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.
Jesus, tired and hungry, arrives with his disciples at Jacob’s Well near the village of Sychar in Samaria. The disciples go off to the village to buy food but when they return they find Jesus refreshed and invigorated. How can that be? “Because,” says Jesus, “I have just eaten.” By which he meant he had just imparted his Father’s blessing and gift of new life to a woman from the village who had come there to draw water during the disciples’ absence. (They had probably passed her on the road.) And that was meat and drink to Jesus. In this gospel, Jesus uses the term “he who sent me” and “my Father” interchangeably. He is consciously a man on a mission. And the fulfilment of his mission was all he lived for and was what gave him life.
Towards the end, after the Last Supper, he tells his Father: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17.4); and on the cross he gives that great cry, “It is finished” (John 19.30). Just as “by the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2.1), so Jesus finishes the work he had been doing — the great work of the rescue and redemption of mankind and the renewal of all things — and rested from all his work.
But he leaves “workers” (Matthew 9.37) to continue doing the works of God. People like me! Paul calls us “God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3.9; 2Corinthians 6.1). And I do actually experience something of that nourishing effect of doing the will of God and engaging in the ministry that he has given me. It really is invigorating and refreshing when I hear God aright and do what he tells me. But I must not overlook the call here not only to begin the works that God gives me to do, but to finish them … just like Jesus.
This was brought home to me quite forcibly at Northern Light — a Christian Holiday in the Yorkshire Dales — a couple of years ago. I had been seeking guidance about whether it was right for me to remain in my present church or not, but the week had almost ended and I had received nothing. Then, on the last morning, we reached the end of our studies in Colossians and the speaker, Stuart Earl, read out the penultimate verse of the letter: “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord'” (Colossians 4.17). “Where it says ‘Archippus'”, said Stuart, “put in your own name instead.” And there was the word of guidance I had been seeking — “Tell Neil: ‘See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord'”.
How important it is not just to start work we “receive in the Lord” but to finish it! I love those words of Paul to Timothy as he (Paul) saw his end approaching: “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4.6-7). Job done!
Lord Jesus, please let that be true of me too when my day comes. Amen.