Meditations for Troubled Times
A Word of Victory
“He said, ‘It is finished.’” (John 19:30)
These three English words translate as just one word in the Greek: tetelestai. The connotation of this word indicates that a task has been carried out, that obligations have been met. What task has been completed? Everything that God required for the salvation of our souls has been finished.
Our sins demanded a cursed death: unlimited sufferings for innumerable transgressions. But, as Jesus cries out, “It is finished,” he’s saying God’s justice is satisfied. Jesus has shattered the curse by exhausting its punishment. If sin’s desserts still lingered, tetelestai could not have been uttered. Indeed, the agony of Jesus would continue!
But, just as Daniel prophesied in Daniel 9:24, the day has come when transgression is finished, when an end has been put to sin. Zechariah likewise said a time is coming when the LORD will remove iniquity in a single day (Zechariah 3:9). This time has now come. Further, the Father’s counsel and commands have been fulfilled down to what we might consider the very minutia. No prophesy has been overlooked.
From the virgin birth to the garden tomb, every detail in the decree of God has been fulfilled. And, as Jesus did so, he fulfilled all righteousness. He came to do a work of obedience. This obedience consisted both in what is called his active obedience—obeying every statue of God’s law—and his passive obedience; namely, his suffering on our behalf, though he did so willingly. The point is that the obedience Jesus offers up in our stead is a finished obedience. It lacks nothing. And, therefore, as Jesus cries, “It is finished,” the people of God have been redeemed from the power of sin.
In that respect, we see that Jesus has fulfilled all the types and shadows of the law, particularly of the priesthood and its sacrifices. For, while the priests had to keep offering sacrifices year after year, now an eternal redemption has been made. The author of Hebrews says, “After making purification for sins, [Christ] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High” (Hebrews 1:3). In the furniture of the tabernacle and temple, there was no chair upon which the priest was to sit. Why not? Because his work was never done! That is, until now. The Victor sits upon his throne having perfected his people for all time!
Hence, a secondary meaning of tetelestai jumps out. This word was often used in commercial settings. When transactions were made and payment was rendered, tetelestai was stamped on a receipt to show that the debt was paid in full. How marvelous does such a truth sound to our ears! The debt of our sin is fully paid. We have been purchased, not with perishable things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ! And his blood is sufficient to hide all our transgressions from view.
Jesus isn’t only dying for a certain portion of your sins; he’s finishing the payment for every wrong done. If you are covered in the blood of Christ, you’ll never be found wanting. The evil one may sling his accusations at you, but we can say with Paul, “Who is to condemn?” Christ Jesus has died for us. The record of debt consisting in decrees standing against us has been set aside. It’s been nailed to the cross. Therefore, we are free!