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  • Writer's pictureChristy Schuette

Tetelestai

May 29


2 Samuel 3-4

Psalm 67:1-4

Proverbs 14:26-27

John 19


Tetelestai

 

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished.’  Then bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit.”  John 19:30 HCSB

 

The Greek word “tetelestai” was the word used in this verse meaning, “It is finished.”  I did some research to understand what this word really means and found a very helpful article on crosswalk.com entitled “Tetelestai—It is Finished!” by Rick Renner.⁶ The full meaning of this word and the implications of Jesus choosing this word to be His last word spoken is significant.  The most obvious interpretation is that Jesus was saying that He had finished what His Father sent Him to do.  His primary job was complete.  He had accomplished His mission, so it was time to leave.  The word was significant from a secular perspective as well.  When a debt had been paid off, the paper on which the debt was recorded was stamped with the word, “tetelestai.”  When Jesus uttered this word on the cross, He was indicating that the penalty for the sins of the world had now been paid in full.  When a person believes in Jesus and calls on His name, the debt of sin that they owe is removed and “tetelestai” is stamped on their heart.  The debt is wiped out because Jesus paid the price for their sin. 

 

The word also has religious significance.  Once a year the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and poured blood from a spotless, sacrificial lamb on the altar.  The moment the blood touched the altar, atonement was made for the people’s sins for the next year.  Each year they repeated that sacrifice.  When Jesus hung on the cross, He offered Himself as the perfect, sacrificial lamb for the permanent removal of sin.  At that moment, there was no longer a need for a yearly sacrifice.  When He said, “It is finished,” He was declaring the end of the sacrificial system because the perfect sacrifice had finally been made.  Atonement was complete and fully accomplished once and for all.  Finally, in Greek literature, the word “tetelestai” was used to depict a turning point when one period ended, and another period began.  When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it was a turning point in the history of the world.  The Old Covenant came to an end and the New Covenant began.  All the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah had been fulfilled in Jesus. There was a new system in place by which believers could come to God.  The people who heard Jesus utter those words on the cross and breathe His last probably did not understand the significance of His last words, but they no doubt figured out its meaning after His resurrection and ascension because these are foundational principles established in the early church that have had profound implications throughout church history.   

 

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