When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
Michelangelo’s works explored many facets of the life of Jesus, yet one of the most poignant was also one of the most simple. In the 1540s he sketched a pieta (a picture of Jesus’ mother holding the body of the dead Christ) for his friend Vittoria Colonna. Done in chalk, the drawing depicts Mary looking to the heavens as she cradles her Son’s still form. Rising behind Mary, the upright beam of the cross carries these words from Dante’s Paradise, “There they don’t think of how much blood it costs.” Michelangelo’s point was profound: when we contemplate the death of Jesus, we must consider the price He paid.
The price paid by Christ is captured in His dying declaration, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The term for “it is finished” (tetelestai) was used in several ways—to show a bill had been paid, a task finished, a sacrifice offered, a masterpiece completed. Each of them applies to what Jesus did on our behalf on the cross! Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Jesus’ willingness to take our place is the eternal evidence of how much God loves us. As we contemplate the price He paid, may we also celebrate His love—and give thanks for the cross.
How could each meaning of tetelestai be applied to the cross of Jesus and what He accomplished there? Why does each one have meaning to you?
Father, when I consider the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf, I am humbled and deeply grateful. Thank You for Jesus, and thank You for the cross.
Why is the gospel of John so different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke? The likely answer is that John was writing somewhat later in the first century ad and under different circumstances. While the biggest challenge facing the authors of Matthew, Mark, and Luke was whether Jesus was the promised Messiah who inaugurated God’s kingdom, for John the most pressing question is whether Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Some false teachers had begun to claim that Jesus was merely human and not truly God. Others said Jesus may be divine, but He only appeared to be human. John writes to combat both false teachings. Only if Jesus is fully human and fully divine can He provide salvation for the sins of the world. The consistent theme throughout John’s gospel is that Jesus is the self-revelation of God, who provides eternal life to all who believe (see 3:16).
Adapted from Understanding the Bible: The Gospels. Read it at DiscoverySeries.org/Q0414.