28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30)
Among Jesus’ last words said from upon the cross, this is the last phrase he spoke before breathing his last breath. While in the English, as we read it, this phrase consists of 3 words, in Greek, the original language, there was only one word spoken- “tetelestai”. Within this one final word of Jesus, the entire gospel of Jesus Christ is summarized.
During Jesus’ time, when you incurred a debt that you could not pay, you were thrown into a debtor’s prison, and when that happened, then you were completely helpless; there was no way that you could pay your own debt while imprisoned. In order for you to be set free, somebody else had to come on your behalf and pay your debt off for you. Once your debt was paid, you were given a piece of paper listing your debts with one single word written across it- “tetelestai”- meaning that your debt was paid in full.
When Jesus spoke this word from the cross he was declaring freedom from the debts that we have all incurred in our lives. He was declaring freedom and forgiveness for sins- past, present, and future- which imprison us and keep us from a relationship with God. This proclamation of Jesus, tetelestai, is a declaration that we have been set free, and that the laundry list of sins that Satan tries to use against us is null and void, for our debt has been paid in full.