The cry, “It is finished” is actually ONE word in the Greek: tetelestai. Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th Century preacher said that this one word, “would need all the other words that were ever spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain it… it is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it.” Fathom it, we cannot. But try, we must.
“Tetelestai” means, “to bring to an end, to complete, to accomplish”. It signifies the end of a particular course of action. Let’s break it down:
• “it”- the whole scope of our redemption That little word, “it” embodies
the whole scope of our redemption. “IT” is the restoration of all things in Christ.
• “is”- now and forever The word is in the perfect tense- describes an
action that was fully completed and yet, the effects are felt in the present. “IS” means NOW, it IS, it continues to be, and it will be.
• “finished”- accomplished, once and for all
When God spoke the Word, “Jesus”, nothing more needed to be said. And here on the cross: tetelestai- ONE word announces the completed work of God: It is finished. Luke tells us, “in a loud voice”, Mark says, “with a loud cry”. This is not a declaration of defeat. These are not words of surrender. This is the triumphant cry of a Warrior who has won the battle, a runner who had finished the race. But Jesus does not simply mean that His earthly life was over. He doesn’t say HE is finished.. IT is finished.
What did Jesus finish? What is “IT”?
1. He finished the perfect life.
Christ’s life is just as central to our rescue as His death. He lived the life we couldn’t live & He died the death we should’ve died. He finished both. He did not abolish the Law of God but fulfilled it, so we would be set free from it.
In a memorable little poem, John Bunyan writes:
“Run John, run”, the Law demands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. Better news the Gospel brings. It bids me fly and gives me wings.” The Law could not save us. Only Jesus could save us.
2. He finished the payment for our sin.
We’ve been justified. Christianity is the ONLY faith system in which God makes the demands and then meets them.
3. He finished the punishment for our sin. We’ve been set free from condemnation. And IF there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” then self-condemnation needs to end and a judgmental spirit towards others ends as well- or there’s a complete disconnect. And now, the only person who can hurt me, is me. Christ’s sacrifice has taken away my punishment.
4. He finished the need for religion.
Religion is man’s attempt to get to God- but in Christianity it is God coming to man in the Person of Jesus. It is finished! We’ve said, religion is spelled D-O, it’s what we must DO for God. Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. It’s what Christ HAS done- it is finished. Religion will never offer forgiveness. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jesus said), No one comes to the Father but through me.” God’s grace is a descending, ONE WAY love. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Behavior modification cannot change the human heart. The church is not good people trying to tell other good people how to be better people. It’s actually bad people telling other bad people how the Gospel of free grace is our only hope for real and eternal life. Because He finished it all, there is nothing you can add to it. The New Math of Grace is this: Jesus plus nothing equals everything!
5. He finished the pathway to eternal life.
The Gospel rescues us from our past, but also for our future. “It is finished” is the life and work of Christ complete and perfect. “It is finished”, means God wins. His restorative agenda- to bring hope and healing to all the world- has come to pass. What will be is already set in motion. You could say, “What is to come has already come in Him.” It’s why Paul says,
“Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 5:5
At the “cross point” – your sin was paid for by the Perfect Lamb of God. And as the Jesuit priest and poet, Girard Manly Hopkins wrote, “In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am at once what Christ is, since He was what I am.” In Him, the end has appeared ahead of time and we now see the glory of our great King and His finished work for us. But consider this..
What remains unfinished?
“It is finished”, yet time goes on. It is finished, but it’s not over. One thing is not finished.. His glorious work in you. The Great Exchange has taken place upon the cross (our sin for His righteousness) but now, it must take place in you. And because it is finished, you can hold on with hope. The pain and often agonizing despair of this life.. it is finished. The hope of seeing loved ones who have died in Christ- “It is finished”. Guaranteed. The passionate and desperate prayers for healing that have not yet come in this life- it is finished. The restoration of families broken by sin’s destructive power- it is finished. The longsuffering and agonizing rescue from the shackles of disease- it is finished.
The cry of loneliness and the longing for communion, for companionship to come- it is finished. The human project had failed to do what the One man, Jesus , was able to accomplish. “It is finished!” is a triumphant cry. This is the end of the beginning. Jesus will die a REAL death. And buy the way: NO ONE anticipated the Resurrection- it was a quantum & unforeseen leap in resurrection theology within the Jewish thread.
He will be buried and He will rise from the tomb on Sunday morning- conquering death and hell. He IS the Risen, victorious King. “It is finished” means that it is settled, decided, certain, and incontestable. Nothing can happen now to undo it. It is finished means that nothing and no one else has the last word. Easter means that LOVE has the last word. Jesus has the final word in your life. He says, “take heart, for I have overcome the world.” He WILL overcome the world because He HAS overcome the world. It’s finished. All that is left is:
Full devotion to our Risen King.
What do you need to devote to Jesus? Give Him your life. What do you need to surrender to Him? Your anxiety? Your need for approval? Your tired idols? Your fear? Your passive, self-focused life? Your relationships? Your past? Your private sin?
Through all the tears and all the pain, the rage and despair of all that has gone wrong and is unfinished, we bow before the One who will redeem all things and will restore all that is divided, lost, and all that has been separated. Everything will be made right and everyone will know that He is Lord- but NOT all will receive Him. “It is finished” but it is not over until “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!” The tomb is empty; our Savior is Risen. And our declaration together with him, is this:
IT. IS. FINISHED.