John 19: 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Baseball fans know the name Cal Ripken Jr. When hearing the name, the word that comes to mind is Ironman. Ripken owns the record for the longest consecutive games played streak at 2,632. Remarkably, starting on May 30, 1982 and for the next 16 years, Ripken started every baseball game for MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. For decades, baseball fans and experts thought that Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive games record would never fall, as it had stood for well over 50 years. Prior to Ripken, Steve Garvey had come closest to beating the record but he had only managed 1,207 consecutive games. It was recognized that is was too difficult to avoid injury for such a sustained period of time. But on September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. broke the “unbreakable record” and then went on for another 3 years continuing to start every baseball game. But on September 20, 1998, even Ripken’s streak ended at 2,632 games. It was finished.
In one of the most important scriptures found in the Bible, today’s verse provides John’s eyewitness account of the crucifixion events. After suffering indescribable mocking, beating, and a torturous end to his life, John hears Jesus cry out the Greek word: “tetelestai”. John, described as the “the one Jesus loved”, would have known exactly what that word meant. In today’s English Bible translations, it is usually penned as three words: “it is finished”. While those words mean something to us today, tetelestai is a rich word with significantly more meaning. While it correctly connotes a completion, or an accomplishment, the authors of The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, Moulton and Milligan, suggest that the word was also used on business documents or receipts in New Testament times showing that a bill was paid in full. “Receipts are often introduced by the phrase tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner…”[i].
There is no doubt that John and the many other eyewitnesses would learn to understand that Jesus was declaring more than just an accomplishment of His mission on earth, but even more that Jesus Christ died to pay for their sins.
Earlier in John 19, we read Pilate say to Jesus: “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (v 10). But, “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.’” (v 11). Jesus wasn’t some unfortunate slob caught up on a random pathway to destruction,one that he had no control over. No, Jesus was freely giving up his life for ours. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10: 17-18).
Jesus was a willing participant in the crucifixion, because of His, and the Father’s, great love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). During this Easter season do not forget the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for you. Recognize that the crucifixion was more than an accomplishment of a task, it was the complete payment of your debt of sin. It wasn’t a partially paid bill; it was a complete payment.
[i] (The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, 1914) Moulton & Milligan. Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London. Page 630.