"It is Finished" - tetelestai


(SeanO) #1

My pastor mentioned that this Greek word was used to begin receipts (in an abbreviated form) in the ancient world, so that when Jesus used it (it only occurs 2x - John 19:28 and 19:30) it would have been clear to the audience that their sins had been paid in full.

So - I did a little digging on the word and found this article describing how the word is in the perfect tense - an action that is finished with ongoing consequences. Jesus’ paid our debt for now and evermore!

Excerpt from Matthew Henry - “It is finished; that is, the counsels of the Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled. It is finished; all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished. It is finished; the ceremonial law is abolished; the substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. It is finished; an end is made of transgression by bringing in an everlasting righteousness. His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. It is finished; the work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed.”

Have you heard any discussion around this word? What do you feel are the weight of the implications for the Christian life?

He is risen indeed!

(Carson Weitnauer) #2

Hi Sean, that’s an interesting reflection!

The challenge with doing theology via a lexicon is that words take on most of their meaning from their context. So, here’s the immediate context for this word, in John 19:28-30:

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished [tetelestai], said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished [tetelestai],” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

At a minimum, John is telling us that Jesus recognizes and communicates that his mission, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, is complete. For the rest of the meaning of this verse, I think what is subtly happening is that preachers and theologians are importing into this verse their broader theology. In a sermon, I don’t know that this needs to be footnoted. But, in a book or article, I think it is wise in most cases to make the connection clear. Curious what your take is…

(SeanO) #3

@CarsonWeitnauer I agree that interpreting ‘it is finished’ as ‘your sins present and future are forgiven at the cross’ is importing a certain view of how the work of Christ is applied in the life of the believer.

I think whether or not the less certain implications of this verse are mentioned depends on the audience’s familiarity with Scripture and intellectual abilities, but I think that if it is mentioned the preacher should be honest and say that it is simply one way of looking at the text.