John 18:1-40 & John 19:1-30
This famous piece of footage shows the determination of a long distance runner in the Women’s Marathon race at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 and her desire to finish the race under her own power, without assistance, to finish legitimately and to finish well and to accomplish her dream.
It’s hard to watch.
Now think about Jesus – starting his last earthly marathon to Jerusalem, and then onwards to the finish line at Golgotha.
Starting strong but now stumbling towards the finish, people standing on the sideline, some jeering – Jesus doing what only He could do – putting one aching leg in front of another – breathing with laboured breaths, drinking in his own sweat and blood – looking up from time to time to see the finish line – running in the light while all stumble in darkness – many wishing that this light were snuffed out for the offence that it brings.
And there at Golgotha – he is stopped – not hoisted on the shoulders of a cheering crowd – but nailed to a cross and hoisted upwards.
Not to receive a trophy but to become the trophy itself – a symbol not of victory and grace but of defeat and disgrace. Another trophy of a misguided people in a world of misguided people.
But – for Jesus – there is still a final line to be crossed.
The line from a life well lived to a life snuffed out – sacrificed for all so we might have everlasting life.
So Jesus in verse 30 says the words originally written and recorded in Greek: ‘Tetelestai’ – ‘it has been finished’ or ‘It has been accomplished’.
We often hear these words simply as ‘It is finished’.
But the Greek word speaks volumes about not only the race but what has just happened and what happens now.
The word ‘Tetelestai’ is in the past, perfect tense, but it is indicative – not ‘It is finished.’ – But ‘It has been finished or accomplished’.
This end simply means that the legacy or effects of that completion will still occur. If we say the house is finished – it signifies a full stop.
If we say the house has been finished – there is an understanding of the benefit that now accrues – and so it is with Jesus.
His death means our redemption – ‘It is finished ‘only recognises the finality or end of a life, a project or a mission.
To hear Jesus say ‘It has been finished, it has been accomplished’ places not only the stamp of approval or success of what has led up to this point but also what the benefit is.
The feeling of accomplished would be like that of a marathon runner who is simultaneously exhausted but deeply satisfied at the end of a race – seeing the fulfilment of a hope and a vision.
The richness of the word ‘Tetelestai’ – is also in its usage in the judicial and business world of the first century. Roman citizens who were gaoled for a crime, were given a document upon release saying that they had paid for the crime – called a tetelestai’. In business it was a receipt or business document that meant a transaction was completed or ‘paid in full’ and handed over to the beneficiary. The transaction also known in Latin as ‘consummatum est’ and meant that the debt had been paid in full and the transaction accomplished or consummated.
The ‘tetelesti’ or accomplishment of Jesus paid our debt once and for all and gave us the benefit of our own redemption.
When Jesus ‘gave up his Spirit’ – or more precisely ‘delivered up his Spirit’ – he handed it to the God who was there right with him, even on that terrible Thursday night and Friday.
We should not forget that in our race to the finish, or to the accomplishment’.
Let’s think now to another race – that reminds us of our father, our God, our redeemer, our paraclete – who supports us and helps up to finish well. In him we realise that we cannot run the race of faith in our own strength.