************ Sermon on John 19:30 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 13, 2014
"It is Finished"
In my office I have a list of important Greek words that greatly aid our understanding of Scripture. Most of you, I am sure, recognize the words "koinonia" and "agape." Another very important Greek word everyone should know is "tetelestai." We translate it as "It is finished."
"Tetelestai." This was the cry of our Lord moments before His death. The Greek verb means to complete or finish something. But Jesus did not say this in the simple past tense, indicating that He is done. Rather, Jesus said this in the perfect tense, which underscores an action that is fully completed and has present-day consequences. "It is finished." "It is done." "And it means something for you today."
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." What is finished? What does this cry of Jesus mean? And, what are the results today? At least three things are in mind: first, Jesus' life is finished; second, Jesus' atoning sacrifice is finished; third, Scripture's promises about the Messiah are finished or fulfilled.
Jesus' Life is Finished
A "Tetelestai." "It is finished." Jesus' life was finished, it was ended. He was a living, moving, breathing human being. He ate and drank, slept and walked, preached and prayed. But now all this was finished. His life was at its end. In a moment He would die. "It is finished," was His cry. "With that," says Scripture, "He bowed His head and gave up His spirit" (vs 30b).
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." His holy hands, which had healed so many and given strength to the lame and sight to the blind, would soon be cold and motionless. His feet, that had walked on so many missions of mercy, would soon become rigid and unmoving. His voice, that had spoken countless words of grace and love to so many, would soon become silent. His body, which had carried Him through three decades of life, would soon become lifeless.
B "Tetelestai." "It is finished." Notice what happens: He gave up His spirit; His soul separated from His body. When a man dies, any man, his soul separates from his body. That is the Christian's definition of physical death: the separation of the soul from the body. And, that's what happened to Christ: He died and His soul separated from His body.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." In John's gospel, we find a number of pictures of our Lord's death. He is the Lamb that is slain (Jn 1:29). He is the temple that is destroyed and raised again in three days (Jn 2:19). He is the shepherd Who lays down His life for the sheep (Jn 10:11-18). He is the seed planted in the ground (Jn 12:20-25). No matter what the picture, the result is the same – He dies and His soul separates from His body.
C "Tetelestai." "It is finished." Notice how His life ends: "With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."
When it is time for us to leave this world very few of us will go without a struggle. I have stood or sat by more than one death-bed. So far it has always been the same: a fight for each breath, a struggle to hang on to life, a battle to the very end.
How different Christ is from us: "he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." Christ submitted to death. He embraced death. He died willingly, of His own accord. But, then, didn't Jesus say this is the way He would die? Consider His words in John 10:
(Jn 10:17-18) The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. (18) No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.His death was voluntary. He willingly dismissed His spirit.
D "Tetelestai." "It is finished." Remember, it is a past event with present-day consequences. So, what are the consequences? Jesus died willingly so, if we believe, we won't go to hell. You see, God's justice and truth demand that He go all the way to death for only the death of God's Son could pay for our sin (cf Q & A 40).
Jesus' Atoning Sacrifice is Finished
A "Tetelestai." "It is finished." A servant would say this when reporting to his or her master. "Tetelestai." "It is finished." Jesus said this when His work was finished, it was completed, it was ended. Actually, we should be more accurate here. "It is finished" refers only to the end of Jesus' atoning sacrifice. We know, for instance, that Easter Sunday and the work of the resurrection is still to come. We know that it is only because of Easter's resurrection that His righteousness is applied to us.
And, we know from Scripture that His work as Lord continues. Christ is in heaven right now. There, as Lord of the universe and as Head of the church, Christ is hard at work on our behalf and for our good: preparing a place for us, pleading for us before the Father, defending and keeping us safe from the attacks of Satan.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Jesus has completed the work God has sent Him to do on this earth. What was started when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem was ended on Golgotha. Christ's atoning sacrifice is now done.
When people die at a young age they usually leave much unfinished business behind. Many wonder, for instance, what President John F. K. Kennedy would all have accomplished if only he had not died from an assassin's bullet. Or, what about Alexander the Great: he was one of the greatest generals the world has ever known. In ten years, from 336 B.C. to 326 B.C., he conquered Greece, Persia, Asia Minor, the island city of Tyre, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Babylon, Media, central Asia, and India. What would he have accomplished if he had not died at the age of 33?
Jesus also died at a young age: He was only 32 or 33 years of age. Furthermore, He had ministered for only three years at the time of His death. Surely, His work was not finished; surely, His work here on earth had just begun. But no! In the night before His death our Lord said by way of prayer to God, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (Jn 17:4; cf 5:36).
B "Tetelestai." "It is finished." This means Christ's work of suffering is now done. How our Lord suffered! Think of Gethsemane; the Sanhedrin; Pilate, Herod, and then Pilate again; the brutal soldiers; the journey to Calvary; the nails of the crucifixion; those three awful hours of darkness when God forsook Him. Physically, spiritually, and emotionally our Lord suffered so very much.
But this was now finished. The cup of wrath has been drained. The disgrace and shame, the suffering and agony, are past. Never again shall He experience pain. Never again shall He endure the taunts and slaps of those who hate Him. Never again shall He be in the hands of His enemies. Never again shall He be in darkness. Never again will God's presence be taken from Him.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." The priest said this when he examined an animal sacrifice and found it to be faultless and unblemished, a perfect sacrifice. Likewise, Christ is the perfect sacrifice, the unblemished Lamb.
C "Tetelestai." "It is finished." Remember, it is a past event with present-day consequences. This means that everything needed to pay for our sin has now been accomplished. Nothing more is needed. No other sacrifice is required. If only I believe in Jesus than nothing is lacking for my salvation.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Jesus has accomplished our salvation. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can contribute to His work of redemption done on our behalf.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Merchants and tax collectors wrote this on their receipts. It means a debt as been paid in full. When He gave Himself on the cross, Jesus fully met the righteous demands of the law and paid our debt in full. The wages of sin have been paid. The blood of the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29; Heb 9:24-28).
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Christ, and Christ alone, has accomplished our salvation. We know that, but we find it so hard to live that. I remember the time I was visiting a family with a number of teenagers. "Why should God let you into heaven?" I asked one of the young people. "Because I read the Bible, pray, and come to church," she said. We have to be so careful, congregation, about the ancient heresy of adding to the work of Christ. In fact, I dare say that every time we take pride in our faithful attendance at worship services, every time we pat ourselves on the back for being such a faithful contributor to church and kingdom causes, every time we think our standards and level of righteousness are so much higher than anyone else's, every time we become smug about our support of Christian education, we have probably stooped to a kind of work's righteousness.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished," said our Lord. He did what needed to be done to save us from our sins. There is nothing we need do, there is nothing we can do, to complete this work of redemption.
III Scripture's Promises are Fulfilled
A "Tetelestai." "It is finished." An artist said this when completing a picture. A writer said this when completing a manuscript. The death of Jesus on the cross completes the picture that God has been painting throughout the ages. The death of Jesus on the cross completes the story that God has been writing for centuries.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Scripture has been fulfilled. Scripture has been completed.
Verse 28 uses "Tetelestai" twice: "Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled ..." "Completed." "Fulfilled." "Tetelestai."
What are the promises of Scripture that have now been fulfilled, completed, finished? Prophecy declared that the Messiah would be an offspring of the woman (Gen 3:15); sure enough, when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman (Gal 4:4). Prophecy announced His mother would be a virgin (Is 7:14); this prophecy was literally fulfilled (Mt 1:18). Prophecy said He would be of the seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18) and a descendant of David; Matthew's Gospel proclaims this is fulfilled when it starts with "a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Mt 1:1). Prophecy said He would be named before His birth (Is 49:1); this too came to pass (Lk 1:30,31). Didn't prophecy say He would be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2); which is exactly where He was born. Prophecy said His birth would mean suffering for others (Jer 31:15); who can forget the sight and sound of Bethlehem's parents when Herod's soldiers killed their babies (Mt 2:14,15). Prophecy spoke of the flight into Egypt and return (Hos 11:1; cf Is 49:3,6); the Gospels record for us that this actually happened.
Prophecy spoke of the Messiah's forerunner who would prepare the way for Him (Mal 3:1); history records for us the work of John the Baptist as this forerunner. When the Messiah comes, said Prophecy,
(Is 35:5-6) Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (6) Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.When we look through the Gospels, we see that is exactly what happened. Prophecy declared that the Messiah would speak in parables (Ps 78:1); this is exactly what He did. Prophecy pictured Him as stilling a storm (Ps 107:29); that too came to pass. Prophecy heralded His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Zech 9:9); this too came about.
Every element of His suffering had also been predicted and fulfilled. The betrayal by a close friend (Ps 41:9), being forsaken by the disciples (Ps 31:11), false accusations (Ps 35:11), His silence before the judges (Is 53:7), His numbering with the transgressors (Is 53:12), the crucifixion (Ps 22:16), the mockery of the crowd (Ps 109:25), the taunt that the Lord does not save Him (Ps 22:7,8), the casting of lots for His garments (Ps 22:18), the prayer for His enemies (Is 53:12), being forsaken by God (Ps 22:1), the drinking of wine-vinegar (Ps 69:21), the committal of His spirit into the hands of the Father (Ps 31:5), the piercing of His side (Zech 12:10), His bones not being broken (Ps 34:20), His burial in a rich man's tomb (Is 53:9) – all these were foretold and came to pass.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished," cried out Jesus. Scripture is completed. Scripture has been fulfilled. The more than 300 promises, the more than 300 prophecies, about the Messiah have been realized.
How true God is to His Word and His promises. He never fails to do what He says. He keeps His promises made hundreds of years earlier.
From eternity God has a plan for our salvation. We see that plan throughout Scripture. At the cross, Jesus can say about that plan, "It is finished." God's promises have been kept.
B "Tetelestai." "It is finished." Remember, it is a past event with present-day consequences. I am sure you realize Scripture has a whole series of astonishing promises about Christ's second coming: a glorious return upon the clouds with sounding trumpets and clashing thunders; bodies raised from the grave and made like Christ's glorious body; every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; a new heaven and new earth; no more mourning, crying, pain, or death; no hunger or thirst; no darkness or fear; life forever in the glorious presence of God.
We know this: that if God brings to completion all His promises about the first coming of the Messiah, then He will just as surely bring to completion all the promises about the second coming of the Messiah. Not a word of God can fall to the ground. Not a single promise of His can remain unfulfilled.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished," said our Lord upon the cross, speaking of His first coming. And, at the end of time, when everything has been completed and fulfilled, He will say, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End" (Rev 21:6).
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Jesus' life is now over; His soul separated from His body.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Christ's atoning sacrifice is now completed.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished." Scripture has been fulfilled and will be fulfilled.
"Tetelestai." "It is finished."
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