I’m reading a book that I can’t put down. I’ve been engrossed in the lives of the adult Delaney children who are desperately looking for their missing mother Joy, trying to figure out the peculiar behavior of their father Stan, and wondering how the mysterious Savannah fits into the whole thing. The book has all the juicy things like betrayal, untold secrets, abuse, and abandonment, and it’s all wrapped up in a whodunit storyline. I’m hooked and don’t want the book to end.
I feel the same way about vacations, celebrations, girls’ night outs, and summertime. I want them to last forever. And don’t even get me started on riveting TV shows. Remember Lost, the show from the early 2000s? My kids and I watched it religiously. The characters were so appealing. Jack. Kate. Sawyer (insert wolf whistle here). Hurley. Sun. Charlie. Claire. John Locke. A plane crash, a deserted island, mysterious oddities, a secret hatch, and the occasional appearance of black smoke. Nothing was as it seemed, especially since the plot seemed to change without warning. Flash backs. Flash forwards. All great stuff (except the final episode). I loved that show and wanted it to go on forever.
All “please go on forever” whining aside, there’s one instance in particular where I’m eternally grateful for a once-and-for-all ending. Something final and fantastic happened more than 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem atop a hill and on a cross.
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30
The last words my dad said to me were “I love you.” I can picture where I was and when he said them. I’m so grateful that I’ll have those words to hold in my heart forever. Last words can be crucial. The last words that Jesus spoke were (and still are) especially important. Just before Jesus had taken His last breath He said, “It is finished.
The Greek word for “it is finished” is tetelestai. It’s translated as completed. The Latin translation of the same word is consummated.
Tetelestai. Until recently I had never heard of the word. Because I’m an amateur researcher by nature (thank you Google) and somewhat of a semantics junkie I decided to look the word up on the internet.
Here’s what I discovered:
During the Old Testament sacrificial system on the Day of Atonement the High Priest would enter the temple and make a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people. The sins of the people of Israel were symbolically placed on a sacrificial lamb so the animal could be punished in their place. When finished killing a lamb, the High Priest would emerge from the place of sacrifice and declare to the people “it is finished” (tetelestai). This sacrificial system was ongoing because the sacrificial lamb was imperfect and the sacrifice was temporary (the Day of Atonement was a yearly holiday).
But, and here’s the good part, when Jesus died on the cross, He became the perfect and final sacrifice for all sin. When Jesus said, “It is finished” He meant it. The work of forgiveness was complete. This meant that there would be no more need for temples and sacrifices. Jesus’ death was the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system. Tetelestai!
In New Testament times when a laborer had completed his work, he would tell his superior “My work is complete” (“tetelestai”). An artist or a sculptor would say the same thing right before unveiling their piece of art signifying that the masterpiece was done. The artist didn’t need to make any adjustments or do any final tweaking. His work was finished.
Same thing goes for Jesus when He said, “It is finished”. He had accomplished the work He set out to do-to provide salvation to the lost. No more adjustments were needed. Salvation was complete. Tetelestai!
In Jesus’ day when it came to debt collection this same word was used often. Once a debt was paid off and a transaction marked as complete tetelestai was stamped on it which meant any arrears owed were now “paid in full.”
Our sin created a debt to God. One that we could never repay no matter how hard we tried. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross for us He paid our debt in full. The debt balance was now zero. Tetelestai!
All these variations of the word reveal a very beautiful truth to us today. Jesus fully completed the work of salvation once and for all. There’s no need for us to add anything to it, to work harder, or to prove ourselves. Jesus did it all. Tetelestai!
Hang with me and allow me to get a little quirky. Do you remember the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The show featured a competition among contestants trying to win the top prize of $1,000,000 by answering a series of multiple choice questions that usually got more difficult each time one was asked. The famous tagline from that show was “Is that your final answer?”. Here comes the quirky part: When I think of Jesus saying those words “It is finished” I think of Him saying “Your sins are forgiven and that’s my final answer!” (emphasis added).
Paul tells us in Colossians 2:15 “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”.
The powers and authorities that Paul was referring to are spiritual beings who were (and are) at war against Jesus. When Christ died He disarmed Satan and his demons and took away their power. He set us free from their hold on us.
I used to allow those powers to reign over me. I carried a “bag” full of lies, past hurts, negative mindsets, and rebellion around with me. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the Lord through a series of Bible studies that I finally recognized that the baggage I was holding was heavy-way too heavy for me to handle. Hauling my bag of “stuff” around was keeping me from living a life filled with forgiveness, acceptance, joy, and peace. When I allowed Jesus to reign in my heart, He took my baggage from me and said “tetelestai”? My old life was finished and a new one had begun.
This past week I’ve been reflecting on a few of the things that Jesus “finished” (His final answer!) for me personally.
Shame. I’ve made so many wrong choices in my life. It used to be hard to even think about them without cringing and tearing up. When I was young I intentionally went 180 degrees in the wrong direction from what God wanted me to do. God used the story about the woman at the well in the Bible to speak to me. In the story, the woman went to the well during the heat of the day when others wouldn’t be there because she was ashamed of her past and current lifestyle. In those days Jews didn’t speak with Samaritans but Jesus went out of His way to have a conversation with her. He connected with her. He told her that He was the Living Water and offered her something greater. He told her that He knew all about her past. By the time the woman left the well she knew that Jesus was her Messiah. Her Deliverer.
I’m like the woman at the well. Maybe you can see yourself like her too. I needed the voids in my life to be filled and Jesus did it with His living water. Jesus isn’t fazed by my sins (yours either). Jesus is the Messiah. He’s our Deliverer.
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.” John 4:39-41
Unworthiness. I used to be a pro at comparing myself to others. I considered myself “less than” and flawed. I felt invisible, misunderstood, lonely and, quite frankly, irrelevant. When I read the story of Gideon, the great leader and judge to the Israelites, I realized that Jesus died to put my feelings of unworthiness to rest once and for all.
Let me explain: One of the first things the Bible tells us about Gideon is that he was in hiding. He was at the bottom of a winepress threshing wheat. Normally wheat was threshed out in the open so that the blowing wind would help separate the wheat from the chaff. Gideon was in a winepress so the enemy would not see him. He had a poor mindset, was depressed, complaining, and he didn’t think much of himself. He came from a “lesser” tribe and he wasn’t high up in the birth order of his family. Gideon didn’t feel worthy. He didn’t believe God when God told him that he would be a judge to the Israelites and that he would drive out their enemies. God saw Gideon as a mighty capable warrior even if Gideon didn’t see himself that way.
I’m like Gideon (you are too). God can use anyone to accomplish great things.
“But Lord, ” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
Judges 6: 15,16
Perfectionism. I used to believe that I needed to be perfect. I’m pretty sure this mindset originated from the days when I believed in religion (do’s and don’ts, rules, and commands) instead of a grace-filled relationship with Him.
When I read the Bible I realize that I’m like many of the flawed people I read about. None of them were perfect but God used them anyway. King David, Solomon, Samson, Moses, Noah, Peter, Jonah, Thomas, Paul, Mary One lied, one was extremely greedy, one deceived, one got drunk, one doubted, one was conceited, one ran away from his calling, one was a Jesus hater, and one was possessed by demons.
At one time or another I’ve been like each one of them (well…not possessed by demons!). If God can use imperfect people like these then He can use me (and you)!
“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27
Anxiety. I used to be anxious about so many things. My kids, my finances, my health, my relationships, my job, the list could go on and on. Worrying consumed me. Years ago I did a Bible study about King David. In the study I learned that even this great king suffered from anxiety. King David was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) yet he still worried! In the Psalms we see glimpses of David having faintness of heart, sleepless nights, tears, and obsessive fear.
I can relate to King David. God used him, calmed his fears, never left his side, and blessed him. He does the same thing for me (and can for you too).
“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” Psalm 6:2-4
You know what Jesus said about my shame, unworthiness, perfectionism, anxiety? Tetelestai! Each of you are finished! He can say the same thing to the negative things in your life too.
DISCLAIMER: There are so many more things that Jesus finished for me on the cross. But I’m a work-in-progress like everyone else and, truth be told, the enemy tries to get my old habits and mindsets to rear their ugly heads from time to time. But, the Liar doesn’t stand a chance. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross my victory has already been won.
What about you? Can you think of negative things in your life that you’re holding on to? Maybe they’re things like:
Surrender them to God. Nothing is too big for Him to handle. Believe that Jesus forgives your sins. Believe that because of His death you are saved. When you do, you are no longer captive to this world’s powers, temptations, sins, and consequences. You are now a citizen of Jesus’ eternal kingdom. Welcome to the family!
I’d love to know what stood out to you in this blog? Is it that Jesus gave His body as a sacrifice for your sins? That Jesus poured out His blood to signify a new covenant with His people (you and me)? That Jesus finished the work on the cross and gives us freedom and welcomes us into His family? Send me a note to let me know your thoughts.
Before I go, do you want to find out about Jesus on your own but you’re not sure where to start. Consider shopping for a study Bible. Study Bibles have maps, charts, photos and footnotes at the bottom of the page explaining the passages. Or are you more digital minded? If so, think about downloading the You Version Bible app to your phone or tablet This app features daily Bible readings, devotions, short videos, studies, and so much more. Using it has been part of my morning routine for a long time. I love it and think you will too.
May God shower you with blessings, love, and peace this Easter.
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Your Years in Squares
Think of your life as a grid with 100 squares. Ten squares across and 10 squares going down. Each square represents a year in your life. Now visualize yourself coloring in a square for every year you’ve been alive. What would the grid look like? Would only a few rows be colored? Would half of them? It’s sobering how fast life goes by. Don’t waste a minute of your life doing shallow and inconsequential things.
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