everywhere, and many a temptation to forsake it. But I set my face to get to the cross, and now I can die with this word on my lips-Tetelestai-it is finished-mission accomplished."
Jesus was only 33 years old and He was dying, but He achieved all that His life was meant to achieve. Quality and not quantity is what counts in the life of Jesus. Life did not begin at 40 for Him. He never made it to middle age. He died a fairly young man, but He died supremely successful. He did not have a home, a family, or anything to speak of in the way of an estate. The soldiers gambled for His garments, and that was it. But He was a success because He finished what He came to do in dying for the sin of the world.
There were many negatives surrounding the cross, but Jesus overcame every one of them with a positive. Yes there was agony, but there was also accomplishment. Yes there was pain, but also purpose. Yes there was cruelty, but also conquest. Yes there was suffering, but also satisfaction. Yes there was shame, but also success. Yes there was the tragic, but also the triumphant. Jesus looked past all of the negatives and saw the ultimate positives, and that is why He could say with a victorious voice, "It is finished."
'Tis finished! So the Savior cried,
And meekly bowed His head and died;
'Tis finished-yes, the race is run,
The battle fought, the vict'ry won.
'Tis finished! All that heav'n decreed
And all the ancient prophets said
Is now fulfilled, as was designed,
In Thee, the Savior of mankind.
'Tis finished! Man is reconciled
To God and pow'rs of darkness spoiled:
Peace, love and happiness again
Return and dwell with sinful men.
'Tis finished! Let the joyful sound
Be heard through all the nations round;
'Tis finished! Let the echo fly
Thro' heav'n and hell, thro' earth and sky. Samuel Stennett
F. W. Boreham points out that the word does not just mean that it is finished, but that it is perfected. It is the word the farmer would say when one of his flock gave birth to a lamb so perfect and without defect that it was a delight to his eyes. He would say, "Tetelestai-it is perfect." It is the word the artist would utter as he stood back admiring his work. Seeing no room for improvement he would say, "Tetelestai-it is finished. Nothing can be added, for it is perfect.
Jesus not only did the job He came to do, He did it perfectly. It was a work of art how He wove event he evil and folly of man into a beautiful pattern that revealed the love of God. My brother was artistic, and I can remember how we use to try and make a mess of lines on a chalkboard just to see if he could make something of the meaningless tangle of lines, and he always could. He could find some animal or other aspect of nature and work with the mess we made to create something of order and beauty. That is what Jesus did with the awful scenes around the cross. He came into this world to turn the ugliness of sin into the beauty of salvation, and He did it on the cross. The first words of Jesus were, "I must be about my Father's business." And now his last words on the cross were announcement that He had finished His Father's business.
Over 150 thousand people die everyday in the world, but only one death makes all of these deaths a possible step into the presence of God. The idea of being finished carries the content of the reality that now that it is finished it is ready for application. When you say a loaf of break is finished you mean that it is no longer in the process of being made, but is now ready to be consumed and enjoyed. When Jesus said it is finished He was saying, not that everything is over, but that now the atonement can be applied, and people can be set free from the bondage of sin. The Gospel is now ready for application. The price has been paid, and every i is dotted and every t is crossed. The plan of salvation is signed, sealed, and delivered. It is a done deal, and it is ready to be proclaimed to all the world.
The Jews expected their Messiah to come as a conquering hero and set them free from their bondage. What they did not see was that the real enemy was not Rome but sin and Satan. These were the foes Jesus had to defeat, and He did that on the cross. He was the conquering hero after all, and Calvary was the greatest battlefield of all time. Jesus took on the enemy of man there, and He whipped him. He had to endure the hell of separation from His Father, which was the worst thing Jesus had to suffer, but He did it, and did not cease to fight until He had drunk the entire cup of God's wrath on sin. Not one drop did He leave unconsumed. Only after He paid the full penalty did Jesus say this word of victory, "It is finished."
The greatest battle ever won was finished, and it was won for the cause of righteousness. Good and evil met at the cross, and when the dust settled from this enormous clash, God had won, and this was the end of Satan's controlling the destiny of man. The cross became the center of human history, for here man was set free to choose another alternative. He no longer has to be a lost sinner in bondage to the forces of evil. He is now free to be a saint enslaved by the love of Jesus. Nothing is ever done until it is done right, and Jesus did it right on the cross. It is done, and never needs repeating, for the plan of God is perfected.
Creation was finished on Friday just before the Sabbath day of rest. Now Jesus finishes the plan for the new creation on a Friday just before He enters the Sabbath rest in the tomb. He earned the right to raise His body on Easter because of His finished work on the cross on Friday. Because we know this we do not need to wait until Easter to rejoice in what Jesus did for us. Good Friday is also a day of rejoicing because we know Jesus settled the sin issue once and for all. An unknown poet wrote-
The terms of peace were settled then,
And never could be changed again.
Heaven's irreversible amen
Had sealed that sentence, "It is done!"
The trembling earth its witness lent,
The veil, from top to bottom rent.
The dim and awe-struck firmament
All heard, astonished, "It is done!"
Archaeologists have dug up many tax receipts from the ancient world, and a word often found on them is this word Tetelestai. It means that this is paid in full. That is what we celebrate in communion. The price is paid by the finished work of Christ. It is the basis for the songs of the saints through time and into eternity. Another unknown poet wrote-
Ten thousand times ten thousand
In sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints
Throng up the steps of light.
Tis finished, all is finished;
Their fight with death and sin.
Fling open wide the golden gates,
And let the victors in.
As we celebrate the victory of Good Friday let us give thanks to our Lord who did not let satanic temptation and the folly of man stop Him before He finished His work. Let us rejoice in His announcement and praise Him for this word of eternal encouragement-Tetelestai-It is finished.