When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
The ancient Greeks used to brag that they had so many words that they could say a lot with few words. This is certainly what Jesus did on the cross when He bowed His head and said
It is finished.
The word that Jesus spoke on the cross was likely tetelestai. That’s only one Greek word, yet it conveys a lot of meaning. Jesus did not say, I am finished. Because Jesus was not finished. The Pharisees probably thought, We finally got Him. Hes done! The demons of Hell probably howled with glee and they shouted out, Ha ha! Hes finished.
Even His disciples were disappointed and they said, Well, it’s all over now. They were confused and afraid and they thought Jesus was finished. But, Jesus didnt say I am finished, He said
It is finished. It is done.
In order to understand the word that Jesus spoke, we need to look at how the word was used in ancient history. First of all it was a servant’s word. When a servant had completed a task, he would come back to his master and, rather than saying, The job is done, as we would say, he would say what Jesus said, tetelestai. As a servant, I have done what you have sent me to do.
It is finished
But, in John 17:4, Jesus said
I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. So, Jesus did not die ahead of time. Jesus did not die incidentally, or accidentally. Jesus died at the exact moment He was supposed to.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.
I preached a few weeks back that Jesus is the only man who ever died voluntarily. None of us die voluntarily. We may choose the time of our death by suicide, but we can’t choose whether or not we’re going to die. Jesus was the only one who didn’t have the sentence of death upon Him, yet He chose to die. He said
No man taketh (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself.
Jesus never started anything He didnt finish. Hes not like us. Every one of us has a list of unfinished stuff. Dont you?
Let me tell you about two little boys. Little Jimmy told little Bobby, My Daddy can whip your Daddy. Bobby went home and said, Daddy, Jimmy said that his Daddy can whip you. And, so he went to see Jimmy’s Daddy. And he said, I understand you have a list of people that you can whip and my name is on that list. And, Jimmy’s Daddy said, That’s right! Your name’s right at the top of that list. Bobbys Daddy said, You can’t whip me. What are you going to do about that? Jimmys dad looked at the Bobbys dad and he was a pretty big old boy and he said, Well, I’m just gonna have to take your name off that list.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Thank God the Jesus finishes His work and thank God for the finished work of Calvary.
It is finished. It was a servant’s word, saying, I have done what the father gave me to do. But, not only was tetelestai a servants word, it was also a priests word. 2016 years ago, one of the priests jobs was to examine the sacrificial lambs. They had to make sure that those sacrificial lambs were absolutely without spot or blemish. Because those OT sacrificial lambs were a picture of the
Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. There could be no blemish, no sin in the Lamb of God.
The priests would examine every part of that lamb. They would look inside its mouth, check the eyes, look in the ears, look at the hooves, feel the wool When the priest had determined that the lamb was perfect, he would present it for sacrifice and he would say, Tetelestai! It is perfect!
On the cross, Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, offered himself. And when he bowed His head, He said, Tetelestai. Father, here is a perfect lamb.
Another who person who used this word was an artist. The people of ancient Israel were great artists. And, when the artist completed his masterpiece, when he had put the last stroke on, when it all made sense, when it all came together, he would use this same word, tetelestai.
Have you ever watched the guy painting on TV? I think he’s an old German. He’s incredible. He can do a whole painting in an hour. And just when you think it’s perfect, he says, Und, now I tink I vill put a little sometink here Then he takes a big glob of black paint and swoosh Oh, no, he ruined it! But, then he just keeps on painting and suddenly it all comes into focus.
The disciples didnt understand the picture that Jesus was painting. When the Jesus talked about the cross, Peter said, No Lord thats not gonna happen. Jesus said
Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God. You dont understand why Im putting this stroke on the canvas. Even after His resurrection, walking on the road to Emmaus, said, You guys dont understand it all yet. But you will.
It all makes sense to us now. We understand that Jesus Christ, the master artist, was completing what He’d set out to do. Eph 2:10 says we are His workmanship. We are, literally, His piece of art. He put the last stroke on and said, Tetelestai! It is finished.
Tetelestai was also a merchant’s word. It was used in business transactions. When a man had an account with a merchant, and he paid his bill of completely, the merchant would write on it, tetelestai. What I owed you is now paid in full.
Its easy to see how this one translates to the Christian life. Rom 6:23 the wages of sin is death And Jesus paid that debt fully and completely. Theres nothing left that we owe, not one more thing can that we do to add to our salvation, because it is paid in full. Tetelestai.
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What that simply means is you can not mix grace and works. Jesus bought your salvation and it is paid for completely. And, thats what He meant when he said, Tetelestai.
Tetelestai was also a judge’s word. In the old days, when a man was put in prison, there was a writing put on his prison door, and that writing listed the crimes he had been charged with. When his prison term was finished, and he had paid his debt to society, they wouldnt tear that bill of charges up or throw it away, they would write on it tetelestai. That means he had paid his debt.
Col 2:14 says Jesus blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. The bill of charges that was against us, Jesus took it away. He nailed it to His cross. He took my writ of offenses and Jesus wrote across it, Tetelestai; paid in full and He nailed it to the cross. And, God doesnt do double jeopardy, so I will never have to pay for those sins again.
The devil doesn’t want you to understand that your sin debt has been paid in full. Many of us are haunted by guilt and were intimidated by the devil. The Holy Spirit does not convict you of sin that has already been forgiven. The devil may accuse you of it, but the Holy Spirit will only convict you of sin that you have not yet confessed. And he doesnt do it to condemn you, but to simply to get you to confess it. And when you confess you discover that sin has already been paid in full by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Tetelestai! It was also a warrior’s word. When the battle was over, the warrior would come home and he would face his king or his commander and he would say, Tetelestai; it is finished. The victory has been won. st Cor 15, the Bible says
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. That is my battle with Satan, and it is finished. And, through Jesus Christ, I won. Tetelestai!
Jesus life was finished, His work was finished, mans redemption was finished, but not all of the prophesies were finished.
Jesus work was done, but there were still details that had to be fixed. Jesus knew that Psa 69:21 said
They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink
His life ministry was tetelestai, but that little detail of prophesy still had to be fulfilled before Jesus could give up the ghost. He had to put the last little stroke on the painting of our salvation.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
The ancient Egyptians built these great pyramids, and they used to say, We build like giants, but we finish like jewelers. That’s what Jesus was doing on the cross; He was building like a giant; He was paying for all the sins of all mankind. But, at the same time, He was paying attention to the last small detail. Thank God for the fulfilled prophesy.
Fulfilled prophesy is one of the ways that we can know that the Bible is the word of God. Because of all the fulfilled prophesy, there is no way to explain the Bible as anything other than the word of God. If you read Psa 22, it sounds like the writer was standing at the foot of the cross describing Jesus death hundreds of years before it happened. Before they even knew about crucifixion, David wrote about the piercing of His hands and His feet. He notes the words of His enemies, the tortures of crucifixion, the gambling for His garments. Its incredible.
All the prophesies that led up to Jesus death were completed when He died. That tells me something. The God that fulfilled those prophesies is the same God who is going to fulfill the prophesies concerning the second coming of Jesus, Amen! Dont write those prophesies off. Dont explain them away and dont ignore them. Jesus second coming is going to be as real, as literal, and as minutely fulfilled as His first coming.
Tetelestai. His earthly work was finished. Another thing, His suffering was finished. Jesus knew the price He had to pay. And He spent His whole life anticipating that suffering, that disgrace.
Have you ever realized how good it is that we dont know the future? Trust me, you dont want to know the future. Do you want to know that, three years from now, your baby is going to get leukemia and die? Would you like to know that ahead of time? Could you enjoy dinner tonight if you knew that your sister was going to be killed in a car wreck next Tuesday? How well would you sleep tonight if you knew the hour and the circumstance of your death?
You better thank God you dont know the specifics of your future. But Jesus knew the future. Psa 88:15
I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up
Jesus knew the future, even as a child in Josephs carpenter shop, He knew. Every piece of wood that Jesus handled reminded Him of that old rugged cross that He would hang on one day. Every time He drove a nail, it reminded Him of the hammer and the nail that would be driven through His flesh. Every time Jesus went to a temple and saw those animal sacrifices He was reminded that He was the Lamb of God.
There was a great painter back in the 1800s named Holman Hunt. He painted a picture of Jesus as a boy. It’s at the end of the day in the carpenter shop. Jesus has done His days work, the sun is setting in the west. Jesus is standing there in the doorway, His hands are upon the lintel of the door, the Lord Jesus is on his tiptoes, and He’s stretching. Just a beautiful young man. You see the youth, the vitality of His body. But, as the sun sets in the west, Jesus body and His out stretched arms cast a shadow on the opposite wall and the shadow is in the form of a cross. Jesus lived His whole life in the shadow of the cross.
We can’t understand what Jesus suffered on the cross. He died, true. But His suffering went way beyond simple physical death. It was the scourging and the shame and the loss of His perfect holiness as He became sin. It was His Father turning His back on Him as He died. Jesus became the object of the Father’s loathing. God had to look on Him as He looks on sin. And all of Gods burning wrath against sin was poured out upon the Lord Jesus Christ. And in a few short days, Jesus suffered an eternity of Hell.
Thank God, that His suffering is finished; tetelestai. Thank God that Jesus baptism in the flames of Hell is done. It was so much more than death. And He lived His life anticipating that time of darkness and pain. You dont want to know tetelestai until you get there.
Tetelestai, it is finished. The plan of salvation was finished. Matt 18:11 the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. And it was done. When Jesus died on the cross everything that is necessary for you to be saved was done. Don’t try to add your puny bit of self-effort to what the Jesus did on the cross.
That’s why all those people who believe that youre saved by grace and works are wrong. They say it’s not all faith and it’s not all works; it’s faith plus works. And they turn to the book of James to prove it and they make it sound logical.
They say it’s like crossing a stream in a rowboat. You pull on one ore, thats faith, and you go around in a circle this way. You pull on the other ore, thats works, and you go around in a circle the other way. Faith plus works, now that gets you across the stream. Theres one major problem with their illustration. Were not going to Heaven in a rowboat. We’re going to Heaven by the grace of God and, tetelestai, it is finished!
One last thing about tetelestai and then Ill be finished. There’s another thing Jesus meant when He said tetelestai on that cross. He was telling us that Satan’s power was finished. In John 12:31, Jesus was talking about His coming death and he said
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
Heb 2:14 says that Jesus became flesh and blood that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Satan is now is a defeated enemy, because Jesus has won the victory, as a warrior, and has said, Tetelestai, it is finished.
Satan doesnt want you to know that hes been defeated. You want to know why Satan doesnt want you to know? Because hes embarrassed; humiliated. You see, Jesus did not defeat Satan as God. He defeated Satan as a man. Jesus came down here to Satans sphere and Jesus battled Satan on his own ground and Jesus defeated Him.
Adrian Rogers tells a story from his own life that fits this sermon well. When Adrian Rogers was a little boy, there was another little boy that didnt like him. And he and two of his buddies came up with an idea. Theyd get Adrian Rogers over in their back yard and beat him up. And, so they somehow lured Adrian Rogers over and he ended up in that kids back yard and they commenced to whip little Adrian. And when the smoke cleared and the dust settled, little Adrian Rogers had whipped the other kid, in his own back yard. Brother Adrian says he never had another problem with that kid.
Thats embarrassing, to lure somebody onto your turf, into your home field, to beat them up, and they end up whipping you. Thatll leave a permanent mark on your pride. And Satan lured God the Son down here to his own back yard and Satan thought he killed him. But three days later, the Lord Jesus Christ rose again, victorious from the grave, victorious over death, victorious over the power of Satan and tetelestai, praise God, it is finished! man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. Jesus came out of the golden streets of Heaven, into this world of woe, right into Satans back yard, and Jesus ripped the crown away from Satan and Jesus beat the sting out of death. Jesus won the victory through His perfect sacrificial death and, in doing so, He destroyed the power of death.
Jesus Christ did the job of a servant and a priest and a merchant and a judge and a soldier and an artist. And as a man, He is the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Thats what you do when the job is done, tetelestai. You go home and sit down. And your Father says,
Well done, thou good and faithful servant.I believe the Father said that to Jesus. And I believe that the Father will say that to you and me, too, when we finally say, Father, the job You gave me to do, Tetelestai; it is finished.