“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30, ESV)
The words “It is finished” are just one word in the Greek: Tetelestai [Τετέλεσται for Greek studs]. It is a profound word and John captures its importance quite well.
It is written in the perfect tense. The perfect tense in Greek was used when something was true when it was spoken and would be true into the future. When Jesus cries out, “Tetelestai!” whatever was finished was finished for good, there would be no more need for anything of that nature to be finished because what Jesus had done was sufficient.
What then was finished at the cross? A myriad of things.
- God’s wrath was satisfied. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24, ESV)
- We were redeemed by God and adopted as his children. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5, ESV)
- Jesus worked out full reconciliation and peace. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19–20, ESV)
- The price of our sin was paid at the cross. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)
We have clay tablets from this period which were essentially receipts that were used by businesses. When a debt was paid off in full, the clay tablet receipt was issued with the word “tetelestai” on it, or “paid in full.”
Tetelestai is the most important word uttered in history. By it we have hope.