What can be said about the crucifixion that you haven’t heard before? Most of it’s familiar to us: The multiple attempts by Pilate to let Jesus go, the dogged determination on the part of his enemies to kill him, and the cruel mockery and torture by the Roman soldiers.
But there are just two things I’d like to point out from today’s passage. First, we see how Jesus, even in the midst of such suffering and pain, both in the physical realm and in the spiritual, takes time out to take care of his own. Yes, he was the Son of God, sent from the Father to save us from our sins. Yes, he’s the Almighty One before whom every knee will bow and who'll one day be universally acknowledged as Lord. But he’s still the son of Mary. She raised him, and she always had a special place in his heart. I know that the Roman Catholic Church, because of its unbiblical veneration of Mary, loves to focus on her. And we react against that, perhaps to the extreme of downplaying her place in redemptive history. He certainly could’ve been excused if his mind was on other things. But he loved her, and he wanted to ensure that after he was gone, his mother was taken care of. He never misses the smallest details when it comes to taking care of his own.
But now we’re going to the second part of today’s title. What could this one word be that saves us? In English it’s three, but in the Greek it’s only one.
That word is Tetelestai. It’s translated as “It is finished” in English, but this one Greek word has such a depth of meaning for us.
There’s nothing wrong with translating it as “It is finished.” The work that Jesus had been sent for was completed. The Father had sent him to complete a task, and it was done. This is why the author of Hebrews says that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” Not that Jesus was ever dis-obedient, but he completed and manifested his obedience in dying on the cross. When he said “It is finished” and bowed his head and died, that was it.
But there’s another meaning to the Greek word which John decided to use to translate what Jesus said on the cross. When you were making payments on a loan and made the last one, the creditor stamped your receipt “Tetelestai.” When a prisoner finished his jail sentence, his release papers were marked “Tetelestai.” So the word could just as easily be translated as “Paid in full.”
The debt of our sins is completely paid in full. The sentence has been carried out.
Are you familiar with the concept of “double jeopardy”? It’s something forbidden in our judicial system, enshrined in our Constitution. It means that you can’t be tried twice for the same crime. Once you’ve been found not guilty by a court, the state can’t try you ever again for the same thing.
God hates sin and must punish it. He can’t let it go. He hates it with a passion for a multitude of reasons. But he won’t punish both Jesus and me for my sins.
And it also means that, since our sins are for paid for “in full,” he’ll never bring them up again. He’s all-knowing: he knows how many atoms make up the universe, and his all-seeing eye is everything at all times. There are no secrets before him. But he promises that when we receive Christ and are covered by his Son’s blood, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
I never have to worry about whether or not that sin of mine is covered. It is.
Aren’t you glad?
Father God, I never want to presume on your grace, but you go out of your way to tell us that all of my sins are forever gone, forever covered, forever forgotten. Thank you. I’m yours.