Tetelestai! Tetelestai! Tetelestai!

By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.

(John 19:30)

Santa Ana United Methodist Church, Santa Ana, CA

April 14, 2017 (Good Friday, 6th of the 7 Last Words)


TEXT: (John 19:30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished!” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost (KJV).

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (NRSV).

When a Roman General returned from the battlefield and paraded his captives of war in the streets of Rome, he proclaimed his victory by shouting “Telestai! Tetelestai!”

The term tetelestai was related to successful military campaigns against the enemy. By this victory shout a clear statement was made that the enemy was conquered, and its power broken: mission accomplished!

The Greek sentence τετέλεσται (tetelestai) is translated “It is finished” in English. It comes from the root word τελέω (teleo) which means complete or accomplish. Teleo which is derived from telos (a goal achieved, a consummation, a result attained) and means to bring something to a successful end or to its intended or destined goal.

The word teleo occurs in John 19:28 and 19:30, and these are the only two places in the New Testament where it occurs. In 19:28 it is translated, “After this, when Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, ‘I thirst.’” Two verses later, he utters the word himself: “Then when he received the sour wine Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

In the New Testament times the word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts to indicate that a bill had been paid in full.

Tetelestai is in the perfect tense which describes a past completed act with present effect, emphasizing that the past completed event of Christ’s death on the Cross has ongoing, even permanent effects.

Tetelestai gives a lot of avenues for speculation among preachers. The word “it” (from It is finished) gives a lot of recollections among Christians. You hear them year after year. Today I wish to remind us with three meanings of tetelestai:

I. Tetelestai: The Salvation is Completed.

To recall our past messages, Jesus was the Lamb of God that the Father gave to humankind, and offered for the forgiveness of our sins.

We don’t need to practice what the Jews and Samaritans have been practicing re: offering animals for the forgiveness of their sins.

Jesus’ offering of himself is just one time, and it has far reaching effect. We don’t need to do it for our sins since Jesus did it for us. His sacrifice was effective before, still effective today, and still effective in the future. His sacrifice is once and for all! His sacrifice is not only for us Christians but also for all! Since salvation is offered for all peoples!

Hebrews 10:12 says, “But this man (Jesus), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God” (KJV).

We Protestants do not believe what our kababayan (countrymen, those Folk Catholics) are practicing, they do penitesiya (penitence, flagellation) hoping that through those acts their sins will be forgiven. Some of our kababayan are letting themselves to be crucified on the cross, some of them whip their bodies. Some of them allow their bodies to be sliced with knife or razor. These practices are useless in the sight of God regarding the salvation of mankind. Jesus did it already for our salvation.

II. Tetelestai: The Discipleship is Culminated.

During the Last Supper (John 13:1-17, 31b-35), Jesus still taught his disciples on how to be good Christians and disciples. He taught humility, servanthood, love one another, and the glory of God.

We can say that the three-year training of the disciples had completed or culminated. For three years they had fellowship with Jesus. They saw how the Son of God ministered to people. He inspired, and prepared them for the greater tasks ahead of them. We can say that all of them, but one, received their D.D. (Deeper Discipleship) on the cross. Their graduation was on the feet of Jesus during his suffering on the cross, and the valedictory address of Jesus for them is tetelestai!

III. Tetelestai: God’s Kingdom is Consummated.

Let me ask you, what was the first message of John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ? You are right, it was about the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

“Repent, because the kingdom from heaven is near!”  (Mt 3:2, 4:17, 23).

Jesus taught his disciples, as you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom from heaven is near!’  (Mt 10:7)

The Apostle Paul (Acts 19:8; 20:25, 28:31), and Philip also preached about the Kingdom of God (Acts 8:12).

The Kingdom is explained in many parables of Jesus. By reading them we will see the characteristics of the Kingdom. In the Kingdom we should be witnesses (Mt.5:13-16); we should pray for the harvesters (Mt.9:37-38); the kingdom is present in the world spreading and doing its work (Mt.13:24-30, 36-43). It has possibility of perfection (Mt.13:3); it is valuable (Mt.13:44-45). It teaches the value and importance of service (Mt.25:14-30; Lk.19:11-27). It emphasizes the importance of faithfulness in all we do (Lk.16:1-13). The parables affirm the presence of the Gentiles (Lk.14:7-14; 15-24; Mt.22:1-14). It costs everything to follow and to proclaim the Kingdom (Lk.14:31-33); and needs love in accommodating the lost (Lk.15:3-7; 15:8-10; 15:11-32).

The kingdom is here now, and even in the future. On the cross Jesus finished his preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and offered it to everybody who will believe in Him.

David Naugle summarizes,

“Simply put, the Kingdom is the cross! The cross is the Kingdom – in disguise! Yes, there on the cross, God in Christ conquered sin, defeated death, and triumphed over Satan. Sounds like a Kingdom victory to me! Yet it could not have appeared more unkingly. Jesus hung there in apparent defeat. There He suffered and died. Satan appears to have won the battle. Yet by this means, Jesus triumphed over God’s enemies and ours, and shares that victory with those who believe. Jesus is Christus Victor! By means of this victory, we are restored to God and our true purposes as human beings. It is the mystery of the Kingdom that makes us new creatures in Christ” (colsoncenter.org).




Tetelestai—it was a cry of victory in the hour of defeat as in John 16:33, “I have told you this so that through me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but be courageous—I have overcome the world!”

The evangelist Alexander Wooten was approached by a young man who asked, “What must I DO to be saved?” Wooten replied “It’s too late!” The young man became alarmed asking “Do you mean that it’s too late for me to be saved? Is there nothing I can DO?” Wooten replied “Too late! It’s already been DONE! (IT IS FINISHED!) The only thing you can DO is BELIEVE.”

It is done. It is finished! Tetelestai! Tetelestai! Tapos na po!

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