The Significance of Christ’s Death

It’s Good Friday, which means that today is the day on which Jesus was crucified. Now, if you know anything about crucifixion, you’ll find it odd that Christians refer to this day as Good Friday; for, crucifixion was an objectively evil practice.

Christians call this day good because of our theological commitments. First, we believe that Jesus was God walking a mile in our shows: God eating our food, God sharing in our struggles. Later in his life, the apostle John was so shocked that he had seen the God-man that he wrote concerning Jesus: “That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and touched with our hands.”[1] John couldn’t get over the fact that he literally saw, touched, and knew the Word of life himself!

Second, we call this day good because of what we believe Jesus did for us on Good Friday: We believe that on the cross, Jesus took our place by paying the penalty for our sins. It should’ve been me on that cross, and it should’ve been you. Good Friday is good because this is the day that the God-man took our place and paid the punishment that we rightly deserved.

We rejoice on Good Friday because Jesus’s victory over sin is complete, and it is final. Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus cried out in a loud voice while on the cross;[2] John, ever the theologian, gives us a bit more detail: According to John, what Jesus said in this loud voice was, “it is finished,”[3] τετελεσται. Now, this Greek word/English phrase is bursting with theological value and is begging to be the text for an Easter sermon. You could write entire books just on what Jesus meant in this phrase! This phrase is one of those phrases that is deep yet shallow—easy to understand, but impossible to comprehend.

Τετελεσται is a perfect tense verb. This verb tense’s beauty is its ability to describe an action that is completed, but which has ongoing effects. So, for example, Donald Trump’s election as the forty-fifth President of the United States is a done deal, yet we are still experiencing the effects of that election and will be for at least a few more years if not for decades.

What Jesus meant when he said “it is finished” and what John was trying to tell us is that Jesus’s work of defeating sin is completely finished. At the cross, death met its match, sin was dealt a fatal blow, the conquest was finished, the war was completed—it is done; as Jesus said put it, τετελεσται, it is finished. There is nothing more to add to Christ’s salvific work: You can’t add to it, defeat it, or change it. But, and this is significant, its effects are still with us in the present.

For non-Christians, the ongoing effects of Christ’s victory open the door for them to find salvation. As John put it near the end of the gospel that bears his name, if we “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,” we can “have life in his name.”[4] Because of what Jesus did, all non-Christians have the potential to find life in the name of Christ, the one who dismissed the charges which clamored for our death.

For Christians, the ongoing effects of Christ’s victory lead us to greater holiness as we work through our sanctification. We live in the freedom that Christ won for us. We breathe the air of his victory. We rejoice that this world is not our home. And with the two millennia of Christians who have gone before us, we cry, “come, Lord Jesus.”[5]

Notes & Sources

[1]1 John 1.1, all Scripture quotations are from the NIV.

[2]Matthew 27.50 and Mark 15.37.

[3]John 19.30.

[4] John 20.33.

[5] Revelation 22.20.

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