Question: "What does it mean that all things were now accomplished (John 19:28)?"

Answer: John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, ‘“I thirst’” (KJV). The Greek word translated as “accomplished” means “finished,” which is how the ESV translates the word. In fact, two verses later, Jesus utters the words “It is finished” (verse 30). In both instances, the idea is that Jesus accomplished, finished, and completed His earthly assignment: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, ESV). To appreciate the depth of His sacrifice, we must review the context of John 19:28–30.

Returning to John 19:28, we read, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, ‘I thirst’” (KJV). Here, the word know indicates awareness of (and submission to) the Father’s will: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38, ESV). On the cross, Jesus knew that His imminent death signified the completion of the Father’s redemptive plan. This does not mean that there is nothing else to be fulfilled now, but that everything up to that point was designed to fulfill both the Father’s will and Old Testament prophecies about the Suffering Messiah (see Isaiah 53).

The inhumane and unimaginable suffering that Jesus endured for our sins caused Him to become dehydrated. For this reason, Jesus said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). Here, John explains to his readers that Jesus’ thirst was so Scripture might be fulfilled. This does not suggest that Jesus only said He was thirsty because He wanted Scripture to be fulfilled. To the contrary, it means that Jesus understood the relevance of the messianic prophecies to Himself (cf. John 5:39). For example, in Psalm 22:15, the psalmist says, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death” (ESV). And in Psalm 69:21, the psalmist says, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (ESV). The mention of “sour wine” both in Psalm 69:21 and John 19:30 indicates a strong connection between both passages.

John 19:29–30 continues this fulfillment theme: “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” (ESV). In Exodus 12:22, hyssop was sprinkled above doorposts during Passover. So, it seems that John wants his readers to see a connection between the first Passover and “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The price and penalty for our sins have been paid in full. This is primarily what Jesus means when He says, “It is finished.”

In John’s Gospel, especially in John 19:28–30, Jesus is consistently presented not as a helpless victim but as the exemplar of self-conscious obedience to the Father. Jesus had earlier explained that “the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17–18, ESV; see also John 14:31).