The Glory Of The Cross 
In our final meditation of this series we consider the last of the sayings of the cross recorded by John (19.26-30). First was a cry of sympathy (vv.26-27) followed by a cry of suffering (vv.28-29) and, finally, a cry of service (v.30).
‘It is finished’ is the translation of a single Greek word, tetelestai, the root word being teleo meaning ‘not merely to terminate a thing, but to carry out a thing to the full’ (WE Vine). The word is in the perfect tense, signifying an action in the past with on-going and permanent results. Tetelestai was a word used by four kinds of individuals:
Servants. When a particular work assigned to a servant had been successfully completed, he would return to his master with the word ‘tetelestai’. In like manner, the Perfect Servant gave affirmation of the finished work He had accomplished on behalf of His Father (John 4.34; 17.4).
Priests. When examining sacrificial animals, the priest would use the word ‘tetelestai’ to describe a perfect sacrifice, without blemish and spot, and thus fit for the altar. At Calvary, the perfect sacrifice was made – the Lamb of God offered Himself without spot to God.
Artists. Sometimes an artist could take years to perfect a masterpiece. When the final touches were complete, he would stand back and proclaim ‘tetelestai!’ Calvary is the centre of the Divine masterpiece of salvation forged in eternity past. All the types and prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the first advent of Christ were gloriously fulfilled. Indeed, Paul says ‘When they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre’ (Acts 13.29).
Merchants. When a debt was paid, the promissory note was stamped with the word ‘tetelestai’ meaning ‘paid in full’. The debt that was due to our sins, which we could not pay, has been paid in full by the precious shed blood of Christ. He gave Himself a ‘ransom for (on behalf of) all’ without exception (1 Tim. 2.6). He is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2.2). Thus, there is provision in the death of Christ for a whole world of lost sinners – salvation is freely offered to all, but obtained and enjoyed only by those who believe.
It is worth comparing the three great ‘finished’ works of the Bible – creation (Gen. 2.1), the temple (1 Ki. 6.14) and Calvary. In terms of who effected these works, God created all things by Jesus Christ (Eph. 3.9) and the Spirit brooded over the face of the waters (Gen. 1.2). The temple required a workforce of 183,850 men. But at Calvary, Christ purged our sins ‘by Himself’ (Heb. 1.3); His ‘own self’ bare our sins (1 Pet. 2.24). In terms of the duration of the finished works, creation will last for approximately 7,000 years before being folded up as a vesture (Heb. 1.12). The temple lasted approximately 370 years before being destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Thank God the work of Calvary endures for eternity. Finally, what of the cost of these various works? Creation merely cost God His word and He was not impoverished by the outlay of creative power. The temple was constructed with gold and silver worth in the region of £140 billion in today’s money. But Calvary cost God His Son, and cost Christ Himself! No greater price could possibly have been paid.
Surely our hearts rejoice with Spurgeon: “Tetelestai! An ocean of meaning in a drop of language. It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. IT IS FINISHED is the most charming note in all of Calvary’s music.”