What Were Jesus' Last Words?
The Bible says in John 19:30, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
In Mark 15:37 we read, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” According to Bible scholars, this “loud cry” may have been those very last words that John records, “It is finished.”
He spoke it out loud. He declared it for all to hear. He uttered a loud cry to His Father in heaven for the whole world to know, and for every evil force to have to flee, for Christ’s work on the cross was complete.
Done. Accomplished. Paid in full.
Last words have power. And often, deep meaning and significance.
And if like me, any of you have ever been at the side of a precious friend or family member who was whispering final words in their last moments here on earth, you know the incredible heart connection they hold for you, personally. We often find ourselves clinging to those words as we think about a loved one who has passed away. We treasure what they said and we remember…
There’s no doubt that Jesus knew what His last words needed to be here in this life. He knew the power those final words would have for generations still to come. And He had great purpose in them, which still breathe such life and meaning for our lives today.
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The Meaning of "It is Finished" and Why It's So Significant
The Spurgeon Study Bible, a CSB translation edited by Alistair Begg, explains, "'It is finished.' There is only one Greek word for this utterance of our Lord, although to translate it into English, we have to use three words—an ocean of meaning in a drop of language."
Jesus became the final and ultimate sacrifice for our sin. The word in this verse, “finished,” is actually from the Greek word, “tetelestai,” which is the same word that means “paid in full.” Often, it was used in an accounting term, which indicates a debt was paid. The uniqueness about the way it was written is that the tense of the word indicates both a point in time it was complete and that it would also continue to be complete or finished. And this is the essence of what Christ came to do. He came to “finish” God’s work of salvation in us. He came to “pay it in full,” the entire penalty, or debt, for our sins. He’s at work in our world still today in powerful ways.
The ESV Study Bible comments, "It is finished proclaims that all the work the Father had sent him to accomplish (cf. 4:34; 9:4) was now completed, particularly his work of bearing the penalty for sins. This means there was no more penalty left to be paid for sins, for all Jesus' suffering was 'finished' (see Heb. 1:3; 9:11-12, 25-28)."
Did Jesus Ever Sin?
The Bible is clear in reminding us that Jesus had no sin. He had lived a perfect life, He was without blemish, and this is the only way He could fulfill the purpose that God has sent Him to do. Though He was tempted in all things, just as we are, He had lived a holy life. (Hebrews 4:15)
There was no other way for the door to be opened for us to have a relationship with God, but by the forgiveness of our own sin, through Christ’s payment on our behalf.
What Does it Mean that the Veil Was Torn in Half?
That day was a day of miracles…
For at the very moment that Jesus breathed his last breath, the Temple veil that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the actual dwelling place of God among the people, was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51) Sometimes, in our minds, we may picture a thin veil covering this entrance, but history records that the veil was about 60 feet tall and up to 4″ in thickness. The size of the veil would have made it impossible for any human to tear it in two pieces. This was a complete miracle from God’s hand, signifying that He had opened the door for us to come in and have a relationship with Him.
What Does Jesus' Death Mean for Us?
Up until the time of Christ’s death, there was a system set in place where sacrifices had to be offered for sin. It was complicated, and it was difficult. Frequent sacrifices were required for all types of things. It was the only way people could be forgiven, it was the only way to be made right again.
People sin every day. They did, then and we do, now. And that sin costs us greatly. It separates us from God, it sets up a barrier, it leads to further drifting away from what we know to be right, and often leads us to great despair. But the hope that we have now because of Christ’s death on the cross and His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf is this: He completed the work. He paid the sacrifice in full on our behalf. No other payment is needed. He just asks that we accept His gift of forgiveness and life.
Jesus came to save. He came to rescue us, a people without true hope, to give us a lasting life and freedom that we can only find through Him.
Did People Know Who Jesus Was?
Lives were changed that day Jesus cried out those powerful words. Many began to realize who Jesus really was, the truth revealed; they could no longer deny it.
Matthew 27:54 says, “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, Surely he was the Son of God!”
The realization sank deep. The Truth had the power to change lives, to make all things new, to offer fresh starts, new beginnings, forgiveness, and purpose. Lives are still being changed today, by the One who saved us from a debt we could never fully pay.
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What Does "It is Finished" Mean for Us Today?
They mean that Christ has overcome. He has won the victory, and that through Him, we, too, are more than conquerors.
They mean we’ve been set free.
They mean He paid the price on our behalf.
They mean there’s nothing we could ever do outside our relationship with Christ to earn God’s favor or love.
They mean He offers us a free gift.
They mean the way is cleared.
They mean we don’t have to live under the weight of condemnation, guilt, or shame.
They mean there’s forgiveness through Jesus.
They mean we have purpose, hope, and eternal life through Him.
They mean we are loved more deeply than we could ever imagine.
How Can We Find Peace and Courage from Jesus?
If you find yourself in a hard place today, take courage, my friends. Only in Christ is true peace to be found. He reminded us in His word that in this life, we would have troubles, but we can find courage because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
In spite of the struggles we may face in this life, we never walk alone, for He is with us. He will never abandon us in our trials or leave us to work it all out on our own.
Jesus never called us to embrace the world and all it offers. But He calls us to take up our own cross, and to follow Him, to be salt and light, and to walk in love.
It’s a whole new day ahead. And He has plans for you, for me, to make a difference in these days, in the life of another soul, for His purposes.
Praying that His huge grace, wisdom, and strength cover us today. And that, in Him, we will find freedom from worry as we let go of the stress that clings too tightly, the pressing needs of tomorrow, and struggles we battle today, so that we can fully embrace His gift of forgiveness and love.
He’s the Overcomer. And we are never alone.
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10 Verses that Remind Us of the Power of Christ's Death on Our Behalf:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10
Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's Facebook page, for daily encouragement in living strong, free, hope-filled lives. Find her also on Twitter and at her blog www.debbiemcdaniel.com.
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Originally published Thursday, 13 January 2022.