Early in his earthly ministry Jesus spoke about finishing. The occasion was following his encounter with a Samaritan woman at the well. After she had departed and returned to her village his disciples approached him with questions, and then urged him to eat something. Their interchange is interesting----
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have
food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could
someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who
sent me and to finish his work."
John 4:31-34, NIV
Long before his determined journey to Jerusalem, Passion Week, or those hard final twelve hours Jesus was passionate about doing the Father's will and finishing his redemptive work.
Matthew's Gospel is annotated with images of the passion of Christ as a finisher. The first Gospel is structured and framed around five broad teaching discourses in Christ's earthly ministry: the Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7); the Missionary Discourse (Chapter 10); the Parabolic Discourse (Chapter 13); the Discourse on the Church (Chapters 18-19:1); and the Discourse on the End Times (Chapters 23:1-26:1). Each of them begins in a similar fashion with Jesus teachings the disciples. In the same fashion, each of them ends with a summary statement that emphasized the completion of the discourse.
When Jesus had finished saying these things...
Matthew 7:28, NIV
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples...
Matthew 11:1, NIV
When Jesus had finished these parables...
Matthew 13:51, NIV
When Jesus had finished saying these things...
Matthew 19:1, NIV
When Jesus had finished saying all these things...
Matthew 26:1, NIV
Many Bible commentators have written extensively about the meanings of the five discourses. Certainly each block of teaching relates matters pertinent to the Gospel--- the tenets of the Christian faith, the ministry of the Twelve, the parables of the Kingdom, the community of faith, and vigilance until the day of the Lord. In total they are the instructions to prepare his followers at the time, and the church in all of history, for the redemptive mission he assigned in Matthew 28:19-20, which we know as The Great Commission. These five discourses are the substance of Matthew's purpose in penning the Gospel: the presentation of Jesus to the Jewish people as their promised Messiah and King.
Years ago our grandfather and pastor, Rev. O.F. Owens, taught us to make special note of repetition in Scripture. Matthew's repeated use of the phrase "When Jesus had finished..." has always been intriguing to me. Were they simply a grammatical device to emphasize the close of one section and the introduction of another? Or, was Matthew attempting to portray something deeper about our Lord's passion, the intention of finishing what had been started?
Of course, I'm no scholar and the translation and interpretation of the Gospel with any degree of depth is beyond my pay grade. But, the emphasis on Jesus finishing each block of teaching communicates something profound this week, referred to as Passion Week on the Christian calendar. In my heart and mind Matthew wanted us to know the purposeful intention of every element of his earthly ministry. His journey to Jerusalem, as mentioned this past Monday, was a determined passion in completing the Father's redemptive work. So was the way he taught the Twelve, prepared his followers, and commissioned his church. His insistence that a prophet could not die outside of Jerusalem (see Luke 13:33) is an element of this passion. The way he taught and prepared his followers is also.
The seven last words Jesus spoke from the cross will be central to our understanding of Passion Week. The sixth of these, noted in John 19: 30, is especially meaningful when reflecting on the passion of Christ. John recorded it---
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed
his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30, NIV
Death on the cross was his passion for the length and breadth of his earthly ministry. This passion was revealed in his determined journey to Jerusalem and in the way he taught his disciples and prepared them to change the world. He finished what the Father had begun in human history. And, that touches me in a special way. How quickly and hastily we humans begin things. How seldom do we finish.
I'm thinking how often I've had these hot flashes of spiritual fire that ignite in a moment of spiritual, emotional, or physical combustion that fizzle out then the moment has passed. How I pray that my hot flashes will become genuine passion as i pray, worship, and consider the passion of Christ this week.
Tomorrow I'll examine several of the hot flashes Christ's disciples experienced in the days leading up to his crucifixion, and the emptiness of such shallow compulsions. The topic Friday will be his death and perhaps the reason his disciples weren't ready for that when he went to the cross.
Then, there's Sunday. And, Monday, the passion that guided each of the Twelve to his own death. Join me.
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