A single word said by Jesus Christ from the cross lifted Peter from despair to hope, from cowering to courage, from vacillation to steadfastness. It opened a truth to him that made the cross forever the basis of all his thinking. It changed him from the rolling pebble of Good Friday to the Rock of Gibraltar he was for all the years ahead. Nothing affected him more than that single word from the cross.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t there to hear it. He would have heard it later in the reports from Mary and John and the others who were at the cross. But when he heard it, under the influence of the empowering Holy Spirit, he came out of hiding, out of his dark despair, out of his doubts and burst on the scene as a great pillar of faith for the church.
It is what led him to write in I Peter 1:3 “…an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…” Peter used words for a peculiar permanence, imperishable, unfading.
And in I Peter 1:18, he strangely contrasted the blood of Jesus Christ not with things impure but with things that are impermanent. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ…”
In I Peter 1:23 “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable…”
Even when Peter mentioned the Scriptures, he could not help but include this idea of permanence. “…the living and enduring word of God. For, All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
And, in Chapter 5 of First Peter, in his exhortation to elders, he again emphasized permanence. I Peter 5:4 “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” Settled permanence.
For all of us who long for such steadfastness of faith, 1 Pet. 5:10 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Peter said that all of this, and every blessing, was founded on the cross.
I Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…”
I Peter 3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
On that cross God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us. God laid on him the iniquity of us all. Every transgression, every failure to match God’s kind of righteousness, every sin in thought, word, and deed, things done and left undone, our denials and vacillations, our failures and faithlessness, all of it was laid on Jesus on the cross.
Though it was about three in the afternoon, the sky became dark as if nature itself could not bear to look on our sin laid on Him. God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we in him might be made the righteousness of God. The great transaction was permanently accomplished there, his death for ours, our sin to him, his life to us.
All this was accomplished on the cross. And it was the very last word from the cross that changed Peter and can change you and me. Mark recorded in his Gospel that Jesus cried out with a loud voice just before he gave up His spirit. Matthew said that he cried out loudly and the veil of the temple was torn open. Luke also mentions the loud cry and that it was followed by Jesus yielding up His spirit. But they do not say what Jesus cried out.
John fills in the missing piece by revealing exactly what Jesus shouted the moment before he yielded up his life. “Tetelestai!” he cried.
It was a shout of victory. In Greek, which he certainly spoke, it was the one word: tetelestai.
It was in the perfect tense, the tense of completed action. It’s the difference between I came and I have come, the latter carrying the idea of settled permanence. I have come and I’m staying.
Jesus’ cry, tetelestai,” is often translated as “it is finished,” but its meaning is so much more than that. All that He came to do as the Lamb of God stood completed, and the results stand complete forever. It stands finished, it has been accomplished, for you and for me from now through all eternity.
That’s why Peter could move from despair to hope. Because of the completed work of Christ on the cross, all our blessings are imperishable, unfading, enduring, permanent through all the days and eons ahead.
It’s all accomplished, and stands forever in settled permanence: If you have come to Jesus Christ in faith, you are forgiven, you are adopted into God’s family, you have been redeemed from futility, and you have life that will burst right through death and go on forever. Because of the cross, Christ’s tetelestai cry of victory is yours, this day and always.