Many people have always speculated what Jesus meant when He said in His last breaths, “It is finished.” It must have been pretty significant for Him to take that much effort to gasp those words being encompassed with pain. I can imagine myself cooking and proclaiming, “It is finished everyone!” The family should then scramble to take a seat unless, of course, you are one of my little ones who happened to decide that without even trying the food, that it is not edible. But, in any case, they would know what the “it” stood for. What does Jesus’ “it” stand for, though?
To begin to figure this out, we should start at the Last Supper.
“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. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mk. 14:22)
Let’s follow up with a scripture when Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane shortly after.
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt. 26:39)
What is this “fruit of the vine” and “this cup” that Jesus is talking about? Well, if you look at the history and how the Passover is performed, you’ll find that they did not finish the Passover feast. After they sung the hymns they should have had another cup of wine. To the ancient Jews this would be crazy to leave off the Passover at this point. Simply put, the Passover was unfinished.
So let’s fast forward to when Jesus is carrying his cross and one of the soldiers offered him wine mixed with myrrh (which they did back then to help with the pain since myrrh is like a pain killer). Jesus refused to drink it, though. (Mk 15:23) I don’t know about Jesus, but if I was already in excruciating pain and heading to even more agonizing pain, I would take that myrrh. It may have been that He was giving His all to suffer for us, but I think it is a bit more than that.
Let’s fast forward again to Jesus’ last words, “…in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’ There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’” (Jn 19:28-30) So is Jesus saying that just because He received some wine, everything He has worked for is finished? I hope not. Was Jesus just simply thirsty? No. This was to fulfill scripture and finish what he started at the Passover. He had to drink that last cup of wine or “fruit of the vine”.
But wait! They did one last thing during the Passover. They had to eat a sacrificed lamb. When looking into this, you begin to see many similarities between the Passover, and Jesus’ crucifixion. Notice above that John 19:29 specifically mentioned that the wine was put on a hyssop branch. During the first Passover they used hyssop branches to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the doors. Next, you should recall, that in John 19:33 that the soldiers were going around breaking the victim’s legs, but when they got to Jesus they instead pierced his side. “For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of it will be broken.’” (Jn 19:36) When they killed the lambs during Passover, the lamb could not have any broken bones. Jesus is the Lamb of God. “For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast,…” (1 Cor 5:7) Jesus in Revelation is described as “a Lamb that seemed to have been slain.” (Rev 5:6) What happens to the lamb in order to finish the Passover?
When I tell my family that “It is finished,” the “it” is referring to the food and requires an action. If I told them the food was done and no one came to eat any of it, all my time and energy I spent preparing the meal would have been to no avail. Jesus died for our sins, but not before leaving us something very important – the Eucharist. Let us make use of what He has given us and not let the “it” be for nothing.
*If you’re interested in more information or similar topics, check out Dr. Scott Hahn’s Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs and/or his books.