November 23, 2020
By Ross Patterson
❖ This morning, we deal with the sixth word of Jesus while hanging crucified between heaven &
❖ Well, what do you make of it?
‣ Was it the despairing cry of a helpless martyr? Many today view Jesus as a good man, even a prophet who upheld the noble ideal of loving your fellow man - so they see this word describing the end of a great man being grossly misunderstood by his generation & unjustly put to death.
‣ Or was it the gasp of a worn-out life? Jesus had tried hard to reform the legalistic interpretations of God’s Law but had failed. After suffering all day in agony, He now knew the end of His life was near. He knew He was finished! So there you have it - “Finished!”
❖ No! Neither of these! Such viewpoints deny the obvious & clear teaching of scripture.
❖ We are confronted with the incomprehensible love of God for sinners & the justice & wrath of
God upon sin.
❖ This is all about the divine revelation of the procedure by which our Creator reconciled sinful
man to Himself.
❖ Most translations have “It is finished” - other translations are “Everything is done” & “It is
❖ In the original Greek, there is only one word - “Tetelestai” - the thrust of its meaning is “finished”/“completed!”
❖ But not in the sense of the gasp of one who is defeated & a victim - rather it is used in the sense of the victory cry of the conquerer - “I have successfully completed the task I was given!”
❖ For Jesus, that meant that He had triumphantly completed the work His Father had given Him.
❖ It was a word of triumph! Of Victory! The word came from One who was fully aware that He had put aside His divine glory, humbling Himself to become a man - to fulfil the great purpose
❖ The Greeks prided themselves of being able to use their language to say “much in little.” It was
the perfection of their oratory - & they had much success in it.
❖ Here too with the Saviour’s sixth word - one word to convey the gospel of God - the ground of
our salvation, the very sum of joy & peace, the very spirit of God’s consolation for lost mankind
- Tetelestai - Finished!
What was Finished?
❖ But we need to explore more deeply what was “Finished.” Scripture demands it!
❖ Less than 20 hours before Jesus had prayed to His Father in the Upper Room in front of His
disciples - “Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son so that Your Son may glorify You. You granted Him authority over all people so that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him!...I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do.” John 17:1-2, 4)
Here His task is described as His “giving eternal life to all those You have given Him.”
At His birth, the angel Gabriel instructed Joseph to name the Child of Mary “Jesus” - “because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)
Here His task is described as “saving His people from their sins.”
Are you one of those given to Jesus from eternity to receive eternal life? Are you one of His
people Jesus has saved from your sins?
Then you are clearly & dramatically involved in this word of triumph!
It is sobering & humbling to ponder that the majority of these people had not yet been born & certainly none who had were aware of the event of Calvary.
Consider: you were in the mind of the Father, Son & Spirit from eternity!
So you were never a chance biological accident - rather - you were one of those sheep known
by the good Shepherd long before your conception & birth!
As such a sheep, you have status & worth in the heart of the Almighty - What a great
encouragement to you in all times of distress & affliction.
This truth is part of God’s revelation to us - it’s a huge concept - amazing to our puny human
But there on the cross & round 33 A.D. it was accomplished in time & space!
❖ Now let’s look more closely at what Jesus declared was “finished.
❖ Ever since Adam & the Woman had acted in disobedience, the human race had been plunged
into the realm of estrangement from God.
❖ That original purpose of creation of living in fellowship with Him had been destroyed.
Mankind now had a legacy of sin that none of its members could ever hope to remove.
❖ And the divine penalty for such transgression of the divine law was total death - spiritual,
physical & eternal!
❖ Yes! Sinners would pay that price! There was no salvation! No deliverance! No hope! The
presence of sin in the human soul blinded mankind to his very need for salvation. He was as
Paul says - “dead in our trespasses & sin.”
❖ Yet, in was in the darkest hour of human existence that God came to the rescue of humanity
with the most incredible, unbelievable & amazing plan to save sinners - a plan that revealed His
Being in all its divine glory - grace, mercy, love, goodness & faithfulness!
❖ And what was it? - the Son agreed to “empty” Himself of His glory, take on a human nature by natural birth (with divine twist - a virgin birth!) - and offer Himself up as the One on whom all the penalty of sin would fall - He would be the Substitute for all those given to Him by the
Father, named by Gabriel as “His people.”
❖ And Adam & the woman were the first to hear the gospel in God’s word of judgment on Satan
- “he will crush your head & you will bruise his heel.” - a male child of the woman would
destroy Satan while Satan would make him suffer a little! That male Child was Jesus!
❖ We note two points in particular - 1. He freely chose to do this without compulsion. 2. The divine punishment He would endure would be a vicarious atonement for all the sins of His
❖ This was the great purpose of God that Paul describes as “the purpose of His will” & “the
mystery of His will.” (Eph. 1:9, 11)
❖ And our text describes the completion of God’s will - God’s people call it “Good Friday” - a
paradox that rejoices in the salvation of sinners, an atonement that gains the forgiveness of all
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our sins & the gift of eternal life through the most heinous of all human events - the creature
taking pleasure in murdering the Creator!
❖ It was an enormous task Jesus took upon Himself - but now “finished!”
Completing the Work
❖ But we need to return to that word “finished!” again - it implies that Jesus knew what He was
doing - He knew what He was finishing!
❖ To appreciate more clearly its background, we return to the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in
the Upper Room, only some 20 hours before.
❖ In that prayer Jesus made mention that He would bring glory to His Father “on earth by
completing the work You gave me to do.”
❖ It is important to note that Jesus spoke of His work of atonement as having already been finished/completed though it would not be for another 20 hours.
❖ Theologians call this “the prophetic past” tense. With God, His deeds are completed long before they actually happen in time.
❖ Another way in which the atoning work is spoken by Jesus Himself is mentioned in the Garden of Gethsemane - there it is described as “drinking the cup.”
❖ Jesus was fully aware of what He was in for in the next 24 hours - & it frightened Him in His humanity - “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!”
❖ The “cup” was a metaphor for the judgment & wrath of God which He was to suffer & endure for our salvation - it is very understandable that our Lord expressed reluctance of drinking that cup of suffering.
❖ This meaning is also given to the word in the prophetic past in words describing the destruction of that servant of Satan, Babylon - “Babylon too will drink of the wine of God’s fury which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath.” - That is what Jesus had to drain to the last drop!
❖ Jesus had also used it before when the mother of the sons of Zebedee had requested top positions in His kingdom - “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” - Here is the thought again that Jesus knew the suffering of the cross.
❖ These words from the Upper Room - “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do.” - & “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!” - reveal that Jesus was fully aware of His work - what its purpose was & how it would be accomplished.
❖ This enhances more fully our understanding of the significance of this word on the cross - “finished!”
❖ Debatably, it is the single most important word in scripture. Without it, we are still in our sins. We sinners could only wait with bated breath through those horrific hours to see whether the
Son would indeed “finish” the work the Father gave Him.
❖ Praise God! Hallelujah! - that He did!
❖ Earlier we saw that Christ’s work was “to save His people from their sins” - “to give eternal
life to all those given to Jesus by the Father.”
❖ So, was this so? Were we saved from our sins/given eternal life even before we were born?
❖ This raises the interesting question - When was I saved from my sins?
❖ Scripture presents our salvation as complete/finished in the mind of God before creation - we
read in 1 Peter about - “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect, chosen
before the foundation of the world.”
❖ Quite an astonishing statement! In the mind of Almighty God the Christ was chosen & His precious blood shed in eternity - & if that blood was shed, was it not efficacious for those for whom He died?
❖ And those “His people” He was sent to save from their sins are also described as being “chosen in Christ before the creation of the world.”
❖ But the Son, as the Christ, had to be born in time - & indeed He was. Paul writes - “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law.”
❖ This is what we have seen occur on the cross when He actually in time shed His precious blood to atone for our sins - He redeemed us! If one is redeemed, then one is saved!
❖ But still, you & I, as was the case for an innumerable number of redeemed, were not yet born! But, as the years rolled on, more & more of those in the mind of God, were born.
❖ Then that redemption achieved by Christ on the cross, sealed with that great word Tetelestai/ finished!, was applied to each & every one by the work of the Holy Spirit.
❖ The Spirit has been very busy through the ages giving new birth/the born again experience to sinners & with that new spiritual life, each has realised their sin before their Creator, repented of that sin & believed in Jesus’ atoning death for the forgiveness of their sins.
❖ To quote Paul to the Ephesian Church - “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions & sins...by nature objects of God’s wrath, but because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (2:1, 4-5)
❖ So, now you experience the redemption that was “finished” on Calvary 2000 years ago. Now that it has been applied to you, it’s “more” finished.
❖ Well, that’s true - your salvation is more finished than it was but there is more - Paul writes - “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Rom. 13:11) Paul intimates that there is progress in salvation.
❖ Yes, we are enjoying our salvation now but it is not yet perfected - not until this life is over & all the redeemed are gathered before the throne of God & the Lamb will that salvation be completed - the salvation that Christ accomplished for us on the cross will then be fully applied & enjoyed for eternity!
❖ In the meantime Paul directs the Roman Church “to set aside the deeds of darkness & put on the armour of light” because we are still in that stage where the Christian is called to “continue to work out his salvation with fear & trembling.” (Phil. 2:12)
❖ Living for Jesus is presented here as a very serious task - a very difficult task - not for the faint- hearted. It is a battle against sin - in our own lives & in the world around us - requiring spiritual armour (“armour of light”) - this is described as the truth of God, a righteous life, the gospel of peace on our lips & in our lives, faith centred in Christ & a keen knowledge of the Word of God.
❖ Paul presents our Christian life as our responsibility - I must care for my salvation - I must develop & grow in my faith, my love of prayer, my attending to the means of grace, to knowledge of scripture - & do it seriously with intent!
❖ It is a lifelong task to battle our sin & maintain the full armour of God - but that’s how we work out our salvation!
❖ “With fear & trembling” - adds Paul. Our Christian life is to be worked on actively & continually with the same sense that an inexperienced amateur is called on to perform a medical
act on a victim in order to save his life. Salvation is a precious commodity & not to be taken lightly!
❖ This is the only part of our salvation where the Lord invites us to participate! - what an honour
& responsibility! But even here, He does not leave it all to us - for Paul immediately adds...
❖ “For it is God who works in you to will & to act according to His good purpose!” - thank God
for the work of the Holy Spirit!
❖ Our text reminds us of the great deed of our Saviour completed on the cross - that appeased the
wrath & justice of God for our sins - “Tetelestai!” “Finished!”