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John 19:28–30

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (v. 30).

Crucifixion prolonged the process of death by slowly asphyxiating the victim. But since people were crucified outdoors, their bodies exposed to the elements, crucifixion also caused suffering in addition to the difficulty with breathing. Doubtless we all understand that the crucified person suffered tremendous physical pain from the nails and from hanging on a cross, but crucified victims also endured great thirst. Hanging on the cross in the heat of ancient Palestine exposed one to dehydration.

Thus, we are not surprised that Jesus cried out in thirst after hanging on His cross for some time (John 19:28). Although thirst was a normal part of crucifixion, Jesus’ thirst had additional significance. He cried out not only because He was truly thirsty but because this thirst was a fulfillment of the Scriptures (v. 28). Which Old Testament passage prophesies the great thirst of the Messiah? Some scholars have suggested that John refers to Psalm 22:15, where David speaks of his tongue sticking to his jaws. That is a plausible suggestion, especially since Psalm 22 has already been quoted in the immediate context, and since two of the Gospels tell us that Jesus Himself spoke words from the psalm while He was dying (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:24). But perhaps a better case can be made for a reference to Psalm 69:21, wherein David describes his thirst and notes that he receives sour wine, just as Jesus was offered sour wine (John 19:29). If so, then it is worth noting that Psalm 69 is a cry to God for rescue, and it concludes with David’s confidence that the Lord will rescue him and give His people dominion over the land. David himself was rescued many times by the Lord and had a great kingdom, but Jesus was finally rescued—through His resurrection—from death itself and sits at God’s right hand as ruler of all creation, with His people destined to reign with Him (Acts 2:33; 1 Cor. 15:20–28; 2 Tim. 2:12).

After receiving the sour wine, Jesus announced, “It is finished,”and surrendered His spirit to death (John 19:30). This is consonant with our Lord’s statement earlier in John’s gospel that He would lay down His life and that no one would take from Him against His will (10:17–18). After all, Jesus did not surrender His spirit to death until He had determined that His work was finished. Also, in declaring that His work was finished, Jesus indicated that nothing more has to be done for our salvation. He has fully paid for our sin, and there is nothing we need to or can add to His work on our behalf.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John: “When [Jesus] said, ‘It is finished,’ He was saying not just that His life was over but that His mission had been fulfilled. His purpose in coming to earth and going to the cross was accomplished.” Because Jesus has accomplished redemption, we can be confident that in Him, God sees us as righteous and worthy of His kingdom. We can rest in His grace, knowing that Jesus has paid for all of our sin.


For Further Study
  • Isaiah 53:10–11
  • Matthew 27:45–54
  • Mark 15:33–39
  • Luke 23:44–49

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From the November 2018 Issue
Nov 2018 Issue