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.
They offered him wine mixed with a sedative to drink. This drink was provided to ease the pain and hasten the death of those being crucified. But Jesus refused the drink for it would numb not only His pain but His mind. Jesus chose to experience the fullness of God’s wrath on our behalf. He willingly felt the sting of death without a sedative. Jesus’ work was too important to allow His mind to be numbed.
Because Jesus refused the gall, He knew when His work was complete. Jesus’ declaration of thirst prompted the soldiers to fulfill Psalm 69:21, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”
John’s inclusion of the hyssop branch points us back to the Passover when a hyssop branch was used to paint the doorposts with the blood of the lamb so God’s judgment would Passover the house. Hyssop was used by Moses to sprinkle blood on the Law and the people; it was used in cleansing ceremonies described in Leviticus and was spoken of by David in Psalm 51:7 “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
Receiving the drink, Jesus had the strength to triumphantly declare “It is Finished!” The Greek word used for “it is finished” means “paid in full.” This is what it means to be redeemed. Jesus has paid our debt in full. He has bought us out of slavery to sin so we are free to live.
Jesus fulfilled every prophecy necessary before His death. He suffered the shame of all our sin. He suffered the full measure of God’s wrath for our sin. He endured separation from His Father for the first time in eternity as the Father turned His face away from His sin covered Son. Jesus knew that His work was complete so He was at complete peace. He knew that because His Father is faithful, He would not experience decay but would be raised to the right hand of the Father. He did not die as a man who has no control over death. The battle was won and the victory declared and Jesus bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Jesus is the only man in history who had the power to lay down His life and take it up again.
And Matthew writes,
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open…
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Only God could tear the Temple curtain in half from top to bottom. The curtain represented the barrier between humanity and God’s presence. Once a year, the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place offering the blood of the goat as Atonement for the sins of the nation. Christ Himself became the sacrificial Lamb just as John the Baptist prophesied. He suffered the wages of sin, which is death, for every believer. The torn curtain signified the end of the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant and signified Christ’s torn flesh on the cross. Because Jesus’ body was broken, the barrier between humanity and God was taken away. In Christ, we may enter the very presence of God and experience complete oneness with Him.
“It is finished” means Jesus did it all and there is not one thing that we can add to redeem ourselves. We show our faith in Jesus by believing His promise that “It is finished”. When we believe that He has paid our debt in full, we are free to forgive others because we have been forgiven. We are free to love others because He first loved us. We are free to die to self, take up our cross, and follow Him!
What does that mean to you? What does that look like in your life? For me, it means forgiving an offense when everything inside of me wants to scream, “that’s not fair!” It means asking God to enable me to show love to people when they frustrate me or hurt me. It means daily choosing Christ first, others second, and myself last. These things are what I daily strive for and what I daily fail at. But God grows me day by day as I choose the victorious life He offers over the empty promises of the world.
Jesus laid down His life in victory! At the cross, Jesus opened the eyes of a criminal, of Simon of Cyrene, of the Centurion and of the soldiers guarding him to declare that surely He was the Son of God.
I hope that is your testimony today.