John 19:28 “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
The three words of Christ, “…it is finished” are probably the most significant three words in the Bible. We rob ourselves of the significance of these words if we dumb them down to simply mean that Christ was about to die. When Christ cried out “it is finished”, He was not simply announcing His physical death, but He was proclaiming His victory. He had finished His course, accomplished His mission, and there was nothing left to do.
Isn’t it ironic that the very thing that His accusers and killers thought would end His life and reign was actually the very thing that God would use to offer them eternal life. They crucified the chosen One, but in the sovereign and providential hand of God, it would turn out to their advantage. Why? Because salvation does not come through trusting in our own works and deeds, but it comes through faith in the perfect, finished work of Christ. Christ had to die for the work to be finished!
The Greek word that we translate as “finished” is tetelestai. It refers to a completed action, or a completed goal. Christ was not sent by God simply to live life as a human, and then die. Christ was sent by God to undo the damage that was done in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve transgressed the clear Law of God and therefore brought sin into this world. The consequences of the sin in the garden brought spiritual death to everyone born since Adam, because we were all born under the law and in our sins. As a result of our sinful state, we all “…fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
However, Christ fulfilled the Law in our place! I think that in the Church, this is what we call good news. The good news of the gospel is that although we are “dead” in our trespasses and sins and we “fall short” of the glory of God and we are unable to fulfill the standard of righteousness outlined in God’s clear Law, Christ has finished the work on our behalf that through faith in Him we might be saved.