There was a jar full of vinegar there, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a branch of a hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. When Jesus tasted the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and died. John 19:29-30 (NCV)

It had been over 30 years since he’d been home. Thirty years of walking the dusty paths of Palestine. Three decades of living as the creator in a human body; of setting aside his royalty to live as a ‘common person.’

He’d stood silently as he watched over 5,000 men, women and children celebrate a feast he prepared from a few small fish and some loaves of bread. He’d seen the amazement of his close friends as he calmed the wind he’d created and the seas he’d formed from nothing. He felt the relief and joy of parents whose little girl he breathed breath into…for the second time, and smiled with joy as his close friend Lazarus obeyed his voice and came forth from  the tomb.

He’d listened with faux amazement as his disciples shared their new-found power over disease, demons and death…power he instilled in them to the glory of his father. He’d quieted the demons who insisted on telling the world his identity before it was time.

Amazing? Of course. Awesome to be sure. But all these things we would treasure as victories were nothing to Jesus. The real victory wasn’t at the side of the sick child or the bed of the paralytic. It wasn’t in the touch he gave to the woman who was bent over from years of being crippled or the blind man who received his sight.

The real victory came at the cross. Were we to be there we’d see the Roman soldiers doing what they’d done countless times, driving nails into the hands and feet of another pitiful criminal. We’d see crowds of people. Some crying, some confused, some shouting obscenities at this ‘self-proclaimed’ messiah. What would be hidden from our view were the legions of angels in full battle dress. Ready at a moment’s notice to wipe out these proud and boisterous humans so the King could take his place on  the throne. We wouldn’t see the enemy wringing his hands in glee, thinking that once and for all he would be victorious.

We wouldn’t see it. But Jesus did. He saw it all and as the pain from trying to breath became unbearable he asked for a drink. Then, with the taste of bitter, sour wine still on his lips be bowed his head and died.

Before he breathed his last breath he announced to the seen and the unseen world, “IT is finished”. He didn’t say I’m finished in reference to the end of his physical life. He didn’t say ‘you’ are finished. He said IT is finished. The divine plan to bring forgiveness to the unworthy, mercy to the hopeless and grace to the helpless. It was finished and the bitterness of sour wine would forever symbolize the victory each of us has in him.

There’s nothing else to do. No religious tradition or dogma to complete. No acts of charity or repayment to accomplish. All we need to rest in his promises of grace, forgiveness and eternal life was completed on the cross for us that day. That’s what Easter is about. It’s about the completion of the divine plan. It’s about the bitter taste of victory.

PRAYER: Father God I thank you for the gift of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. My Jesus, I worship you today for the pain you suffered on my behalf so that victory could be mine. Empower me to live for you in such a way that others see you in my words and actions. Amen.

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