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The gospels record Jesus speaking seven times while He was on the cross. John sees fit to record just four of them: “Behold your son,” “Behold your mother,” “I am thirsty,” and “It is finished.” We have already discussed the first two sayings, but before His work was “finished,” another prophecy had to be fulfilled.
John 19:28-30 says,
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30 Therefore, when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Jesus was offered sour wine or “vinegar” (KJV) four times in all, the above being the last. The first offer was wine mixed with myrrh, which He refused (Mark 15:23). The second time it was wine mixed with “gall,” that is, opium (Matt. 27:34). Both myrrh and opium would have been helpful in reducing the pain of crucifixion, but Jesus refused both of these.
The third offer is recorded in Luke 23:36, where Jesus was offered sour wine as part of the mockery after He had been lifted up on the cross. John records only the fourth and last offer, which came at Jesus’ own request.
Matt. 27:46 tells us that Jesus began to quote Psalm 22, beginning with verse 1 at “the ninth hour,” as He neared the end of His life. He began in Psalm 22:1 saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani,” Matt. 27:47 says that some said (mocking), “This man is calling for Elijah” and verse 49 adds, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.”
It may be that His words were unclear, due to having a dry mouth as well as the strain of the ordeal itself. It is certain that they did not misunderstand the word Eli, “My God.” I do not take their statements as being serious but as a continuation of the mockery. In other words, they pretended to misunderstand Him, knowing that Elijah would not come to save Him. The presence of the chief priests at the crucifixion probably added fuel to the mockery, as the people and temple guards tried to please their elders.
Mockery is often a psychological attempt to hide and suppress the inner voice of their violated conscience. Mark 15:31 says,
31 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.”
Matt. 27:41, 42 bears witness to this as well. Luke 23:35 refers to them more generally as archon, “the rulers.”
Darkness fell at noon, “the sixth hour” (Matt. 27:45; Luke 23:44), and the sun remained darkened during the time that the people would normally kill the Passover lambs. The law specified that the lambs could be killed between the two evenings (Exodus 12:6, literal Hebrew), referring to the time between noon (when the sun began to go down) until the actual sunset.
In practice, however, the priests had established the rule that no one should kill the lambs prior to the six-and-a-half hour (i.e., 12:30 pm) to avoid inadvertently breaking the law. Likewise, it was unlawful to kill the lambs after dark (sunset). Hence, when darkness came at noon, it must have thrown the people into confusion, preventing them from killing the lambs until the sun shined again.
It was at the end of the ninth hour that Jesus died, immediately after concluding the psalm with “It is finished.” So when the darkness ended, all the people killed their lambs virtually at the same time just as Jesus died as the true Lamb of God.
When Jesus concluded His quotation of Psalm 22, which is one of the greatest prophecies of the suffering Messiah, He said “It is finished,” using the Greek word, teleo, “to bring to a close, to finish, to end.” It is the Greek equivalent of the last word in Psalm 22, asah, which is rendered in the NASB as “He has performed it.” The word means “to labor or make,” and when used in the past tense, it means that one’s work is finished.
That is how John understood it when he used the Greek word teleo. John was the only one to tell us Jesus’ final word on the cross that brought His work to a conclusion. This coincided with the end of Psalm 22 as well, indicating that He quoted the entire psalm from the first verse to the last.
But Jesus did not quote the psalm without interruption. I suspect that His quotations fit the circumstances around Him, as the people fulfilled each section of Psalm 22. Just before the end, there was one final prophecy that still had to be fulfilled. It came not from Psalm 22 but from Psalm 69, which was another important messianic psalm prophesying of His rejection. Psalm 69:21 reads,
21 They also gave me gall [rosh, “poppies,” i.e., opium] for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Opium is a biblical type of heart bitterness, which is iniquity, the root of sin. It is described in Deut. 29:18, where we read of idolaters,
18 so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit [rosh, “poppies”] and wormwood [lahanah, “opium”].
Moses describes this again in Deuteronomy 32:32, 33,
32 For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison [rosh, “poppies”], their clusters bitter. 33 Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison [rosh] of cobras.
Opium was bitter tasting, and it was often put into wine for those who were addicted to it. Moses tells us that opium is as cruel (aksar) as a cobra. No doubt this is the “root of bitterness” that afflicted the heart of Esau (Heb. 12:15).
Jesus had refused the opium prior to this moment at the end of His life. He knew that the full suffering of the cross was necessary for Him to experience. But when the ninth hour arrived—the time of the evening sacrifice and for the lambs to be killed that day—He knew that He had one final work to do. He had to drink the cruel and bitter wine that had afflicted every heart since Adam.
In other words, Jesus had to take upon Himself the sin of the world, not just the sins committed, but the iniquity (root of bitterness) that was the wellspring of all sin. And so He said, “I am thirsty,” prompting the soldiers to give Him the “sour wine” (turning to vinegar), which had been mixed with opium. So Heb. 2:9 says,
9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
Jesus tasted the sour wine and opium mixture so that “He might taste death for everyone.” He did not actually sin, but He ingested the symbol of all sin and iniquity. In doing so, Adam’s sin was imputed to Him who knew no sin. He then could die to pay the penalty for the sin of the world.
Jesus did not use opium to deaden His pain, for He took a brief sip of it only when He was about to die.
Hence, Jesus, surrounded by three Marys who represented the bitter herbs eaten at Passover, finally drank the bitter cup of sin on behalf of the world. Only then could He say, “It is finished,” bowing His head and giving up His spirit.
When Jesus said, “It is finished” in John 19:30, He meant that He had finished the work that He had been called to do in His first manifestation on the earth. There was still much more actual work to do, of course, including His resurrection, ascension, and High Priestly intercession as He entered the Most Holy Place in heaven carrying His own blood (Heb. 9:12). His work will not be finished in the broader sense until He has restored all things to Himself.
With Jesus’ crucifixion, He accomplished His calling as the Lion of Judah bathed in blood, as Jacob’s prophecy suggests (Gen. 49:10, 11) and as Samson’s prophecy illustrates (Judges 14:5-8). He then ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33) in order to enter a second phase of ministry, based upon the calling of Benjamin, “son of my right hand.”
This Benjamin phase saw an interim kingdom that was typed by King Saul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin. Also, since all of Jesus’ disciples except Judas Iscariot were from Galilee, we know that they were all from the territory that Benjamin had settled after the Babylonian captivity (Neh. 11:31-35). Judas was from Hebron in Judah, but he was later replaced, first by a stand-in named Matthias, and later by the Apostle Paul, who was of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1).
We know too that the next phase of Jesus’ ministry (at His coming) will be to fulfill the calling of Joseph, whose robe was dipped in blood (Gen. 37:31; Rev. 19:13). In fulfilling the call of Joseph in the age to come, He will rule the world, and all of the tribes of Israel will bow or defer to Him (Gen. 37:9, 10), including Judah, who was given the throne only temporarily (Gen. 49:10).
Hence, broadly speaking, there are three ages in which Jesus works, and each accomplishes the calling of a different tribe. The work that Jesus “finished” at the cross was the Judah work, which was the foundation on which the others could be built. His ascension began His Benjamin work, when He interceded for us. Finally, His second coming will begin His Joseph work, when He rules the earth as King of Kings.
We see the two main works—that of Judah and Joseph—prophesied in the law as well. These two works of Christ, the first being a death work and the second a living work, were explained in my book, The Laws of the Second Coming, chapter 10.