Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30 NIV
The world views death as failure. We grow old, our bodies get tired, sick and worn out, and when they can no longer function, we die. When a person dies they cannot achieve anything else in this world and they leave nothing but a memory and a legacy – whether that be good or bad. Those who are the fittest, strongest and cleverest, healthiest are viewed as successful in the world, and those who live long and healthy lives are said to have “done well”. People aspire to live for as long as they can, and billions of pounds are spent every year on methods of extending and preserving life.
At first glance, Jesus was a monumental failure in this regard. His disciples effectively disowned him, he was arrested and convicted of blasphemy, before being sentenced to flogging death in the most barbaric fashion, whilst being mocked and despised. He died with without putting up a fight and was buried in a borrowed tomb. His last words “it is finished” are quite unremarkable, for someone who claimed to be the son of God and the messiah. All this happened in his early thirties!
This is how many people view Jesus, but they miss the point of his life and death entirely. In death, Jesus achieved the greatest victory in history. He didn’t succumb to a brutal death because he had failed. It was the very reason he came to earth and it was the fulfilment of the God’s purpose for the redemption of humankind. He took the sin of the world to the cross, defeated Satan, and overcame death by rising again. Not only did he regain his own life, but made it possible for everyone who accepts him as their Saviour to have eternal life.
“It is finished,” is translated from the single Greek word tetelestai. The grammatical structure and perfect tense of this word indicates that the progress of an action has been completed and the result of that action is ongoing and with full effect. As Jesus uttered this word he pronounced that he had finished the work given to him by God, and from that moment direct access was allowed to God for all people, for all time, to have an eternal relationship with him.
As Easter approaches, it is easy to read these verses with familiarity and not allow the full magnitude of this event to penetrate our heart, mind and soul. The significance of his last three words, “it is finished” cannot be underestimated. In pronouncing these words, dying, and rising from death three days later, Jesus achieved the most incredible triumph in history. Jesus final words on the cross signify victory, not defeat; achievement, not failure; and the beginning, not the end. Happy Easter!