Do the words, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30), which Jesus said before He died on the cross mean that we don’t need to do anything? Jesus’ words mean that what He had to do on the earth at His first coming was finished, not what we had to do was finished. If we study what Jesus fulfilled, we can understand that God’s people must keep His laws such as the Sabbath and the Passover more holy.
Jesus was sacrificed as a ransom
One of the important works, which Jesus had to do on the earth, was to give His life as a ransom for the sinners who were given the punishment of hell and were destined to die because of their grievous sins. Instead of us who deserve death, our holy God was sacrificed on the cross and we are exempted from the death penalty.
Mt 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In the old days too, in order to save the life of a man who was expected to die, another life had to be given for his life (1 Ki 20:42). Likewise, in order to save sinners on the earth, Jesus was flogged, oppressed and extremely afflicted until He breathed his last on the cross.
Isa 53:5-8 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” mean that He fulfilled all the prophecies of the prophets of the Old Testament, which had to be fulfilled in the process of carrying out the mission of redemption―the mission as a sin offering for the forgiveness of sins of His children. Jesus did according to the prophecy of the Bible even to the point of His death.
Jn 19:23-30 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did . . . Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The complete forgiveness of sins, fulfilled through the sacrifice on the cross
After Jesus was sacrificed on the cross as a sin offering, all the sacrifice offered by shedding the blood of animals in the Old Testament times was abolished. It was because such sacrifice was nothing but a copy and shadow that shows the sacrifice of Christ, until the perfect sacrifice that makes us perfect forever was offered.
Heb 10:1-18 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship . . . But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins . . . And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy . . . And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
Though the religious duties of sacrificing animals as a sin offering for the forgiveness of sins were abolished, it does not mean that the decrees Jesus and the apostles kept disappeared. The decrees like the Sabbath and the Passover, which Jesus set as examples and the apostles kept, are the law of the new covenant that was finally made perfect after Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Through the sacrifice of shedding the blood of animals, our souls could not reach the complete forgiveness of sins. However, through the law of the new covenant that contains the blood of Christ, we could finally receive the complete forgiveness of sins, even the capital crime we had committed in heaven.
Heb 7:11-12 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.
Jesus left His will by fulfilling the law of the Old Testament which was not perfect, through the law of the new covenant. Jesus’ will came into effect after he died.
Heb 9:15-17 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
The apostles kept the Sabbath and the Passover
If we don’t need to keep the Sabbath and the Passover since Jesus fulfilled all things on the cross, the apostles should not have kept the Sabbath and the Passover after Jesus’ crucifixion. However, the apostles kept the new covenant of the Sabbath and the Passover, following the examples of Christ, and it is recorded in the Bible.
Ac 17:2-3 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said.
Ac 18:4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
1 Co 5:7-8 . . . For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival . . .
1 Co 11:23-25 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The reason the apostles kept the Sabbath and the Passover of the new covenant in spirit and in truth is to fulfill all the prophecies of the Bible, and not to make in vain the sacrifice of Jesus who shed blood on the cross to grant the complete forgiveness of sins.
Likewise, if we realize the true meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we will know how precious are the decrees of the new covenant, which were fulfilled through His precious sacrifice. God’s decrees like the Sabbath and the Passover are the precious will of God, which must be absolutely kept.