Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus away. 17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). 18 There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth,the King of the Jews.” 20 The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.
21 Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”
22 Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dicefor it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.”So that is what they did.
25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.”And from then on this disciple took her into his home.
28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 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. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:16-30
I’m a get-to-the-destination kind of guy, rather than an smell-the-roses-and-enjoy-the-journey fellow. I get things done. It’s a strength. It can also be a weakness. I can miss the beauty all around me, fail to enjoy the blessings of the journey, and pass by the joys of relationships as I pursue my goals.
There is a time, however, when you simply must finish the trip. You simply must get on with it and arrive. Jesus displayed the perfect balance of enjoying the journey of life and accomplishing his mission. After three years with his disciples he has now come to the end of his work on earth. He will go to the cross. He will be crucified. He will die. But as he dies – and even as he responds to others along the way to the cross, and to those around him as he dies (not enjoying the journey as it were, but certainly embracing the full significance of each moment) he proclaims: It is finished.
The Greek here is quite interesting. Τετέλεσται is a perfect indicative passive tense. It is completely accomplished. His work stands finished (as the German would express it). There has been some interesting debate about the use of this word to indicate: PAID IN FULL. The word would be stamped on bills to show that they were paid in full. Some even suggest that upon completion of a criminal’s prison term τετέλεσται would be stamped on his prison papers. See discussion below for further insights about this.
Jesus work is finished, and that his work has paid the penalty for our sins. We owed a debt we could not possibly pay. Jesus paid the price that only he could afford. And he announces – as he dies – that the debt is paid. His mission is accomplished. His work is done. He could entrust himself into the Father’s hands. He could rest from his labors.
This is no cry of defeat. It is the declaration of one who has already said, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again (John 10:17-18).
Jesus’ work of redemption is completely complete. His work in our hearts and lives has just begun.
PS: Here is a post on a discussion board regarding the word, τετέλεσται.
[Prisoners’] crimes [were] listed on a note that was posted at the prison where they were kept, and it correlated the crimes to the amount of punishment they were to serve. Then, at the end of their sentence, the jail keeper would stamp the paper with “Τετέλεσται“, meaning “PAID IN FULL.”
Tετέλεσται was stamped on paid bills and debt certificates in the first century. Not all the time was the root τελέω in this same third-person perfect passive form, but from the earliest records, including works of Plato (e.g. Alcibiades), Aristophanes and Xenophon, this verb has been used to refer to the payment of debt or (usually) taxes. In papyri fragments dating from the first century (as well as other centuries) the same verb is used with reference to debt complaints, receipts of payment and tax documents (see “THE OXYRHYNCHUS PAPYRI”).