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Tetelestai!

April 6, 2012

Washing the dishes is a big task in our house. The kids hate that chore, and who can blame them? It’s boring and time-consuming.

Elim had spent a solid hour at the sink, washing (and procrastinating), and the floor and the counters were covered with suds. I had my back to him and was stirring the fettuccini in a futile attempt to keep it from burning.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of a pan being slammed and the triumphant shout, “Tetelestai!”

I turned. Elim had his fists raised in the air Rocky-style and was shouting, “I’m done! I’m done!”

Okay, as a father and a preacher, this is the sort of moment I live for. I mean, did my eleven-year-old son just exult over a finished chore by proclaiming “Tetelestai”? Wow. Awesome. A biblical allusion, and from the Greek nonetheless!

The timing of Elim’s shout seemed all the more appropriate as today is Good Friday, the day when we remember Jesus’ triumphant shout of “Tetelestai” from the cross.

Jesus’ declaration is recorded for us in John 19:30. In the English, it is translated with three words, “It is finished!” In the Greek, it is just the one word, “Tetelestai”. That word, a verb, is in the perfect tense, and that tense describes an act that has been completed with a continuing result. What Christ had accomplished, perfected, brought to completion, was utterly finished, and the results of that accomplishment continued on, indeed, from now to eternity.

But what was it, exactly, that was finished at the moment Jesus shouted that word?

Well, briefly, here are four accomplishments that were achieved at that moment.

  • Jesus’ suffering was finished. The sufferings of the Messiah, prophesied in Isaiah 53 and later by Jesus Himself in Luke 9, were completed. The time of humiliation had come to an end.
  • Jesus’ sacrifice was fulfilled. What the blood of bulls and goats could not do (take away sins), the blood of God’s own sown had done. In His blood, Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins forever. (Hebrews 10)
  • Jesus’ sharing defeated Satan. Sharing in humanity’s flesh and blood, Jesus, through His death, destroyed “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. (Hebrews 2)
  • Jesus secured our salvation. In this one act, of giving his life as the payment for sins, Jesus Christ secured the salvation of all who would believe on Him.

As Elim’s father, I was thrilled that he remembered this Greek word and its meaning. I was glad that it had squirreled its way into the recesses of his brain and had emerged at an appropriate moment. I was glad he had heard the message of its meaning.

How much more must our Heavenly Father be thrilled when we remember this Greek word, its usage at the cross, and its meaning for us and the world.  I encourage you, today, to take a moment to think about this word and rejoice in its meaning.

Tetelestai!

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