The sixth saying from the cross - JOHN 19 v 30

Tonight, we are considering the 6th of the 7 cries of Jesus from the cross. John 19 v 30. Jesus said `It is finished`, He did not say `I am finished`. No, `It is finished`. Sometimes when a person is very ill or dying, conscious that their health, their strength is ebbing away, they will say `I can`t go on. I`m finished`. Well, Jesus was dying. His physical strength was ebbing away but He didnít say `I`m finished`. No, He said `It is finished`. And so, in no way, was this a cry of weakness or a cry of despair, it was rather a cry of victory, a cry of achievement.

In the Greek, the phrase `It is finished` is expressed in one word--- Tetelestai and in New Testament times, it was a word in every day usage. In many different settings and situations, people would say `Tetelestai` ---it is finished. This evening, I just want to take three of the different settings in which it was used and I hope this will help us to understand something of what Jesus meant when He cried `Tetelestai`---`It is finished`.


For weeks/months, the artist has been working on his painting. But then, after many hours of toil, he puts the final touches to his work and having done so, he then stands back and says `Tetelestai---it is finished`. Now, sometimes, when artists are at work, you cannot always see just what they are painting. I remember, some years ago, watching a pavement artist in Manchester. And, at first, I couldnít make out what he was drawing. But, when I returned an hour or two later, there it was---a fishing village with the boats, the nets, the fishermen. I could now see what I had not been able to see before. Tetelestai. It was finished.

Now, when we turn to the Old Testament, there is a sense in which it is an unfinished picture. There are rituals, ceremonies, prophecies, sacrifices. But what if you had never read the Old Testament? What if you knew nothing about the death of Jesus? Then you would be puzzled/perplexed by much of what you read in the Old Testament. It is an unfinished/an incomplete picture.

But, when Jesus dies, the jigsaw pieces come together. The picture begins to make sense. For example, we now see that when Abraham offered up his son-----it prefigured a day when God would offer up His only begotten Son. We now see that all the sacrifices offered in the Temple---they pointed forward to that greater sacrifice, which Christ would offer upon the cross at Calvary. We now see when Isaiah said `He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities`----we now see who it was that he was talking about. All the prophecies, sacrifices, ceremonies---they are fulfilled when Christ bows His head and dies. He cries `Tetelestai` because the picture is complete/finished.

Well, how important that is. In this church there is no altar. There are no ceremonial sacrifices. There is no priest. Why? Because Christ Himself is the altar. Christ Himself has offered an unrepeatable sacrifice. Christ Himself is our Great High Priest. All these shadows in the Old Testament have found their fulfilment in Christ. `Tetelestai`.

This is one of the great themes of the Book of Hebrews. `This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God` (Heb. 10:12) In the Old Testament, thousands of priests continually repeated sacrifices that only covered sin. But, by contrast, one Man, with a once-for-all sacrifice, did not just cover sin but completely removed it. The death of Christ is a finished, a perfect, a never to be repeated work. It fulfils, it explains, it interprets all that was prefigured in the Old Testament. `Tetelestai`--- It is finished.


At the beginning of the day, a servant would report to his master and the master would give him his tasks, his duties, his work for that day. And then, throughout the day, the servant would be taken up, pre-occupied with all the various jobs he had to do. But then, at the end of the day, the servant would report back to his master and he would say `Tetelestai. It is finished. I`ve done the work that you gave me to do`.

Well Jesus, though He was the only begotten Son of God, He was also the Servant of God. As a boy of twelve, He said to Mary and Joseph `Did you not know that I must be about my Father`s business`? (Luke 2:49) A Son, yes, but also a Servantóa Servant with a specific work to do.

What was that work? Well, it was the redemption/the salvation of sinners. `Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners`. That was the great, the specific work which God had given Him to do. And though Satan tried to thwart Him ---He refused to be thwarted. And, though men tried to divert Him, He refused to be diverted. Because this was His great obsession, pre-occupation. To finish, to complete the work His Father had given Him to do.

And so, when Jesus cried `It is finished`---it was the Servant reporting back to His Master. It was Jesus summarising what He had already said to His Father in His Great High Priestly prayer in John 17. `I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do` (John 17:4) `I`ve done it---the work of redemption. I`ve accomplished it---the work of salvation. I`ve finished it---the work You gave Me to do`. Tetelestai.

Well, again, how important that is. My DIY skills are nil. Big disappointment to Pat. Her father was a real handyman. He could turn his hands to anything and she thought all men were the same. She soon discovered that was not the case. Just suppose, therefore, I was to buy an expensive piece of furniture from a craftsman. And, when I get it home, I get out my chisel and my saw and I go to work on the piece of furniture. What would I be doing? Well, I would be insulting the craftsman. I would be suggesting that somehow his work was deficient. And, with my non-existent woodworking skills, I would be spoiling the work that the craftsman had done.

Well, that and far worse, is what some do to the finished work of Christ. They can`t accept that His work is a finished work, a perfect work, a work that is all that is necessary to reconcile them to God and to get them to heaven. And so, they add to it their works, their respectability or they add the traditions, the rituals of the church. What an insult to God and His eternal plan of salvation. What an insult to Christ and His agonising death upon the tree.

Thank God, the work is done. We can`t add to it or improve upon it. And we`ve no need even to try because Easter Day, the empty cross, the empty tomb----they confirm that God, Himself was fully satisfied with the work of Christ. God raised Him from the dead---proof that the Master was satisfied with the Servant`s work. God the Father was satisfied with the sacrifice of God the Son. Jesus has made a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for every sin, that we shall ever commit. `Tetelestai`---it is finished


In New Testament times, if you bought something from a merchant---he would take your money and give you a receipt. Now today, a receipt might say `paid with thanks` or `received with thanks` but in New Testament times the merchant would not have written `paid with thanks` or `received with thanks`. No, he would have written `Tetelestai`. It is finished. The debt has been fully paid.

`Having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And having taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross` (Colossians 2 vs 13b-14) These are tremendous words. God presents us with His bill, His account. And when we see all the commandments we have broken. All the things we`ve done that we should not have done. All the things we`ve not done that we should have done. Then we see just how enormous is our debt and how impossible it is that we could ever settle the account.

But then something wonderful happens. Jesus gets hold off the bill and He does 2 things 1) He wipes out the handwriting of requirements that was against us 2) He nails the bill to His cross. Now to the Colossians, those 2 things were very meaningful.

In those days, if you owed money, the debt was often recorded on a piece of parchment. But, when the debt was paid, 2 things happened. 1) The writing was washed off the parchment. It was wiped out. 2) The parchment was then taken by the creditor and nailed to the door of the one who had been in debt. So that all could now see that the debt had been paid.

Isn`t that a wonderful picture of salvation? My sin, my debt has been wiped out. It has been washed away in the blood of Jesus. And the record of it. That account of all my many, many sins---it has been nailed to the cross of Jesus. So that all can now see that my sin is forgiven, my debt has been paid. We sometimes use the expression `he nailed it`. And that is what Jesus did with my sin on the cross of Calvary. He nailed it. He dealt with it `Tetelestai`. It is finished.

I recall the true story of a Scottish Doctor. In the days before the NHS, treatment had to be paid for. But many of the doctor`s patients were widows, out of work, very poor. They just did not have the means to pay for their treatment. But, after the doctor died, as men went through his accounts, they found, in red ink, against the names of certain patients, these words `Forgiven---too poor to pay`.

That is the testimony of every true believer. As poor sinners we could never earn or pay for our salvation but thank God, we don`t have to. `Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow`. As forgiven sinners, Tetelestai is written against our names. We are forgiven---forgiven because we were too poor to pay.

Jesus said many extraordinary things but I suggest that `Tetelestai` is perhaps the greatest word He ever spoke. From His cross, Jesus was telling the world that something glorious and eternal had been achieved for the whole cosmos. The Old Testament had been fulfilled. His rescue work had been accomplished. Man`s salvation had been purchased. Praise God afresh. `It is finished` Tetelestai.

John Mollitt