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Te-te-les-tai: Everything is complete

Jesus Christ Crucifix Ee Christ died on the cross to save mankind

Fri, 2 Apr 2021 Source: Rev. Fr. Benedict Adu-Frimpong (Ph.D.)

It was three O’clock. Jesus called for water. He could hardly speak. A soldier fixed a sponge on a spear and held it to his lips. It was terribly bitter but it was enough. He strained to raise his head and look to heaven. “It is finished”, he cried and then bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

At that time, the moment was filled with too much emotion for those words to sink in and to ponder what they meant. But later as the early Christians read John’s Gospel and heard again those words, it dawned on them just how powerful these dying words of Jesus were. John wrote his Gospel in Greek, and those last words of Jesus are just one word in Greek; Tetelastai (pronounced, te-te-les-sty).

The expression, “it is finished” or tetelestai was well known to them. It was a part of everyday language. When a servant had completed a difficult job that his master had given him to do, he would say to the master – tetelestai – “I have overcome all the difficulties; I have done the job to the best of my ability. It is finished.”

When the merchant at the market place made a sale and the money was handed over, he would say, “tetelestai” – the deal is finished; complete. The price has been paid in full. I am satisfied. When an artist had finished a painting or a sculpture, he would stand back and say, tetelestai – it is finished; there is nothing more that can be done to make this piece of art any better. This painting is complete.

When Jesus spoke those final words, he wasn’t thus saying, “this is the end of me” as if there was nothing else to do but to give in to his enemies and die. His last words weren’t the final surrender to the power of Satan as if to say “you have won. I am done for.” These words don’t tell us that Jesus was dead now and that is all there is to it. He is finished and so is everything that he stood for and promised during his earthly life. All those who heard the tetelestai – understood that Jesus is saying that his job of saving the world has been completed.

He has finished the task and nothing can be added to what has been done. Jesus has paid the price in full – he has cancelled all debts. What is it that is finished when Jesus says, “it is finished”? Reconciliation is finished. He has won forgiveness for all people. Nothing else needs to be done. Salvation is completed. “It is finished”.

This makes this Friday good!

I remember a certain man. If one encounters this man in the morning and greets him “good morning”. Depending on his mood that morning, the most probable and surprising responds one might get is: “what is good about this morning?” Like this man, most of us have asked: what is good about Good Friday? What is good about a day that an innocent man was condemned to death? What is good about a Friday when God was crucified and a day when hopes were shattered? What is good about a day that we are expected to leave the church in silence and sorrowful?

Without this day, perhaps there would have been no salvation for humanity. Had Christ not died, there would have been no hope of salvation for us (Jn 16:3; Rom 5:8). So, it is good because it is a blessing in disguise! On this day, the devil was put to shame, and the power of death was defeated. Hence, Paul asked: “death where is your sting, death where is your power?” (1Cor 15:55)

Again, Good Friday is the climax of our salvation. In fact, some scholars consider this day more important than Easter Sunday. This is because, they feel that without this day, the Christ event of Easter Sunday would not have been possible. Good Friday and the activities that surround it could be likened to the line in the Exultet of the Easter vigil. It describes Adam’s fall: “a happy fall.” So, just as the fall of Adam sets God’s salvific plan in motion, the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday is the climax of that same salvific plan of God for suffering and enslaved humanity.

On this Good Friday, we must remember the sufferings of Christ. This would help us to understand the degree of love that our saviour has for us. We have known love to do some powerful and strange things. Because of love, people do extraordinary things for others. God the Father allowed his son to be treated cruelly. He could have rescued him and cursed those who were treating him so brutally and maliciously. God did all these for us. He did all these because of love for us.

Jesus’ announcement, “It is finished” is clear and simple. Jesus has completed his task. The reason why he came as a human has been fulfilled. He came so that you and I can have forgiveness and salvation. He came to give us the victory. He came to ensure we will enter his kingdom and live forever.

However, we must not be stocked just in the memorial and contemplation of a passed act. Today’s celebration must help us realize that Christ continues to suffer in many of our brothers and sisters. There are many “Christs” that suffer hunger, solitude, and discrimination. Perhaps, we do not take note of them. So, our contemplation must help us see them.

Also, Christ is suffering and dying in each of us because we are still tied to many things that imprison us. We continue to be slaves of our sins, habits, and weaknesses. So, we have not achieved the happiness we have aspired for. Therefore, on this Good Friday, Christ calls us from the cross to a total change, and to be generous with our lives as he was with his for the sake of our salvation.

Peace be with you!

Columnist: Rev. Fr. Benedict Adu-Frimpong (Ph.D.)