They are the three best words to hear: “I love you.” Though my wife Julie has said these words to me hundreds, even thousands of times, I never tire of hearing them.
Three words. Each word, drenched with meaning.
I. Me, Specifically. From my heart. Joined with my mind. My entire being.
Love. Cherish. Esteem highly. Adore. Delight in. Treasure.
You. Specifically. The object of my love. No one else is in the picture, in this expression of love.
On Good Friday, as the Lord Jesus hung on the cross, He spoke a word that we translate into a three word phrase, which are the gift-from-God equivalent of our telling each other I love you. Just as He was to breath His last, the Lord Jesus said, “It is finished.”
The word He spoke was tetelestai. It means to reach the end of something, to complete it. Thus, we translate it “It is finished.”
What was finished? The Lord has in mind His purpose of coming into the world, that to which He pointed as He told His disciples that He would be handed over to be crucified, and that He would be raised from the dead on the third day—and as He said it in John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
We can be assured we understand Him correctly as we look at the elemental meaning of tetelestai: the goal has been reached.
When I learned this, it made “It is finished” sing for me! How much more specific can the Lord Jesus be? The goal? What goal? He was born in our flesh for the purpose of taking on our sin. With tetelestai, He’s telling us, “I’ve completed the work of paying for your sins. The job is done. It is finished.”
Also, immediately after He said tetelestai, “He gave up His spirit (John 19:30)” and died. Of course, He did. There was nothing left to do. He said everything from the cross He needed to say. He’d fulfilled every prophecy about the Messiah—about Him. He perfectly fulfilled His Father’s will. He suffered physically, which provided us a picture of the suffering we could not see—His bearing our sins in His flesh—of which He spoke when He cried out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Matthew 27:46)?”
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And what is neat about this blessed truth are the words the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to pen immediately preceding it: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this.” There it is. In the Lord Jesus’ death is God the Father’s I love you.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son—the opening portion of John 3:16. And for what purpose did He give His Son to finish what we could not do, which is the perfect fulfilling of God the Father’s will? His purpose was that by our believing in His Son we would not perish but have eternal life—the balance of John 3:16.
“It is finished” is Good Friday’s “I love you.”
That’s you, dear reader. You are the object of the Lord’s affection. You are the reason the Good Shepherd laid down His life. You are the one for whom Jesus reached the goal of bearing the sins of the world—yes, including your sins.
No wonder we call that awful Friday “Good”!