The Via Dolorosa ~ τελέω (finished)
Jesus will speak six more words. The first three reflect the acute physical reality of one who has been bleeding and sweating for several hours. He is parched and dehydrated. His lips and tongue are swollen and the words are whsipered. He speaks his need to those awaiting his death: Knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 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. ~John 19:28,29
Like a great theatre production coming to a close, Jesus carries the script to its very last line. His admission of thirst prompts someone in the crowd to unwittingly fulfill a Messianic prophecy foretold by David some 1000 years earlier: They also gave me gall for my food And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. ~Psalm 69:21
There is nothing more to do. There is nothing more to say. The Messiah, the Word, the Savior, brings it all to a close with his own volition: When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. ~John 19:28-30
It is finished. Jesus could have used the personal pronoun “I” in his last three words. For any looking at his disfigured body it would have made perfect sense. He did indeed look finished. But instead, Jesus adds a “t” to the “i” and uses the impersonal pronoun, “It.” It is finished. Jesus was not finished. The mission was finished. This was simply the end of the beginning.
The religious leaders standing by were getting antsy. They needed this nasty business to conclude because there were important religious responsibilities to attend to. They went back to Pilate with a plan: Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. ~John 19:31-33
The relief that these leg-breakers felt at the death of Jesus would be very short lived. The clock was now counting down for heaven to have the last word.