Jesus knew his earthy mission with certainty. He spoke it to his disciples on several occasions with great clarity.
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. John 4:34, NIV
I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works the Father has given me to
finish---the very works that I am doing---testify that the Father has sent me. John 5:36, NIV
I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. John 17:4, NIV
Even more, the texts of Matthew and Luke annotate finishing as a marker of his teaching ministry. The entire Gospel of Matthew is organized around five teaching segments that are separated by a variation of the statement "When Jesus had finished saying these things..." (see Matthew 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). The Gospel of Luke identifies two of these topic headings "When Jesus had finished..." (see Luke 5:4; 7:1; 11:37). There is also an emphatic notation about Jesus finishing his prayer (see Luke 11:1). And then, in a powerful lesson about the cost of discipleship, Luke wrote---
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes
to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—
yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not
carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to
build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough
money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it,
everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t
able to finish.’
Luke 14: 25-30, NIV
Evidently disciples of Christ are expected to be finishers. You know, counting the cost and going the distance. This is because we are supposed to be Christ like in all we do. That means following his example should be the over-arching goal of our lives out there on the mean streets. Connecting the dots, that example would be a primary reference point in the escalating church drop-out rate, especially among younger believers. There was an interesting reflection of this truth Wednesday, January 1, 2020. A social media site asked readers to post their word for the year, their one word resolution. You can imagine the variety and tone, some expressing comic relief, most leaving a more serious spiritual aspiration. One pastor noted that he was going to preach about ABIDING, teaching the biblical concept of "staying" or "remaining". Someone else posted that his plans sounded B-O-R-I-N-G. We really don't like to stay on point and complete most endeavors. Finishing is often drudgery, perhaps difficult, sometimes tedious. We'd rather launch something new than remain with something to the end.
There's another layer here too. We don't talk about finish lines all that much. This truth came out of left field several years ago when our church staff formed a quartet---me on bass, Jim Yow on baritone, Roger Ferrell handling first tenor, and Teresa Crumley giving us second tenor. We called ourselves the Staff Infection. Go ahead, laugh. After singing in our church a couple of times we started receiving invitations to sing at senior adult events around the upstate. So we developed a repertoire of good old Southern gospel four-part harmony songs. What we learned is that people loved hearing those old songs about heaven. The people beamed and sang joyously. These experiences taught me to read Scripture passages about heaven---receiving crowns of glory, hopefully hearing "well done, good and faithful servant". It all made me realize that we need to talk about life's finishing lines more often.
John 17, what is termed the high priestly prayer of Jesus, offers a glimpse of Jesus finishing, a moment where he "...looked toward heaven and prayed" (John 17:1, NIV). He said, "I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4, NIV). In John 19, John recorded what Jesus said from the cross---"Later, knowing that everything had been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, he said, "I am thirsty" (John 19:28, NIV). Finally, from the cross there was his final declaration---"It is finished, and with that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30, NIV). " Jesus, our Lord had finished what the Father had sent him to accomplish.
2020 is now given to us. No doubt there are things in this life we should be about finishing. My prayer is that his example will be my primary guide as I move through my many personal goals and aspirations, especially those regarding my spiritual growth and development. When I contemplated what my one word for the year would be, I chose the word "Him". I'm praying that I can lay aside all of my habits, pretenses, and personal practices, so that "He" will be my prime example in 2020.
Next week, I'll examine the five steps he modeled for reaching the finish lines of this New Year, and every year that will follow.
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