One sentence can permanently change your life.
“Your mother and I are getting a divorce.”
“You passed your driver’s test.”
If it is true that one sentence can change your life, then can one word do the same? Jesus thinks so, especially if that word is finished. “It is finished.”
What a relief it must have been for Jesus to speak this one word. In Greek, it is tetelestai. He had been waiting a long time to speak it—since before the foundation of the world. He had been waiting since the triune God wrote page after page of names in his book of life. Not with ink, but with blood, the blood of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. The same blood we still receive in that astoundingly quiet miracle known as the Lord’s Supper.
Tetelestai. A single Greek word, translated “It is finished.” Jesus did not say, “I am finished,” using the first person. Instead, he used the third person, “It is finished,” and used the perfect tense of Greek to boot. He used his last breaths to reveal a momentous secret: What the Christmas angels had sung about 33 years earlier had finally been accomplished. What needed to be done so we can get up each morning at peace with God—or rather, with God at peace with us—and close our eyes each day, including our last day, at peace with God—or rather, with God at peace with us—had been finished. It will remain finished tomorrow. It will remain finished next year. It will remain finished forever. For that is what the perfect tense in Greek means: This event happened, and it is still in effect today.
No one at that time seemed to catch on to how momentous this single word was. Not the spectators standing on Golgotha. Not the disciples who were taking evasive action behind locked doors. Not the women who were expecting to find a dead body to anoint on Easter Sunday.
But Christ said it anyway. In fact, he took a drink to fulfill the Scriptures and to wet his cracked, dry throat precisely so he could say it loud enough to be heard. “It is finished!” His mission of undoing the horrific results of the disobedience in the Garden of Eden had been accomplished. His mission of effecting a permanent peace treaty between us sinners and a holy God had been accomplished. His mission of making heaven not a possibility but a certainty had been accomplished.
That word is meant to change us. To change me. Tetelestai. “It is finished.” For me. A single word that has the power to drown out the noise of my guilt, to soothe away my sickly feelings about death, to certify that I am done with any need to worry about life.
One word. Permanent change.
Author: Jonathan Werre
Volume 109, Number 03
Issue: March 2022