What’s in a Word


In his recollection of the climax of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth the apostle John wrote:

[Jesus] said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30)

The word John chose to announce to the entire world the end of it all is rendered in the Koine Greek, ‘tetelestai,’ and is translated “it is finished.”

To the writer’s audience, that phrase had several contextual usages common to that day. A slave would report to his master ‘tetelestai,’ “it is finished,” when a certain task was accomplished. An artist would declare, ‘tetelestai,’ “it is done,” when his masterpiece was completed. In the Temple, the priest would announce ‘tetelestai,’ “it is perfect,” when his inspection determined that an animal brought for sacrifice met the criteria making it acceptable to God. Merchants inscribed on a bill of sale ‘tetelestai,’ “it is paid in full,” when a debt was finally satisfied. Each of these grammatical conventions have their unmistakable spiritual significance clearly defined on and in the Cross.

What’s in it for us? In teaching His disciples Jesus always pointed forward to that singular purpose of His coming:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

He never wavered in accomplishing the task that was set before Him. He was willing to go to the cross in order to return the handiwork of God’s creation (19 Psa:1) back to its former glory. He alone was the only one capable of satisfying the criteria of the prefect sacrifice. As Paul reminded the church in Colossae:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses...God made alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [the cross].” (Col 2:13-15 (excerpted))

Today God extends to us the benefit of Jesus’ determination to “...taste death for everyone” (Heb 2:9); that is eternal life. It is, in no uncertain terms, God’s grace made manifest to us in Christ.



Mike Shrewsberry