By David Faust
Many things in life go unfinished. Franz Schubert had an unfinished symphony. The artist Raphael didn’t complete his painting “The Transfiguration” before he died. Rows of orange barrels bear testimony to the irritating fact that highway maintenance never ends. A homeowner can always look at his lawn or house and find something else that needs to be done.
Faced with seemingly endless tasks, we are tempted to face our daily routines without any objective in sight. But not Jesus. He came for a purpose. He lived for a reason. He didn’t wander around aimlessly, teaching random words of wisdom. He knew what he came to do. On the night before he died on the cross, he prayed and told his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). That is a noble goal for any of us: to finish the work God has given us to do.
A Job Well Done
Jesus wasn’t like a student in school who receives a grade of “incomplete” because there are more tests to take and more assignments to fulfill. Jesus completed all of his assignments. He passed every test. He finished the course.
On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and it looked like he was finished indeed. It appeared that his life and ministry were over. No longer would he thrill the hearts of his disciples with parables. Soon that remarkable voice would be silent. No longer would those strong hands heal the sick, bless the children, touch the leper, and comfort the outcast. Now those outstretched hands were pierced by nails. No longer would his feet carry him across the land to preach good news. Those feet now hung helpless-looking, fastened to the cross.
His terrified followers scattered. It looked like his enemies had finished him off once and for all. But things were not as they appeared.
His words, “It is finished,” sprang not from grim resignation, but from the recognition of success—like the satisfaction of an artist who puts the final touches on a masterpiece or an author who types the final word of her manuscript and experiences the joy of a job well done.
Jesus’ declaration, “It is finished,” translates one word in the Greek New Testament: tetelestai. It means to fulfill a purpose or reach a goal. One commentator translated Jesus’ words, “It is rounded out to perfection.”
What Work Did Jesus Complete?
He fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture. Jesus often insisted that his hour had not yet come (John 2:4, 7:8), but he died right on schedule—at the beginning of Passover, fulfilling the symbolism of the Lamb of God, the Suffering Servant who was “pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53).
He fulfilled the plan of God. At the dawn of human history, God announced his intention to send a deliverer who would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). When Abraham’s faith was tested and he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, the Lord stopped him from taking his beloved son’s life; but that incident foreshadowed the day when God would give his own beloved Son.
He fulfilled the longings of humanity. The agony of the cross was necessary to meet our deepest need: to forgive sin and restore hope. Jesus died, not as a victim, but as a victor. Secure in him, we find that our search for the purpose of life is “finished.”
1. Is your main goal to finish the work God has given you to do?
2. What part of God’s work still remains unfinished in your life?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 15, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Amos 3, 4
Amos 5, 6