“It is finished” I will never forget those words spoken in a darkened sanctuary of our church during our annual Easter passion play. Even after seeing it night after night it still struck me as sound effects crackled thunder that shook the stage and lights flashed lighting across the stage above our heads. Even though it was all a play that moment is burned into my brain… It is finished.
Today we have the luxury of knowing that resurrection Sunday is coming, that Friday paid the price so that Sunday was possible. But in the darkness of that moment on the stage, when the thunder reverberated through my chest and lightning blinded me, in that split second I got a tiny taste of how dark Good Friday must have felt. It is finished… What do those words mean? How those gathered at the cross, witnessing the crucifixion of the one they had put their hope must have wondered. How can it be finished? There was so much yet to do… How could evil triumph like this?
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What Does It Is Finished Mean?
“It Is Finished” what is finished? Jesus’s work is finished? His life is over? The story is over? Reading those three words, twelve letters feel like a giant period. A stone wall that we can’t get past. The end… But is that truly what it means? Those that witnessed this moment at the foot of the cross would have likely recognized this term, and what it meant. Translated from Hebrew that phrase is one word, “Tetelestai”.
The priests after making a sacrifice in the temple would emerge and declare to the waiting people “Tetelestai” it is finished, the sacrifice is accomplished. In this sacrifice, all the sins of Israel had been symbolically placed on the lamb that was killed to pay the price of the people’s sins in their place.
It Is Finished: When God Says It Is Done
But this term was also used in another way, that is just as striking. When a worker was done for the day, they would come to their boss and say “tetelestai” what I’ve been assigned to do is completed. If you were an artist or craftsmen completing a piece of art upon the moment of unveiling would declare “tetelestai”. It is finished.
It Is Finished: The Cost Of Our Redemption
However, perhaps the most common use of tetelestai was in the terms of debt collection. When a person paid off their debts they would be issued a receipt showing that they had paid the debt. On this receipt would be stamped “tetelestai” which meant that their debt was now paid in full. It verified that they would no longer be responsible for the debt because it was now paid in full.
It Is Finished: Did Jesus Die For Our Sin?
This word would have been a signal not only to the people but to the religious leaders and a testament to who He was and is. I am the final sacrifice, the final lamb needed to atone for the sins of this world. My death, my sacrifice, the artist coming to lay down His life to redeem His creation is the final payment. The debt that you and I could never hope to repay, that no amount of sacrificial animals could hope to atone for has been wiped away. The slate washed clean. Jesus dying on the cross took our debts on himself and with His death stamped tetelestai- paid in full, it is finished, the sacrifice is complete.
The story of redemption that has been written through every page and chapter of the Old Testament is now complete. His masterpiece, drawn through time and eternity to meet you right where you are this moment is finished.
We don’t have to add anything, complete anything, finalize anything, we don’t have to earn it- Jesus did it all at this moment on the cross when he spoke it is finished.
It Is Finished: Our Slate Is Washed Clean
It amazes me that something so simple can be so confusing. How the devil can make us believe that we have to get our life together before we can allow God to stamp “it is finished” on our debts and embrace the redemption He has given us. We see and feel what we want instead of listening to the simple word that has been spoken; tetelestai.
We allow our pride, our need to do it ourselves, to somehow earn it, to lead us right past the manager, and find ourselves holding the nails driven into a cross. We grip our heavy burdens with an iron determination to hold on to the guilt, and the scars refusing to forgive ourselves despite the fact that He has already written it is finished on your debt. We close our eyes and cluck our tongue like a child covering our ears and listening to the devils lies. We claim those sins over and over again despite the fact they’ve been paid at the cross. We try to pay for them over and over when they’ve already been paid.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 NIV
It Is Finished: Our Debt Has Been Paid
Did Jesus die for our sins? YES! And when He did, He removed our sins, washed our slate clean, forgave our debts, and redeemed us into a new life. A life where those debts have no hold on us. When He died on the cross He took those debts, those sins that we could never hope to pay for ourselves, and in His great mercy God has thrown our sins in the lake and forgotten them hanging a no fishing sign- but we keep going back to that lake and fishing them back out.
This moment on the cross, this moment that looks so bleak and dark, this moment that Jesus spoke the words It Is Finished paid for it all. We don’t have to keep going back and fishing it back out, we don’t have to get our life figured out or cleaned up. Your heavenly Father knew you would be here before the beginning of time. He knew the choices you would make that brought you to this point. He knew the heartache, and scars you would bear… and He still chose to take your debt and say it is finished.
Tetelestai The Sacrifice Is Complete
Friday was God’s day to remove it all to the lake and hung a giant NO FISHING sign. Friday was the day that carved away anything the could separate you and God, like a giant chisel carving away your past and leaving only the sacrifice. Friday is a day of darkness, but it’s also a beginning. Every week we long for Friday- the end of a work week but it is also the BEGINING of something new.
This day marks the most unjustifiable act in history- and also the biggest act of love, love for us. He was God, he didn’t have to go through that horror. But He loved you, and He loved me so much He went and He paid the price you and I could never have hoped to so that Sunday could be the happiest day. He paid the price so that the darkness of Friday, could be overshadowed by the light of Sunday. So that we could be redeemed. This is the cost of redemption.
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 NIV
On the cross, He said “It is finished” not “I am finished” On Friday he wiped clean our slates, but on Sunday he flipped the page and started a new story. Because the one who died for us walks with us. As much as the world likes to tell us Easter is about chicks and eggs and bunnies, Easter is none of this. Easter is about The Lamb, who loved you so much that he lay down His life to pay your debt, to finish what you couldn’t, to take your place, to save you. He’s God, those nails didn’t hold Him to those pieces of wood- love did. He bridged a chasm so wide we could never have hoped to cross it, in a way only He could, out of love.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
Before you go, check these out!
- Keep The Faith When It Looks Like All Hope Is Lost
- God In The Storm – 6 Powerful Ways To Trust God When The Flood Waters Rise
- Holding On To God When Life Brings Us To Our Knees
- God Is With Me When I Walk Through The Fire
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™