Good Monday Morning!
28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The word translated here as “finished”, could also be translated “complete”. When Jesus knew that he had done all that he had come to do, all was now finished, or complete – then he said one more thing, in fulfillment of scripture (completion of the prophecies) – he said, “I am thirsty.” Look at Psalm 69, verses 20 – 21, “Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair; I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Or, read Matthew’s version of the story, where some bystanders get a sponge, fill it with sour wine (vinegar), put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. (Mt 27:48)
And so, they put the sponge on a branch of hyssop – this is again symbolic – hyssop is a small, flowerlike plant; it would not be long enough or strong enough to actually hold the sponge full of sour wine. It is the plant used in the Passover, however. In Egypt, hyssop was tied into bunches and used to spread the blood of the lamb over the door-posts. The Psalms speak of cleansing with hyssop. John uses this reference to infer that Jesus is the Passover Lamb, given as a sacrifice for the salvation of the world. His blood cleanses – Going back to the temple society and the rules for clean and unclean that were a part of the Jewish world-view, blood was considered the “life-source” of the body. Blood from an animal, or a person, made one unclean, unless it were an animal offered in sacrifice – the blood of that animal was holy, and was sprinkled, or brushed with hyssop, as a cleansing ritual. Is it reading too much into John to think this is what he is inferring here? Perhaps – but throughout John’s gospel, we have found that we must read at a deeper level in order to understand, and nothing is written in this gospel that does not have meaning.
After receiving the wine, Jesus says, “It is finished.” His work on earth is completed, accomplished – he has done what he came to do. Notice, John never makes Jesus a victim, even in crucifixion. He has chosen this road, and he chooses even the time to give up his spirit. This is not something passive, done to him; it is an active verb, something he does. For John, this event, not the resurrection, is the key event of salvation. Jesus gives himself, and his work is accomplished.