All words have meaning. Some just have more significance than others.
Today is Good Friday. This is the day that Christians remember Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. (Watch this video if you’re curious for a few more details about the historical proof). He made several statements from the cross, but the final one was “Tetelestai!” You might imagine it as a defeated whisper from a dying man. In reality, it was a victorious war cry.
“Tetelestai” is a Greek word meaning “It is finished.” Grammatically, it is a perfect tense word, showing that a completed action has ongoing effects. In other words, “It is finished, it stands finished, and it always will be finished!”
“Never before and never after was ever spoken ONE WORD which contains and means so much. It is the shout of the mighty Victor. And who can measure the depths of this ONE WORD!”A.C. Gaebelein
Tetelestai was a common word in those days, with a variety of applications:
- Business dealings were complete when “tetelestai” was written on invoices or receipts to prove that a transaction was “paid in full.” Jesus paid our bill completely.
- Servants reported “tetelestai” to their masters to say “I have completed the task assigned to me” or “mission accomplished.” In John 17:4-5, Jesus prayed, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Jesus lived a human life to serve, and this was His ultimate mission.
- Priests used “tetelestai” to declare a sacrifice “faultless, perfect and acceptable.” Jesus was all of those things. He was both the Lamb and the High Priest. He willingly gave Himself as a blameless sacrifice to save us. It was no coincidence that He chose to die when He did – during Passover, when Jewish priests would sacrifice a lamb to atone for the Israelites’ sins. Theirs was a temporary solution. Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice, which lasts forever. “Once for all time.” Hebrews 10 (NLT)
- Artists declared that their “masterpiece was complete” with “tetelestai.” Jesus is the artist that revealed God’s design and love to the world. He is the clearest view we have of the Father.
- Historically, the Greeks used “tetelestai” to depict a turning point in history – when one period of human history ended and another one began. Jesus’ death and resurrection certainly fits that also. It’s the end of the Old Testament Law and the beginning of the New Testament and the freedom in our New Covenant with Him. It’s the difference between BC and AD. Jesus came to change everything. One life has never had such an impact on the world.
These all show different uses of the same word, but they all mean the same thing. “PAID IN FULL.” Jesus came to satisfy everything that was required. Nothing could have forced Him, but He gave Himself willingly to save us. And His sacrifice is enough. HE is enough. And He accomplished His mission by dying for us and bringing Himself back to life. Death itself has no power over Him.
It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s coming. And a lot can happen in three days.
(Listen to more here.)