Some thoughts on John 19:30

This is a paper that I wrote for one of my classes. It looks at John 19:23-30, but I focus on 19:30. Enjoy� or something. ;)

John 19:23-30

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.


����Here at the climax of John, Jesus proclaims his ministry and life fulfilled and offers his spirit back up to God. The author uses the final verse (30) of the crucifixion story to show Jesus as a victor; one who has fully completed his mission and is about to do what he promised he would: conquer death. Matthew (27:50) and Mark (15:37) both note that Jesus’ final words, “It is finished,” were loudly cried out; they were not a sigh of defeat, but a victory roar. This paper will focus on verse 30: its meaning and implications.


����While there are no textual variants of note in verse 30, the meaning and wording of that verse are of particular interest to the pericope and the gospel at large. There are two important phrases in the verse that warrant further examination: “it is finished” and “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The first phrase is a single Greek word, ?????????? (tetelestai), and is in the perfect tense, a tense that loses meaning when it is translated into the English. This nuance will be discussed in the final section. The second phrase also warrants particular discussion in the interpretation section as the phrase is unique in terms of describing death; all four gospels provide a different-than-standard outlook of Jesus’ death on the cross.

����Historians place the authorship of this text by John (a disciple of Jesus) sometime around 90 CE. For this paper, the exact date is not crucial so not argued. The occasion for this book (most likely the last of the four Gospels and not one of the synoptic) is linked to its literary style: the Greek biography, or bioi (????). A bioi is a modified biography (in its modern understanding); it does not intend to provide a full or complete picture of the person of Jesus, but a particular and specific picture that is intended to carry a particular message. Different from much of the narrative styles used in the Bible, the bioi was focused on the life and character of Jesus. John, in particular, focused on the messianic aspects of Jesus and the theological nature of his message. The bioi is also different from much of the epistles that appear in the New Testament that often serve as corrective measures, encouragement, and theological or doctrinal imperatives to specific churches, people, or groups.

Interpretation and Integration

����This section of John focuses on the death of Jesus and his last words. In keeping the theme of Jesus’ messianic and theological nature, John includes one such fulfillment of prophesy right at the end of Jesus’ time on the cross (v. 24). The soldiers keeping watch over the crucifixion were Roman guards sent to carry out Pilate’s orders. Pilate would only have agreed to the death sentence because of the claims of authority made by Jesus (especially seen throughout Mark and John’s gospels).

����After the note of prophesy fulfillment, John turns to the three Marys and “the disciple who He loved” (John himself). Two of these ladies, Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene, and John are three important people in his life who felt compelled to be there at the end of his life. They knew that Jesus was going on to something better (but even what that was was still not exactly understood). Jesus, recognizing that death was imminent, asked for liquid for his parched mouth and proclaimed his final word: ?????????? � it is finished. After his mission was completed, he offered up his spirit. The story doesn’t end there as the remainder of John (and the other gospels) discusses; Jesus rises from the dead and eventually ascends to the right hand of God.

����Scholars all seem to agree that the “it is finished” statement does not just apply to the physical life that was fleeting but to the larger ministry that Jesus had been working on. “The rendering, ‘It is finished!’ conveys only half the meaning. For the verb ????? fundamentally denotes ‘to carry out’ the will of somebody, whether of oneself or another, and so to fulfill obligations or carry out religious acts. ‘It is accomplished!’ renders that aspect of the word” (Beasley-Murray 1999). Other arguments have also been made about the implications the verb tense has for Christians today that will be discussed in the next section. As indicated by the parallel passages in Mark and Luke (27:50 and 15:37 respectively), Jesus’ proclamation was not a defeated whimper, but a cry out. “Jesus died with the cry of the Victor on his lips. This is not the moan of the defeated, nor the sigh of a patient resignation. It is the triumphant recognition that he was now fully accomplished the work that he came to do” (Morris 1995). Through Jesus’ death he had completed all the Father had charged him with; the redemption of Man could only come through this final act of selflessness and willingness to become the slain lamb.

����Jesus’ final release from life is also described differently than other deaths throughout the Bible; it is something distinctly different. “John does not say that Jesus died and then his head slumped over, but rather that he bowed his head, an attitude of submission, and then gave over (paraedoken) his spirit” (Whitacre 1999). Each gospel portrays his death as different from any other death. John makes special note of the act of will. Tertullian (a 2nd century Christian) noted in his Apology that, “Nailed upon the cross, he exhibited many notable signs by which is death was distinguished from all others. By his own free will, he dismissed from him his spirit with a word, anticipating the executioner’s work” (Elowsky 2007). “There does seem to be an element of voluntariness that is not found in the case of others” (Morris 1988). Jesus’ claims to authority are evidence here in his ability to offer back his spirit in a way that no other human can. His divine nature and the completion of his work here allowed him to fully return to be with God. His act of will signified something that no mortal is truly capable of: choosing when to let go.

����This passage is the climax for John. Everything that came before this was leading up to it. The events and proclamations of Jesus would inevitably lead him to the cross; humanity was in need of redemption. Everything after this point looks back to this very moment. The ministry and churches that follow are focused around the act of completion and selflessness on the cross. In this way the Gospels, especially John more theological focused version, are the climax to the entire Biblical narrative. The story of the Old Testament is the story of humanity and relationship, even conflict, with God. The fallen nature of man pointed to the need for a messiah, someone who would bring redemption from that which sin deserves. The climax comes in Jesus, his ministry and dual nature. At the cross he completes all that came before him and paved the way for all that is to come. The resolution of the story is painted in the remainder of the New Testament; Christians are called to bring people into the fold and climax of the story. We currently live in the resolution of John 19:30.


����The importance of John 19:30 comes in how we respond to it. It seems consistent with ancient Christian writers that Jesus’ final cry was firstly, not a cry of defeat, and secondly, not only concerning the end of his life. Eusebius, a 3rd century church historian, said it very poetically: “He did not wait for death, which was lagging behind as it were in fear to come to him. Instead, he pursed it from behind and drove it on and trampled it under his feet as it was fleeting. He burst the eternal gates of death’s dark realms and made a road of return back again to life for the dead bound there with the bonds of death” (Elowsky 2007). The flat reading of this passage that Jesus was merely welcoming his death was never intended by John. John being the theologian he was, included that as a part of verse 30, but as historians and theologians have kept with the tradition that Jesus was speaking to something more than his impending ceasing life. Saint Augustine writing in the 5th century comments that “The spirit of the Mediator has shown how it was not any punishment for sin that brought about the death of his flesh because he did not abandon it unwillingly. Rather, the spirit left because he willed it to, and it left at the time in the manner that he wanted it to leave. For since he is so commingled with the flesh by the Word of God as to be one with it�” (Elowsky 2007). It is clear that we should take Jesus’ final word and act with more than a surface understanding.

����The more complex reading of this passage can also bring modern day readers into its implications. The use of the Greek perfect tense implies that there is more than a
“past completion” reading of ??????????. The perfect tense describes an act that has been completed in the past but continues to effect the present. Jesus saying that his ministry has been accomplished is true, but it not only true for the past but it is being accomplished currently. “And as [Jesus] on the cross, having lived a sinless life, having paid the penalty for your sins and mine, Jesus uttered his last words before dying. ?????????? (tetelestai) “It is finished” (John 19.30). This one word summary of Jesus’ life and death is perhaps the single most important statement in all of Scripture. � But the tense of the verb, the ‘perfect’ tense, brings out even more of what Jesus was saying. The perfect describes an action that was fully completed and has consequences at the time of speaking. Jesus could have used the aorist, ???????? (etelestha), and simply said, ‘The work is done.’ But there is more, there is hope for you and for me. Because Jesus fully completed his task, the ongoing effects are that you are I are offered the free gift of salvation so that we can be with him forever” (Mounce 2003). Christ’s work truly was completed. It wasn’t simply a statement that Jesus thought he was about to die and his life was over, it was so much more than that. That completion has brought us into something very large. God has called us into something that we could never do on our own. He died for us, was battered for us, was a servant to us. It makes sense that we should live our lives for him. 1 Peter 2:24 and 25 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” That is very comforting and challenging and convicting. Because it has been completed in Christ, we have returned to the Guardian of our souls. His wounds saved us, not anything we could ever hope to do. We own him our lives and our daily walk and actions should reflect that.

����”Only here in the entire gospel does the Evangelist speak of a teleioun of the Scriptures, an increase over the previous formulaic pleroun, which expresses the ‘ultimate fulfillment’ of all Christological prophecy in the Scriptures, which in turn reach their goal in the death of Jesus. The Evangelist consciously placed this hina teleiothe he graphe between the two tetelestai‘s, Jesus’ knowledge that the end had come in v 28, and his death cry in v 30. With Jesus’ death the ‘work of saving the world,’ which the Father had entrusted to him by sending him into the world, is ‘finished’” (Hengel 1990). We are a part of the completion that Jesus brought about. Since his cry was a victory cry, we should entry into that cry and live as he has called us to live.


Barclay, William (1975). The Gospel of John: Volume 2. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.

Beasley-Murray, George R. (1999). John Second Edition: World Biblical Commentary (Bruce M. Metzger, Ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Brown, R.E. (1970). The Gospel According to John (xii-xxi): The Anchor Bible (W.F. Albright, Ed.). Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Bruce, F. F. (1983). The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Elowsky, Joel C. (Ed.). (2007). Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IVb: John 11-21. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Fitzmyer, J. A. (1978). Crucifixion in ancient palestine, qumran literature, and the new testament. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 40(4), 493-513.

Hengel, Martin. (1990). The Old Testament in the Fourth Gospel. Horizons in Biblical Theology, 12(1), 19-41.

Miller, J. V. (1983). The time of the crucifixion. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 26(2), 157-166.

Morris, Leon (1995). The Gospel According to John: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Gordon D. Fee, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

________ (1988). Reflections on the Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.

Mounce, William D. (2003). Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Whitacre, Rodney A. (1999). John: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Grant R. Osborne, Ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Categories: Religion, Theology Tags: , ,
  1. April 9th, 2009 at 04:08 | #1

    Thanks for a expliclit bible study of Jesus’s Victorious suffering and death on cross. But i want to let you know Jesus alone was not alone on the cross but God in his fullness and divinity suffered and died for the redemption of the whole humanity.

    May God bless you..
    and use you mightily…
    Rev, Anil Kumar

  1. April 11th, 2009 at 18:00 | #1
  2. April 2nd, 2010 at 20:51 | #2
  3. April 4th, 2010 at 01:02 | #3