You may have never thought about this, or you may think that it’s impossible to determine the most important word ever spoken. To the contrary, it is quite obvious, once I make you aware. I am referring to the single most important word ever uttered in the history of the planet! The answer is: “tetelestai”. If you think this looks like Greek, you’re right. But most historians & scholars agree that this is the language that was most likely spoken at this time & for this particular event – the most important word. And since it is absolutely that, I believe it is valuable to be able to say it, just as it was spoken. It is pronounced “teh-tel-eh-stye”. Go ahead say it. “tetelestai”. Good, don’t you love the sound of it? You will.So what does it mean? The translation can vary slightly (another reason to know the original word, so you get it exact), but is usually rendered “It is finished”, or “It has been finished” (Jn 19:30). This word was the 6th of 7 statements made by Christ on the cross. So now what does this mean? To fully appreciate it, we must first understand what was happening during this crucial time in history.
The cross of Christ is the central event of the entire universe. Everyone before it, looked forward to it, and everyone after looks back. Christ was on the cross for 6 hours (9 to 3). During the first 3 hours He took abuse from men, the jeering & mocking, etc (Mt 27:39-44). The second 3 hours He took abuse from God Himself (Mt 27:46, Is 53:4-6). This is why the sky turned dark (Mt 27:45). It was between the Father & the Son alone, too personal, too sacred for anyone else to watch. It was during this time that Christ was actually being pushed into hell to suffer the wrath of a holy God on our behalf (Rom 1:18, 1Pe 2:24). We are incapable of understanding the shock, torment, and loneliness of such an experience, especially for One who had never sinned or been separated from the Father (2Cor 5:21). But it must be so to satisfy God’s justice, the payment for sin must be made. So somehow, again beyond comprehension, in a finite amount of time, Jesus endured an infinite amount of suffering & wrath. He literally became sin for us (2Cor 5:21).
Just before 3:00 Jesus states, “I thirst” (Jn 19:28). Previously He refused anything that might reduce His suffering (Mt 27:34), but now He asks for it. Why? He was about to utter “tetelestai”. To declare to the world & all of history that the most significant accomplishment of all time had been finished (Jn 19:28). The perfect sacrifice had been made. The sinless one paid the price for all us sinners (1Pe 3:18). God’s wrath had been satisfied, and His holiness maintained (1Jn 2:2, Hab 1:13, Rom 3:21-26). To make this declaration, Jesus needed to moisten His parched mouth & throat so that He could speak loud & clear for all of us to hear, that wonderful truth of His finished work. In Mt 27:50 it says “He cried out in a loud voice.” That loud voice was “tetelestai”!! His work on earth had been finished. “tetelestai”! Truly, this was and is the most important word ever spoken. Amen?
– Daniel Kuban (5/25/09)