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  • Writer's pictureJan Weihl

Tetelestai (John 19)

The Greek word, TETELESTAI, which Jesus said from the cross, changes everything for me. It makes me understand The Cross. It makes me understand the price of my sins. It makes me understand that only Jesus, who is God, could pay the debt for all my sins.


TETELESTAI, "It is finished," means there is nothing left for me to pay for even one of my sins. TETELESTAI is the gospel in one word.


John 19:30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.


Our English language Bibles say 3 words, "it is finished." But in the original Greek language, those three words appear as one word: Tetelestai.


This word brings me to tears every time I hear it, now that I truly understand its meaning.


In Jesus' time:

  • When a father sent his son on a mission, the son was not to return until he had performed every act of the mission. When he returned from a successful mission, he said "tetelestai," to report to his father that he had accomplished the goal. Jesus' mission was to give His life as a ransom for many.

  • Priests would examine animals for blemishes before they were sacrificed. If the lamb was faultless, perfect, and acceptable, the priest would say, "tetelestai." Jesus is the Lamb of God who alone was "without sin" and worthy to be sacrificed. All of us are with sin and unworthy to pay the debt of even one of our sins, in this life or after this life.

  • When someone owed a debt, it was written down and nailed to a door post. When the debt was completely paid off, TETELESTAI, was written across it. Jesus was nailed to the cross and said TETELESTAI meaning the debt for all of our sins has been paid in full.

Tetelestai is the perfect tense of the verb, teleo. Teleo means to bring something to a successful end or to its intended or destined goal. It does not mean just to complete a task but to carry it out fully, to bring it to the finish, to bring it to perfection.


The perfect tense, Tetelestai, describes a PAST completed action with PRESENT effect. In other words, Jesus' death on the cross has ongoing, permanent effects.


When Jesus declared, "IT IS FINISHED," He was saying that His mission to redeem sinners had reached its intended goal and reached its perfect conclusion.


There is nothing left for us to pay, IF we have repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus' sacrifice in our place.


Our past sins, present sins, and future sins are ALL paid for by His death on the cross in our place.


The only thing left for us to do is live in gratitude that Jesus loved us enough to rescue us from the eternal death we deserve for our sins.


We live in gratitude by loving Him enough to obey His commands and share His message of salvation with as many people as possible who have ears to hear and eyes to see.


Will you share the message of Tetelestai with someone today?


Dear Lord, Thank you for the cross. Thank you for dying in my place. Thank you for paying the debt for my sins which I could never possibly atone for. Lord, thank you for loving me, forgiving me, and never giving up on me. Thank you for making a way for me to attain eternal life when my sins left me with no possible way. Lord, please strengthen me to obey your commands and share your message of love and salvation with a world that desperately needs You as much as I do. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.




Jan Weihl

Living Word Ministries

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