So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30 NKJV)
The Savior’s final words from the cross were a prayer of childlike faith: “Father, into your hands I entrust My spirit” (Luke 23:46 HCSB). Only moments earlier, the witnesses gathered around the dying Savior heard Him shout something else, a single word that was essentially a Greek accounting term. “Tetelestai!”
Our English Bible translates that term in a way that drains it of the legal and financial connotations it clearly carried for hearers of Jesus’ day. The best most can come up with is the plain-vanilla phrase, “It is finished.”
Yet, tetelestai does not mean merely that a thing has concluded. It does not simply indicate that the curtain has come down and the show is over or “The End.” No, to declare a thing tetelestai is to decree that all has been accomplished, everything formerly lacking has now been supplied. The wound has been healed. The obligation has been met. The debt has been completely satisfied!
Jesus’ "tetelestai!" declared an end to man’s Tower-of-Babel religious striving to build a ladder back to heaven. God Himself had come down and done what no fallen man could do. That is, satisfy mankind’s staggering legal and spiritual obligation to divine justice.
In an 1861 sermon, Charles Spurgeon explained what Jesus meant when He cried from the cross, “It is finished!”
The Savior meant that the satisfaction which He rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and forever, by the one offering made in Jesus’s body on the tree (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 7, Sermon 47).
Powerful, grace-based praying begins with an understanding of Jesus’ cry of tetelestai. To pray prayers of grace starts with the humbling, liberating realization that Christ has done all the work for our atonement. All that remains is to receive it.
Prayer of Declaration:
Father, I thank You for sending Jesus to pay my debt in full. Through His sacrifice, the demands of holy justice woven into the fabric of the universe at the moment of creation have been fully satisfied. I rejoice in the glorious truth that I can come to You with no sense of obligation, indebtedness, or shame.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your willingness to come. I will not insult Your grace by seeking to add a single thing to a work You declared complete with your shout of “Tetelestai!” nor will I try to pay against a debt You have declared, “Paid in full.” I will humble myself and gratefully receive everything You died to provide for me; everything Your Word declares is mine.
I have everything I need pertaining to life and godliness, down to the smallest detail. Your will is being done in my life here on earth just as it is in heaven!