A Word Of Victory


"It is finished!"
(John 19:30)

Jesus's sixth recorded statement from the cross quickly followed His fifth statement.

"Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!'"
(John 19:30)

Jesus's statement was a triumphant declaration of final achievement and ultimate victory.

The Greek term which John used to capture the meaning of Jesus's expression was "tetelestai." This expression was commonly used as a financial term in the ancient world to signify that a debt was "paid in full." "Tetelestai" is a form of the verb τελέω (G5055—pronounced: "tel-eh'-ō"). "Teleō" is loaded with meaning. The core meaning of "teleō" is "telos," a term signifying purpose, end-goal, design, or intent.

John used what is called "the perfect tense" of the Greek verb "teleō" to express what Jesus said. The perfect tense describes a completed action while emphasizing the perpetual and ongoing effects or consequences of that action. In this context, the perfect tense of "teleō" emphasizes how Jesus's work was "finished" and done, but the effects of His work are now continuous and ongoing.

The "telos" (the end-goal) for which Jesus as the Word of God became flesh was twofold—both of these purposes were finally accomplished upon His death. His objectives were 1) to fulfill the Law by faith and 2) to sacrificially lay down His life for the world.

  1. Fulfill the Law by Faith

Jesus came to earth to live as a human in order to demonstrate how humans were to live—by trusting God. Walking by faith that God's design is for our best.

The first human, Adam, failed to do this when he disobeyed God's command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6). Every human born from the seed of Adam since the Fall has succumbed to sin and disobeyed God (Psalm 14:2-3, 53:3, Romans 3:23).

Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20, Luke 1:30-35), came to obey God by following His commands.

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill."
(Matthew 5:17)

Even though Jesus was fully God, He did not rely on His divine powers to obey God's commands. This is what Paul means in Philippians 2:6-8 when he wrote that Jesus "humbled Himself by becoming obedient" (Philippians 2:8). The author of Hebrews explains Jesus's humility further:

"Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation."
(Hebrews 5:8-9)

The Greek term for "having been made perfect" in this verse from Hebrews is another form of "teleo" (G5048). The idea is that Jesus's work was completed—He did just what His Father sent Him to do.

In order to accomplish His Father's will, Jesus had to learn how to not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4).

Moreover, Isaiah's third Servant Song (Isaiah 50:4-11)—prophetically describing the Messiah's character—said that the Messiah would have the tongue and ear of a disciple. This infers that the Messiah would be one who had to learn obedience (Isaiah 50:4).

All of these passages (and others) demonstrate how Jesus obeyed God without leaning on His own divine abilities. He had to learn to obey God, overcome temptation, and fulfill the law as a human. In doing so, He experienced temptation—the same as you and I (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus overcame all of His trials by relying on His Father. In other words, Jesus lived His life, obeyed God, overcame temptation, and fulfilled the law entirely by faith.

Consider Jesus's own statements regarding His words and actions:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner."
(John 5:19)

"I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
(John 5:30)

"When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me."
(John 8:28)

"For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak."
(John 12:49)

Having come to earth as a man and having perfectly kept the Law by faith throughout His entire life even unto death, Jesus had fully accomplished His mission and fulfilled His purpose. He had "telos"—completed that which He came to accomplish.

  1. Sacrificially Lay Down His Life for the Life of the World.  

In Jesus, immortal God was born as a mortal human so that He could die on behalf of humanity.

It was for this life-granting, yet deadly purpose ("telos") that Jesus was born:

"Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour.'"
(John 12:27)

Since the disobedience of Adam and Eve, humanity had cut itself off from God in sin (Genesis 3:23-24). And the good creation they were to steward in harmony with God was temporarily lost to the devil (Romans 8:20, 1 Corinthians 4:4). Jesus, for the suffering of death, restored humanity's right to reign over the earth (Hebrews 2:9-10).

God communicated and established a covenant with the people of Israel, through whom He promised to bless the world (Genesis 12:1-3). Part of this covenant entailed His good laws which lead to life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) and an elaborate sacrificial system for the atonement of sins (Leviticus 17:11). Although the Law and the sacrificial system were insufficient in themselves (Romans 3:19-20, Hebrews 10:11), they both pointed to their fulfillment in Jesus (Galatians 3:24),

"But… God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."
(Galatians 4:4-5)

God's Son, whom He gave for the life of the world (John 3:16), was Jesus, the Messiah. His death on the cross was the fulfilment—the finishing—"the Tetelestai-ing" of that purpose. Because of His obedience, His accomplishment of God's will, Jesus was given the reward of being adopted as a Son (Hebrews 1:5, 8, 13). A part of this reward was to be given authority over the earth (Hebrews 2:8-10, Matthew 28:18, Revelation 3:21). This restored humanity's design to reign over the earth in harmony with God, nature and one another (Hebrews 2:8-10).

The author of Hebrews explains that the main purpose of sacrificial rituals pointed to the true sacrifice of God's Son who was still to come when the Law was first given,

"For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near."
(Hebrews 10:1)

As God Himself, the Man Jesus was the perfect and good sacrifice. His offering on the cross was perfect, final, and absolute. It abolished the need for any and all future sacrifices for the purpose of atonement,

"But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God… For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
(Hebrews 10:12, 14)

Paul describes this substitutionary atonement when he wrote:

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Peter is perhaps even more explicit in explaining our atonement through Jesus's death on the cross:

"And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."
(1 Peter 2:24)

And Paul stresses to the church in Rome how the relationship between God and man is reconciled and restored when we trust in Jesus:

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
(Romans 5:10)

While the grace of Christ's substitutionary atonement for our sins reconciled us to God, it came at a horrible price for Him on the cross where He suffered God's judgment and wrath when He bore all of the sins of the world.

Through the death of an infinitely good God, all of the sins of the world were fully paid for. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Tetelestai"—"It is finished" (John 19:30). In the moral ledger of the cosmos, the righteousness of God was more than sufficient to offset the full debt of all the sins of the world.

Jesus's statement was one of accomplishment, triumph, and victory. He had achieved what He had come to do:

  1. Overcome temptation and fulfill the Law through faith and reliance upon the Lord
  2. Sacrificially surrender His life to atone for the sins of the world.

Having done His Father's will (Luke 22:42) throughout His life and now even unto death on the cross (Philippians 2:8), He had finished what He had come to do.

As Creator and Messiah, Jesus was the "author…of faith" (Hebrews 12:2a). With His death and statement, "Tetelestai"—"It is finished" (John 19:30), Jesus had become the "perfecter [i.e. "finisher"—literally: "telos-er"] of faith" (Hebrews 12:2b).

"It is finished!"
(John 19:30)

Read about Jesus's seventh final word from the cross here: "7: A Word of Trust"

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