Finished | Devotion #5: “TETELESTAI”
A few years back, my wife got her first tattoo. It hurt so bad (on the top of her foot) that she said she would never get another. Well, now she has four and thinking of another. For a number of years, she has told me to get one. Although not against tattoos, I just could not think of something I wanted permanently put on my body that would not look ridiculous years from now. So I always told her I would think about it.
Late in the summer of 2014, I heard about the prison trips that our church was going on, and after praying about it, decided to go on one. It changed my life. I was taken out of my comfort zone socially and spiritually and launched into an environment that was raw and real. I had never witnessed broken people like that before. I had participated in jail ministry before, but this was completely different. There were men coming up to you asking if you would pray with them about their faith, family, health, safety, and their court case. I realized that the faith that had sustained me, and for the most part I had kept to myself, was exactly what these men were searching! So, I opened my mouth and trusted God.
I quickly realized that I am an addict; I was addicted to seeing people coming to be self-aware of their need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I saw my life and faith change, just like the men’s lives with whom I was praying. They would transform right in front of my eyes. I brought those experiences home with me and could not shut up about it! The next year, I went on almost every prison trip. They could not keep me away. I did whatever the team needed so it was difficult for them to say I could not go.
Realizing that tattoos are a big deal in prison, I actually started thinking of something to have tattooed on my forearm so that an inmate would look at it and ask what it meant. Secondly, it would appease my wife. I came across a picture of the Greek word, “TETELESTAI.” Greek is the language in which the New Testament was written, and “TETELESTAI” is written as the account of Jesus’ last words before dying for every person’s sins. John 19:30 says, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” “It is finished” is the most common translation, but more specifically translated “TETELESTAI” is an accounting term. When you had a debt that had been completely paid for, in Greek you would say “TETELESTAI,” or “paid in full.” I fell in love with the word.
Dying on the cross the way He did, Jesus paid the debt for me that I could not pay on my own. He did not make a down payment, partial payment, or an installment. It was completed, done, finished, and “paid in full!” Someone has to pay for your sin and mine. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Without Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, we would have to pay the debt our sin creates with God. Jesus’ proclamation just before He died, paid the debt for everyone that accepts that payment in their place. It is not a loan; it is a gift! His death makes our debt, paid in full.
I made sure of the spelling, picked out a font and style, went to the tattoo artist my wife went to and had three crosses with the word “TETELESTAI” next to them tattooed on my forearm. Now, when an inmate or anyone on the street sees it and asks what it means, I am able to say, “It is a daily reminder that there was an extravagant price paid for me to be able to have a relationship with God and a place in His family. Can I tell you about it?”
I hope I never tire of telling people why I have a funny looking word tattooed on my arm. That funny looking word means everything to me!