Mission Accomplished

In 2002 the United State Congress authorized what would later become the Iraq War.

Months later, in March of 2013, the United States began to invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq from power. And the initial phase of the invasion was short and successful. Iraqi forces were significantly outmatched facing the United States and Britain, and within a few weeks the Iraqi military and paramilitary forces were defeated. 

The capital city of Bagdad was conquered and taken over by coalition forces. The whole process took just a few weeks from late March to early April.

Then on May first, six weeks after the initial invasion, president George W. Bush flew on a jet to an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Pacific Ocean to give a speech congratulating the armed forces for their efforts. 

Although Bush alluded in his speech to an ongoing battle with terrorist, there was a fatal flaw that day, which would live to haunt Bush for the rest of his presidency and beyond. See, on the beautiful sunny day off the coastline of San Diego, just six weeks into conflict, the president proudly announced:

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended… in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

Hanging in the background across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln was a massive banner with the words, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” emblazoned over an image of the United States flag. 

What of course no one knew that day, was that we were only 42 days into a conflict which would continue until December 18, 2011—an additional 3,153 days beyond this speech.

What seemed like such a positive moment turned out to be a public relations disaster. In fact, even after the war was completed, May 1st each year would bring about a fresh opportunity to highlight the folly of that day. When Bush commemorated his presidential library in 2013, the story surfaced yet again.

Afterwards, Bush publicly acknowledged that it was a situation he would go back and do differently if he could. 

The reason why Bush lost so much credibility that day was because he claimed that something was finished that was in truth, not finished. He indicated that we were further along in the process than we really were. To say things like prevailed and accomplished are big words. They denote victory and completion.

We can all relate to the concept. Biting off more than you can chew. Expecting to be nearing the end of a project that is really only just beginning. Thankfully I’m not on national television, but I’ve been known to overestimate my ability and underestimate the challenge at hand.

It could be anything—a little house renovation project, something at work, anything mechanical. I have a long list of memories of situations where I’ve fixed something and then I reconnect the power supply to verify I did everything correctly and then experience defeat when it still isn’t working.

Thank God Jesus doesn’t suffer from this problem. 

In total contrast, when Jesus says, mission accomplished it is with perfect knowledge of every contingency, every scenario, every requirement. It is categorically different than you or me or George W Bush assessing a situation. He knows what it takes to get the job done, and has flawless integrity in any statement that he issues.

Friends, in our passage this morning today we are going to see that Jesus is bringing his earthly mission to a close today. He is reaching the final point of the work he came to do. He has been preparing for this moment for thousands of years and now it’s finally here.

The work needed to save sinners is finally complete. For Jesus, this moment marks, mission accomplished. Jesus Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:12) and so here it is.

Turn with me in your Bibles to the Gospel of John:

John 19:28-30—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.

(28) After this, 

Sequence of events. In the immediate context it is the instructions Jesus gives to John and his mom. He lets them both know of his love and concern for her by entrusting her to his dearest disciple, the only one left.

Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, 

What an incredible moment. We use words like epic to speak of something memorable, “dude it was epic.” But in the truest sense, this is an epic moment.

When John says all things had already been accomplished, he doesn’t mean that history is over. He means that everything required to bring Jesus to the cross has been completed exactly how God intended it to.

You have a four-year term with the military and then you have served your duty and your obligation is fulfilled. You are done. 

John uses a form of τελεω—it is finished, completed, brought about, fulfilled. Used here it focuses on the achievement of the goal or the desired outcome.

That’s the whole thrust of these three verses. It’s why we titled this message, “Mission Accomplished.” In fact, τελεω appears three times:

  • Jesus, knowing that all things τετέλεσται [tay-tell-estai]
  • to τελειωθῇ [tell-e-oath-ay] Scripture
  • Therefore, when Jesus received the sour wine, He said, “Τετέλεσται” [tay-tell-estai]

All things completed v. 28. Scripture completed vs. 28. And the work of redemption completed v. 30. The goal has been reached. The mission accomplished. That’s the theological point that John is driving his readers to conclude.

If you are Jesus and everyone around him, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Remember back in the early kickoff to the ministry of Jesus, at the wedding in Cana, the wine runs out at the wedding. And what happens? We look for Jesus to solve the problem.

John 2:4—And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

That was about three years earlier. And now, the time has come. This is the dreaded experience that has been looming. It’s the day that Jesus prayed about in John 12:

John 12:27—Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.

When Jesus is consciously aware of where things are at, he is saying, “we are right where we need to be…” everything up until this point has taken place exactly according to plan. It was God’s plan to sacrifice his son:

Acts 2:23—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

That’s about as specific language as you can get describing intention. So, let’s just think for a minute together about a few of the things that have been accomplished up until this point.

  • Jesus was born as a human baby, from a woman: Genesis 3:15 the seed
  • In terms of heritage he was of the house and lineage of David, a point that Matthew labors in his genealogy in his Gospel record, demonstrating Jesus was the rightful heir to the throne promised in 2 Samuel 7.
  • Jesus was born of a virgin, Isaiah 7?
  • Raised in Nazareth
  • Called out of Egypt
  • Baptized by the forerunner
  • Not physically attractive
  • Tempted yet obeyed (spotless, obedience, submissive)
  • Rejected and despised
  • Deserted and forsaken
  • Betrayed
  • Mocked and abused—beard plucked out and beaten beyond recognition as a human
  • No deceit was found in his mouth (Isaiah 53:9) no sin with his lips, but he was entrusting himself the entire time to his Father’s sovereign care (1 Peter 2:22).

I made it. I’m here. I’m about to die, having never committed a sin, and having fulfilled all that was written about me, except these last few minutes. That’s all that’s left. Everything else is done.

It’s like when you are selling your house and you have spent so long in the process of showing it, and negotiating with a buyer, and then packing and moving and cleaning. It’s a huge ordeal. And you come to the very end when everything is moved out and you are ready to turn off the lights and lock the door and bid adieu. 

We are at the point of turning off the lights and locking the door and being done.

Several thousand years after God created the world, and the human race fell into sin, and creation has been groaning and longing ever since, awaiting of course, ultimate redemption, but this moment in particular along the way.

to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” 

Physiologically, the thirst was unimaginable… 

As D.A. Carson notes: 

a man scourged, bleeding, and hanging on a cross under the Near–Eastern sun would be so desperately dehydrated that thirst would be part of the torture.

His body has lost so much blood and is trying to replenish the supply. As John says though, this is another prophecy yet unfulfilled that is about to take place. The prophecy?

Psalm 69:21—They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

All Jesus has to do to bring this thing to completion is to state that he is thirsty, and some unwitting bystander, completely unaware of the significance of their actions, gives him a drink. This is a display of the divine and human intention.

God creates the plan. God predetermines what will happen. Jesus speaks the words, and some random guy makes a so-called free choice to give a thirsty criminal a drink. Exactly according to what God had promised. Both intend an outcome. One is sovereign, the other is dependent.

John is saying essentially then, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture (which says they gave me vinegar to drink) said, “I thirst.”

Multiple times David has an experience that a historical, real moment in his life, but it prefigured a moment in the life of Jesus. And that’s what you have here.

Jesus is in absolute control, even now. And so he asks for a drink, and…

(29) A jar full of sour wine was standing there; 

A funny way of rendering the text: a jar is standing there. Kind of feels like we are in Beauty and the Beast or something where pots and clocks and candlesticks have personalities—I’m waiting to meeting Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth and Lumiere. 

So there’s the jar and it’s just standing there ready to go. 

Its nearby. It’s full of a beverage most likely belonging to the soldiers. At the very least it was sanctioned by them. You couldn’t just walk up and approach a dying criminal unauthorized.

This is sour wine, or wine vinegar. As one lexicon notes, it:

Relieved thirst more effectively than water and, being cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society and of those in moderate circumstances, esp. of soldiers.

So, this is the cheap drink. In the NT occurs 6 times—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John discussing this moment.

so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.

Most of the time people don’t drink out of sponges. Unless they are unable to drink from a cup that is.

In crucifixion, a man’s arms are pinned down with nails. It would be difficult to raise a cup and have him tilt his head back with the position he was in. Not to mention, no soldier is interested in sharing his cup with a dying criminal.

So, they soaked a sponge and got it up to his mouth.

The text says that they used a hyssop branch. 

Hyssop sounds familiar. It was the small, bushy plant used for sprinkling blood in Exodus 12:22 on the doorposts of the homes before Israel left Egypt to protect the firstborn males from the angel of death. It was very small:

1 Kings 4:33—He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish.

Think sprigs not branches here, like scotch broom. You couldn’t sprinkle blood very effectively with a stick. 

The sprigs would create a little nest-like area where a sponge could rest and be lifted overhead so Jesus could have a drink. Roman crosses weren’t very high, so it just needed to be raised overhead. Like a sponge stuck in a bouquet of flowers.

This is a place where sometimes we are tempted to make a connection. Hyssop appears at Passover, and hyssop appears here. I see the connection. Powerful. Just be careful with those kinds of connections. My question is first: what is the warrant of such a connection And the second: how does that connection actually minister to you in a meaningful way? Such connections elevate the interpreter, but I’m not sure they edify the saints.

But the primary concern is we end up making connections that aren’t actually there. For example:

  • Maybe Jesus preached from a boat because he was bringing salvation the way God saved Noah in the ark.
  • Or maybe Jesus was nailed to a cross of wood, which points back to the wood that was carried up the mountain by the donkey when Abraham was going to kill Isaac.
  • We could find greater significance anytime we find two verses with figs or thorns or palm branches. But for the most part, these are just normal items you find in life.

My friends, we relate Jesus to the Passover Lamb not because we find some familiar foliage in two bible verses, but because our Lord himself makes this connection in the upper room discourse of John’s Gospel.

So, they get the cheap wine to his lips…

(30) Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, 

He drinks it…

Now you might be thinking, why now, but not then? Didn’t Jesus refuse drinking wine earlier, but now he takes it? You are correct…

Matthew 27:34—they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.

Describing the same drink, Mark tells us that it was…

Mark 15:23—wine mixed with myrrh

This was not merely an issue of Jesus not being thirsty when offered the first wine. The mixed wine was part of a merciful practice undertaken by respected women from Jerusalem. See it had been discovered that myrrh contained narcotic properties—it dulled the senses. These women made application from Proverbs 31, which says:

Proverbs 31:6–7-6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. 7 Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.

This cocktail then, like morphine to a patient before removing a bullet, took the edge off of the unimaginable pain of crucifixion. And so being offered this drink, the text says Jesus refused.

No thank you. How come?

Because he had to experience the full punishment with full consciousness. Jesus was fixed on Jerusalem. And although terrifying, he had fixed himself on drinking one cup. That was not the cup of relief, but the cup of suffering. The full cup of wrath, the very cup he requested to avoid drinking if there was any other way.

Mark 10:38—But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

So why can he drink the sour wine now? If anything, this would extend his life, not shorten it. And in drinking it, Jesus fulfills a prophecy:

Psalm 69:21—They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Psalm 69 is already cited in…

John 2:17—His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”

John 15:25—“But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’

How did this fulfill the Scripture? David was a type of Christ, a type is an example that demonstrates something about a future reality. Jesus is the greater David. He would fulfill perfectly the roles in which David attempted, yet failed in.

He said, “It is finished!” 

Here it is. The victory cry. 

Matthew 27:50—And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice…

Matthew doesn’t record what was said. It is possible it was something else, but in Matthew it was post-drink. The drink was what was needed to free up his tongue and throat so he could get out the words beyond a whisper. 

Talk about an exclamation of joy! My work is accomplishing salvation for our people is done!

John 17:4—I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.

What was that work? It was many things, it included destroy the works of the devil…

1 John 3:8—the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

From two perspectives this is a cry of victory. One from the very human, tangible, immediate circumstance, this is a shout of exclamation that it’s over. 

Now believe it or not, but I’m not a marathoner. Or a half-marathoner. Or a quarter-marathoner for that matter. But I’ve watched a marathon. 

That’s basically the same right? I could pick up a t-shirt and a sticker for the back of my car and get some marathon cred? But I’ve watched people finish that race. And what’s the emotion when you get done running 26.2 miles? 

Satisfaction. Relief. Triumph. Jesus is completing a marathon of 33 years of being misunderstood by nearly everyone on the planet. Loneliness and rejection instead of fellowship and worship. 

Hated by your own people, the very people you came to bring salvation to. Biting the hand that feeds you.

So far you have been tempted by Satan at the highest level of temptation he could throw at you. Abandoned and deserted by people who were your friends. Backstabbed by one of the people closest to you. You watched your dear friend Peter be unwilling to own up about your relationship together after giving up so much for him for three years.

On the macro level you’ve watched creation groaning for thousands of years since Adam and Eve fell in the Garden. You’ve watched the people you created turned their backs in rebellion—the flood, the tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, the destruction of the kingdom… all part of the plan, culminating in this moment.

There is still more to come in salvation history of course. The salvation of all of the elect. The ingathering of the Jews who will embrace Jesus as Messiah. The coming of the new heavens and the new earth, glorified bodies.

What is finished is any work required for human beings to be reconciled to God. 

What God requires, He provides. Just like God providing the ram to take the place of Isaac when God told Abraham to demonstrate his unbounded allegiance to himself, God provides a sacrificial lamb to anyone who trusts in him.

Not merely that it is finished like when you finish watching a program or you finish eating a meal. This is stating that the goal has been achieved.

If you were a God-fearing Jew, you would have had a constant sense of things not being finished. Your relationship with God was always by faith, but the atonement process had a cycle to it. As you made sacrifice, as you completed the rituals, you got angry on the way home and refreshed your need for another sacrifice. 

Hebrews 7:27—who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

It was a complete work. It only took one death:

Romans 6:10—For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

Because his blood was efficacious for many:

1 Peter 1:18–20—18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

Jesus just says it. But that it includes many theological realities:

  • Atonement—the payment for sin purchased by the sacrifice of Jesus
  • Propitiation—the favor of God won through the sacrifice of Jesus
  • Expiation—the removal of sin and guilty by the sacrifice of Jesus
  • Reconciliation—removed the enmity and hostility and wrath which caused separation and has brought together.

It’s all done:

The work of redemption that the Father had given Him was accomplished: sin was atoned for, and Satan was defeated and rendered powerless. Every requirement of God’s righteous law had been satisfied; God’s holy wrath against sin had been appeased; every prophecy had been fulfilled. Christ’s completion of the work of redemption means that nothing needs to be nor can be added to it. Salvation is not a joint effort of God and man, but is entirely a work of God’s grace, appropriated solely by faith.

This is why we love the cross. We never leave the cross, and it is the central focal point of all of our theology. John Stott writes that Christians…

commemorate as central to their understanding of Jesus neither his birth nor his youth, neither his teaching nor his service, neither his resurrection nor his reign, nor his gift of the Spirit, but his death, his crucifixion.

We celebrate all of those realities, but he is absolutely right that the cross is at the center.

And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Such familiar words to us we have to ponder them freshly. I’ve said it an incalculable number of times. Jesus died. Jesus died to save sinners. Jesus died on the cross. Jesus died and rose again. Well here’s that moment. Here’s what happened the day God died.

Luke 23:46—And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last.

Matthew 27:50—And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

The language is so specific:

He… gave up His spirit.

That’s an active verb. It wasn’t taken from him, but willingly and voluntarily surrendered.

Jesus isn’t committing suicide here. Suicide by definition is the act of intentionally ending one’s life. Although Jesus is intentional here, he is giving his life as a substitute, which is categorically different than taking his own life. Jesus laid down his life as a substitute for others:

John 10:11—I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

Jesus loves his people and so he died for them because he is a good shepherd. The cross is the expected, normal response when you take into account the given situation and combine it with the character of Jesus. Since a shepherd sacrifices himself for the sheep, then when Jesus sees his people lost in sin, he dies to save them.

There’s another point worth noting here. John wants to make it abundantly clear here who was in charge… who was in control. Jesus was in complete control with all authority when he did this:

John 10:17–18—17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.

You know you and I cannot relate to absolute sovereignty. Our plans are constantly getting jammed up. But even in his death Jesus is control. Consider how different this would be from the crucifixion of Peter as foretold by Jesus:

John 21:18–19—“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

It would have been profound and unsettling to watch. No one dies like this. Roman centurions were no strangers to death. And yet one of them standing there that day responded to this spectacle as recorded by Mark:

Mark 15:39—When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Irrefutable evidence that we just killed God. Who else can command their spirit to leave the body and it happens? This wasn’t a magic trick, it wasn’t misdirection, it wasn’t coincidence. It was the sovereign Lord of glory.

Jesus is portrayed as totally in control of the time of his dying, just as he had been pictured as in control of his arrest, his appearance before Annas, his trial before the spineless Pilate, and the carrying of his own cross. For his readers John was illustrating in bold letters that even what seems to be tragedy was still not out of God’s control. The focus in this story, therefore, must not be lost because the evangelist is continually both a reporter and a theologian.

Jesus volunteered to do this. We have a hard time getting people to volunteer to show up early for something or stay late because it’s not convenient or they need some me time.

Our medical facilities depend upon blood donations for treating patients. And there is a national blood shortage this year. Winter weather shut down blood drives around the country meaning that the Red Cross is 28k donations short right now. We have a hard-enough time getting people to give blood when the get free tickets and cookies. But shedding blood in torture unto death? 

He did it gladly, for the joy set before him. And in the cross. Everything that was needed to bring about your forgiveness and reconcile you to God has been accomplished.

Well friends, this is our status. We stand before God able to say it is finished.

I’m not complete Lord, and your work in me is not complete, but Jesus is perfect and his work is complete. And there is nothing that I could do to add or to improve upon what he has done. Our only response is love. As John Stott writes:

God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sins, guilt, judgement and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that.