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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Following him to the finish.

The first time I saw a similar picture of this graffiti I laughed out loud. It was a Power Point slide in a worship center full of people. Most of them laughed too. It was the laughter of recognition, the comedy of identification, the joke-is-on-me moment of confession. At the door I told the pastor that the wave of snickers that swept through the congregation at that slide was the clearest response I had seen in a local congregation in years. He agreed and said he would be doing a series on finishing as soon as he could pull it together. I gave him an autographed copy of my book as a starter.

About that time I started started teaching New Testament Survey at Charleston Southern University. My prep for covering the Gospel of Matthew involved giving the class an outline of the text. Wouldn't you know it? The five discourses of Jesus' teaching recorded by Matthew were separated by the phrase, "When Jesus had finished..." (see Matthew 7:28; 11:1; 13:23; 19:1; and 26:1). Evidently Matthew wanted his readers to know that Jesus had several lines of instruction he would teach his followers, and that he finished one grouping before he started another.

Which, of course, is consistent with the mission he announced in John's Gospel, "My food is to do with will of him who sent me and finish his work" (John 4:34, NIV). Please note that I have chosen the NIV here because it translates the word teleioso as "finish", along with the KJV, HCSB, NLT, and Berean versions . Other translators have rendered the word accomplished (NASB, ESV). Still,in both translations,the implication is that Jesus finished his earthly assignment. Later, the theme of Jesus as finisher of God's work is finalized in the fourth Gospel when Jesus announced from the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

This is not to trivialize the work or person of Christ, or reduce the redemptive plan of God to mere human proportions. It is to signify, however, the example Jesus provided for his followers. He intentionally pursued his mission, never detoured from completing it, and never permitted his many other mission tasks to distract from it.

A genuine sense of mission often propels our "yes" before we've actually measured the cost of our commitment to a particular project or enterprise. Over and over the Gospels affirm the singular focus of Jesus in fulfilling what he was sent to do. One of the most endearing pictures of this unwavering obedience to God's plan is in Luke's Gospel, 4:43. Jesus was in Capernaum, had healed many, and had taught them. When he escaped to a desolate place perhaps to rest and prepare, they sought him out. They wanted him to stay there, with them. He said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well: for I was sent for this purpose".

What does this have to do with mission overload, or finishing, for that matter? It is simply that we are so easily distracted from our mission and purpose, often from very worthwhile diversions or commendable involvements. When the list grows too long we often don't finish those most important callings. Keeping the finish line of our purpose in view may give us the impetus to finish what we were sent to do.

John wrote about following the example of Jesus in his First Epistle.

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he


1 John 2:6, ESV

The reality? It means following him to the finish.

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