These are the last recorded words of Jesus as He died on the Cross. They only appear in the Gospel of John, yet any Christian who is well-schooled in the Bible is familiar with these poignant words. But do we, as the Body of Christ, know what Jesus was referring to? In other words, as my husband has been asking of our Christian brethren lately, What does "IT" mean? What is the "IT" that Jesus has finished? And what does it have to do with us?
I have seen very intelligent and knowledgable sources say that the word "finished" comes from the Greek word tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.” They will explain that when Jesus uttered those words, He was declaring the "IT" to be the debt owed to His Father, which He wiped away completely and forever. Not that Jesus wiped away any debt that He owed to the Father; rather, Jesus eliminated the debt owed by mankind—the debt of sin.
Now, I will agree that Jesus did all that -- He certainly paid the price we all owe the Father for our sins. But, I'm not sure that is what He was referring to as being "finished". I guess I'm trying to say that I think the "It" He finished was something else. Let me tell you exactly what I think...
As I am progressing through an in-depth study of my Bible, I came across a verse in John that didn't stick out to me the first couple of times I made my way through Scripture. It happens in John, Chapter 5, when Jesus is bearing witness that everything John the Baptist said about Him is true. But then He says, in verse 36, But the testimony which I have is far greater than the testimony of John; for the works that the Father has given Me to finish—the very same works [that is, the miracles and proofs of My deity] that I am [now] doing—testify about Me, [by providing evidence] that the Father has sent Me.
And so, here's where I disagree with the accepted version of what Jesus meant when He said It is finished. True, the Greek word for "finished" can mean a levy or toll that is paid in full. But, according to Strong's Concordance, that is the secondary meaning of the word. The primary definition of the root word, tello, is "an end of a defined purpose; the conclusion of an ultimate or prophetic act". Jesus says in John 5:36 that the Father has given Him works to finish, and that those works revolve around the miracles and proofs of His deity, which will ultimately result in the glorification of the Father. So, when He says It is finished with His dying breath, I contend that He is saying "I have finished all the works You assigned Me to do to bring Your Kingdom to Earth and to glorify You, Father". Jesus says in verse 36 that these works are the greater testimony about Who He is, and Why He came.
The reason I think the modern Church doesn't see this is because it would require that we acknowledge not only the significance of "the works" He did, but that He wants us to continue those works. That's why, within the same Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as saying, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. I contend that Jesus was finished with the works the Father had assigned to Him. He had displayed His Deity through the works of signs and wonders, [healing and deliverance], and then given all who believe on Him the authority to continue those works [in John 14:12]. Furthermore, in both Matthew 28 and Mark 16, Jesus emphasizes that He wants believers to be taught to do all that He has commanded; and as they do the works He has done, it will be a sign to others to believe that the Father sent Him and that He is working through them.
But the modern Church is uncomfortable when it comes to us performing supernatural acts of healing and deliverance, which are the works Jesus did. It is more logical to the human mind to think that It is finished is simply referring to what Jesus did for us [in paying our "sin debt"], rather than to accept that He had finished His assignment of "works" for the Kingdom, and the mantle has been handed to us to continue them. Can you see that the former explanation puts the responsibility on Jesus, while the latter interpretation makes us accountable for continuing His work?
If the "IT" is simply a paid debt, it makes it easier to live the Christian life when you think that Jesus has done the work for you, rather than realizing that we are supposed to carry on the works [that glorify the Father], in His stead. And this results in a Body of Christ that is stagnant and powerless to battle the schemes of the Adversary. Think how much leeway we have given the devil when we only consider that the debt for our sin has been paid. Don't get me wrong -- what a glorious gift of Grace that is! But when you consider that there are so many people who need physical healing and demonic oppression eliminated from their lives, then the "IT" Jesus left us to do has been far from finished in our lives. There have been so few of us who recognize our charge from the Lord, that the "IT" has barely even begun!
Yes, Jesus finished His part. He did exactly what the Father commanded Him to do. But a huge part of His assignment was to model for us the work that the Father wants us to continue until Jesus returns. As He hung in agony on the Cross, Jesus was declaring to the Father that He had ushered in the Kingdom on earth, and He had left the Father's work to be continued by those who believe in Him. That stage of the Father's plan was surely finished. It's time we make up for all the lost opportunities to show His glory and the manifestation of His Kingdom here on the earth. Our part of the Father's plan won't be finished until the last person accepts Christ as His Savior. Until then, we need to use every tool He left us to accomplish that goal, and that includes the supernatural works that He did. By neglecting them, we are not being obedient to all that He commanded us to do. I'm not finished; are you?
Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven".