Tetelestai!!: My Debt is Paid in Full

We know the story. The story of Jesus dying on the cross, being buried, and rising again on the third day. We celebrate it. We acknowledge it. But does this truth change us? Today, I want to examine the phrase “it is finished” within its original context.

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:29-30). 

It was done. It was finished. On a Friday afternoon hanging on a cross, Jesus had fulfilled his mission that He had been given by the Father. But what does it mean that He finished?

Tetelestai, the Greek translation of the phrase “it is finished,” is an accounting term. Whenever a bill was paid, the word tetelestai was written over the contract to indicate the person’s debt being paid in full.

Imagine that you owed a great debt. Back then, to pay off your debt, you would become an indentured servant, working under the rule of a master to pay back what you owed.

Now imagine that one day, your master calls you into the house from the heat of the day. He sits you down at the table, and he pushes the mutually agreed contract towards you. You still owe a lot of money. An amount that you’re not ever going to be able to pay.

You take it and begin to look it over. Confused, you look at it, and you can’t believe what you see. You squint, you rub your eyes, but the same word keeps appearing in red across the contract: Tetelestai.

You look up at your master and he nods. “Someone came in this morning and paid your debt in full. You are free.”

Tears roll down your face. Joy begins to well up within you. You start shaking uncontrollably, weeping. After a few minutes you grab the paper and bolt from the house, running down the street, waving the paper wildly in the air, screaming “TETELESTAI, TETELESTAI!” “MY DEBT HAS BEEN PAID IN FULL!”

That would change a person right? They would be overcome with gratitude and hope knowing that once an insurmountable debt they had carried had now been paid in full.


When Jesus breathed his last on the cross, he uttered that same word tetelestai. But the debt that Jesus paid was greater than monetary value. He was paying a debt that had been on the hearts and minds of every human ever since the first sin. He was paying a debt that the priests could not overcome, or the blood of bulls and goats could not cover. He was paying a debt that no one before or after Him would be able to pay. He was paying a debt that separated the Creator from a relationship with His creation.

He paid that debt with Himself. His blood. His pain. His suffering. His perfect sacrifice. He paid it.

And now, its paid in full.

You, as a sinner, were born with debt, and that debt has just accumulated and accumulated over time. So much so, that there is no way you are going to be able to pay it. Your good works in comparison to measuring up to a infinitely holy and righteous God look pretty pathetic. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. Jesus came to the earth as fully God and fully man to live the perfect life you couldn’t live, and to to die on the cross to pay for your debt. And He paid for it once and for all. Its fully paid.

That means every bad thing you ever have done, are doing, and will do, is paid in full. That means that every bad thought you’ve ever had, every bad motivation, every insecure moment, every rebellious action, every non righteous, self righteous, prideful, selfish, out of control moment that you have ever had, will have is completely paid for by the blood of Christ.

Paid in full. Wow.



The Old Testament gives us an incredible example of this. The Year of Jubilee. For one year, all monetary debt would be forgiven, all prisoners would be released, all property would be returned to its original owners, all work and work contracts would cease, and rest would ensue over the land and the people.

Imagine what this year would have looked like. People’s debts and contracts torn in half, laying in heeps on the ground. Prisoners walking out of prisons, released from their bondage. Companies would shut down, and workers would go home, and be with their families and their friends. What an amazing picture! Jobs and debts that these people had probably carried for a long time, years and years and years, gone. Forgiven. Mistakes people had made that had landed them in prison, forgotten and removed.

I’m sure it was a huge party in Israel. People were able to finally rest and live with joy and peace. They could love others sincerely. They made the most of their time. They were given second chances. They were able to enter into true rest.

Isn’t that the idea of this weekend? That Good Friday and Easter are all about understanding that we once had this enormous debt that weighed on us and left us weary, but now that debt has been paid in full. And now we can enter true rest.

Your debt has been paid in full. Complete. Whole. Entirely. Do you live like with that truth at the forefront? These people that had their debts forgiven, their properties returned, their mistakes annulled, their rest remembered.

Don’t you think they lived differently?

Don’t you think in light of knowing the fullness of the debts that had been forgiven and their lives restored that they experienced true joy and true rest?

Don’t you think they served others out of the understanding that they had been forgiven of great atrocities and great debts?

Don’t you think that they made the most of their time?

Don’t you think that they had true compassion on others because they understood they had been forgiven of enormous debts?

I believe the answer to all those questions is yes. And you see it throughout Scripture. Those that understand the depths of their debt understood the fullness of what it meant to have that debt forgiven and paid for in full. The woman at the well. The blind man. The disciples. Paul. The woman caught in adultery. And many more!

And that’s what its all about. Working and serving Jesus out of the understanding that our great debt has been forgiven. We live and work out of the overflow of the understanding of our debt being erased. That’s where true rest and true peace and joy and life comes from.

Your debt has been paid for in full.

Now go.  Spread the gospel. Love others. Make disciples.

Out of the overflow of what you have been given, go and love others as Christ has loved you.


Blessings and Happy Easter y’all.


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