On a day we remember as Good Friday, Jesus came to the end of His mission as savior of the world on the cross when he exclaimed, “It is finished.” The Greek translation sums up the exclamation so well in one word: tetelestai, a word used in the ancient commercial world on business documents or receipts indicating that a debt had been paid –– in full. Interestingly, the word in John’s gospel is in a tense used to describe an action that has been completed in the past with results continuing into the present. It conveys an idea that has happened and it is still in effect today. Contemporary readers of John’s record of Christ’s last moments would have understood the comparison he intended to make. The new covenant blood shed by the Lamb of God once and for all paid for that which the old covenant blood of bulls and goats could only cover up.
So far removed from the events and culture of the Bible, for most of us today the theology dealing with God’s sentence of death as the inevitable result of sin and the only acceptable recompense being the sacrifice of an innocent victim to pay the price of redemption can be difficult to grasp. That’s why many old time hymns are so much better at explaining complex spiritual realities than a hundred learned commentaries. The words for the following classic example were written in 1865 by Elvina Hall, a member of the Monument Street Methodist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
I pray you will agree indeed that Jesus Paid It All.
I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.