(Written to go along with a sermon on Philippians 1:1-8. The thought comes from verse 6.)
Do you sometimes find it difficult to finish or complete a project? I often find it hard to do so. For example, there’s a small sailboat propped up on sawhorses in my back yard that I’ve never quite gotten around to finishing.
You know how it goes: You get excited about an idea. You imagine how great it would be if only you did thus and so. You do some research and gather the necessary materials. You plunge into the project and, at first, it’s a lot of fun. You enjoy stretching your mind to figure out the best way to get it done. You enjoy learning the skills you need. But then, somewhere about half to three-quarters of the way through, the shine starts to wear off. You encounter a problem you hadn’t expected. Or you start to realize that there’s a lot more work and expense involved than you originally thought. Or you get bored with the project. Or something else comes along which grabs your attention. All of a sudden the project doesn’t seem nearly as important as it did at first. And, if you’re not careful – if you don’t deliberately make up your mind to see it through, the project just sort of dies. It remains uncompleted.
Scripture says that Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are (Hebrews 4:15). That being so, there must have been times when He was tempted to give up and quit. He came to earth for the express purpose of saving us from our sins. Or, to put it another way, He came to reconcile us to God.
But though His purpose was noble, and His intentions were the best, actually completing the project wasn’t easy. It involved a lot of sacrifice and heartache. It’s true that for the first year or so of His ministry, Jesus was immensely popular. Yet even popularity has its drawbacks. Mark records that sometimes Jesus and His disciples didn’t even have the time to eat (Mark 3:20, 6:31).
In addition to physical discomforts Jesus must have been discouraged sometimes by His disciples’ inability to understand what He said to them. At other times, He was astonished by people’s lack of faith – even when they saw the miracles He performed.
Even worse was the hostility of the religious leaders – the very people who should have been His biggest supporters. Having to deal with their hypocrisy, trick questions designed to trap Him and the lies they told about Him, there must have been times when Jesus wondered whether it was worth it.
Sometimes the temptation to quit and do something else was more direct. John 12:20-36 records that some Greeks approached Jesus with a proposal. John doesn’t tell us what it was, but whatever it was, accepting it would have given Jesus a way to escape going to the cross. My personal opinion is that this was probably the biggest temptation Jesus ever had to face. Certainly it was the biggest after Satan tempted Him in the wilderness shortly after His baptism.
In spite of all the difficulties, hardships, opposition and the temptation to quit, Jesus stayed true to the mission. He didn’t give up. He went through with it, even though it meant facing an agonizing death on the cross. He let nothing faze Him. Luke writes, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51 NIV)
One of the greatest statements Jesus ever made was while He was on the cross. John 19:28-30 says, “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (NIV)
I’m glad that Jesus resolutely completed the task God gave Him to do. Because He finished what he set out to do, we can be reconciled to God.
Each week we come together to remember what Jesus did. As we eat the bread which reminds us of His body and drink the juice which reminds us of His blood, let’s re-commit to finishing the task God has given us. Hebrews 12:2-3 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NIV)
Let’s finish resolutely, just as He did!