“It is finished.”
I wonder what the onlookers at the foot of the cross thought when they heard Jesus utter those words.
His enemies must have gloated – it is finished, it’s over, we’ve finally got rid of this trouble-maker, this man who claimed to be God, this carpenter’s son who challenged the authority of Rome. It is finished – he is finished – we can dust off our hands, turn our backs and walk away.
His followers must have despaired. It is finished? It’s over? That’s it? After all the hope, the expectation, the promises, it has ended like this? How can it be? We thought he was the Messiah, the chosen one, our hope for the future. Yet now he says it is all over?
The words Jesus spoke were most likely in Aramaic, but by the time they reach us they have been translated first into Greek, then into English. In John’s Greek rendering, the word translated “It is finished” is τετέλεσται (tetelestai). According to some sources this word was “written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show that a bill had been paid in full” (see here for more evidence for that, and an interesting grammatical point).
Whether or not the Aramaic words Jesus actually uttered conveyed this point to the crowds at the time, when John came to write his Gospel, knowing what happened next, the implication was clear in his mind: the work had been completed; the debt had been paid in full.
Jesus’ life wasn’t finished. He hasn’t stopped working. But the task he was put on earth to fulfil was finished – is finished. Our debt has been paid, and the barrier between us and God has been destroyed. Hallelujah! What a Saviour.
This post originally appeared on the Evangelical Alliance website,
as part of a series on Jesus’ words from the cross.
I also wrote this for ThinkTheology, reflecting further on these words.
Picture Credit: Calvary by John Keogh (Creative Commons)