“It is finished.” John 19:30 (and all of the New Testament) cannot be fully understood without knowledge of the Old Testament and Jewish tradition. The common Protestant interpretation is that Jesus’ work of Redemption is finished. That once Jesus died on the cross, there is nothing left for us to do to be saved. This cannot possibly be correct. Jesus conquered sin and death in His RESURRECTION. If Jesus had stayed dead then there would be NO salvation. So Jesus could NOT have been referring to His redemptive work being finished. But don’t take my word for it. St. Paul wrote in Romans 4:25 “who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.” We are justified by His resurrection.
What then did Jesus mean when He said “it is finished.”? You need to understand the Old Testament and Jewish tradition to find this answer. When God freed His people from Egypt with the 10th plague He gave the people specific instructions. You can find those instructions in Exodus 12. Pay close attention to 12:14 “ This day will be a day of remembrance for you, which your future generations will celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord; you will celebrate it as a statute forever.” And 12:24 “You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants.” God says you will celebrate the Passover FOREVER. Not “until I send the messiah.” Not “until Martin Luther breaks away.” Not even “until I make a new heaven and a new earth.” FOREVER is forever. Jesus is a Jew and He faithfully celebrated the Passover His whole life on earth. We hear accounts of it in the New Testament when He was 12 and was lost for 3 days. (Luke 2:41-44) We also Know Jesus’ public ministry was three years because in the Gospel of John He celebrated the Passover 3 times.
The Passover meal consisted of liturgy, songs, eating of a roasted unblemished lamb, and 4 cups of wine. (For more on the Passover read The Jewish roots of the Mass by Brant Pitre) During the Last supper Jesus made a change to this sacred tradition. One change is there is no lamb slain and eaten (yet). Another change is after the 3rd cup Jesus stops the celebration and says “for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the Vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Mark 14:25) Jesus won’t finish the Passover, the fourth cup, until His kingdom is established. Jesus went out and prayed “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ ” (Matt 26:39) The cup Jesus is referring to is the 4th cup of Passover, the consummation cup.
During Christ’s passion, In Matt 27:33-35, Jesus is offered wine but He refused it because the Passover is not finished yet. Then later Jesus does drink the wine, the fourth cup “When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” (John 19:30-36) Jesus is fulfilling the sacrifice that no mere lamb could ever do. Jesus is the new Passover Lamb. That is why John says “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe. For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of it will be broken.’ ” To what scripture passage is this referring? Exodus 12:46 when God is telling Moses and Aaron how to prepare the first Passover. “It must be eaten in one house; you may not take any of its meat outside the house. You shall not break any of its bones.” If Jesus’ dying before they could break a bone of His body fulfills this scripture, than clearly He is the new Lamb of the new Passover. The NEW Passover and the NEW covenant are to continue forever, but now it brings about our salvation. How does John the Baptist announce Jesus? “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ ” (John 1:29)
But again don’t take my word for it. Jesus Himself tells us in Mark 20:22-25 “While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.’ ” This is the ONLY time Jesus uses the word “covenant” in all of the New Testament. He is establishing the new covenant that will last forever. Also interesting when Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified “about the sixth hour.” (John 19:14) that is the same hour in which the Passover lambs were slaughtered every year.
The liturgy, sacrifice and celebration of the Passover have become the liturgy, sacrifice and celebration of the Mass. Mass is the continuation of the Passover and will be celebrated forever as commanded to Moses and Aaron in Exodus 12. This Passover is a new exodus, a spiritual exodus freeing us from the slavery of sin. It is still a communion meal and we still have to eat the Lamb. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.’ ” (John 6:53-55) If you don’t like the Mass, then you won’t like heaven. Heaven is an eternal celebration of the Passover, the Lambs supper, a wedding feast.
For more on heaven and the mass:
Michael Barber’s audio talk for purchase Unlocking the book of Revelation.
Michael Barber’s book for purchase Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying its lessons Today
Subdeacon Sebastian Carnazzo, Ph.D. FREE audio Bible study The Apocalypse of Saint John: Understanding the Book of Revelation
Rev. Paul Scheneck FREE audio and visual talk, Roots of the Mass: A study of the Jewish Influence on the Divine Liturgy