After five tedious hours of sanding and three coats of poly-finish, the vintage-1920’s, solid oak chair is restored. I lay my brush atop the can of urethane and step back to inspect. With a satisfied grin and a nod to the chair, I affirm: “This project is now finished.” It’s the culmination of both artful plans and hand-numbing toil. I smile. It’s now beautifully refinished!
On that bleak day at Golgotha, Christ cried out, “It is finished!” (John’s Gospel, 19:30) What did he mean? We might assume Christ was so profoundly exasperated that he was exclaiming, “It’s been agonizing, and now, it’s OVER!” Perhaps. But perhaps he meant even more. Throughout Christ’s time on earth, he worked. He worked hard. In Mark 6:3, people recognized him as the carpenter. A tekton engaged in hands-on work with wood and/or other sculpting and building materials. Prior to assuming his role as Rabbi-Miracle-Worker, Jesus plied the trade of his father, Joseph. With Christ’s baptism and inauguration of his kingdom initiatives, his Heavenly Father’s mission-business shifted into a next phase of implementation. Jesus taught crowds; he trained disciples; he touched the suffering; he transformed lives by his grace. In a real sense, his hands were still sculpting. Like most jobs, he had to work around the haters and cynics. On one such feisty occasion, he replied, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John’s Gospel, 5:17)
The language of Jesus’ cry from the cross was ripe with significance. Tetelestai. “It is now fully accomplished, totally completed. The plans have come to fruition. It’s paid in full. Redemption has fully arrived!”
How might Christ’s decisive cry, “It is finished!” impact our daily work?
We can affirm the value of long-term planning and implementation. Much of the Father’s work—and then his Son’s work—involved establishing and working out the ancient prophecies. Christ’s life work demonstrated marvelous fulfillment of those plans, culminating in extra-dynamic ways with the cross, resurrection, and ascension. Consider this: when we make strategic plans and work hard to implement them, we are more fully living out the image of God, matching his very character and transformative intentions for us.
We can infuse our daily work with his redemptive aims. Christ’s loud personal cry, tetelestai, declared the complete arrival of redemption. This should motivate us to make sure our own work keeps redemptive purposes in view. How does what I do today serve with humble sincerity, bless the mess, help reverse the curse, clear the confusion, and bring truly Good News to people who experience the bad news everyday? With both our daily actions and our daily words, we can share Christ’s hope-filled redemption.
We can work hard, relying on God’s grace. The Apostle Paul, after rehearsing the creed—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—insisted that he had worked harder than all the other apostles, “—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) In like fashion, it is the grace of God that confidently propels our own work today. We can fully trust him and praise him for such grace!
We can intentionally plan to finish strong. What does it take to finish strong in your life work? In their discussion of a strategy for entrepreneurs planning to finish well, Richard Goosen and R. Paul Stevens lend five insights: (1) Keep articulating your life goals, not just when you are young, but throughout life; (2) Constantly refresh your sense of calling; (3) Engage in an accountability group; (4) Practice thanksgiving day and night; and (5) plan on lifelong learning, blending study, work, and play all along the way.
‘Ever wonder what Christ felt on certain days in the carpentry shop, especially when working on tough projects? How often did the skin on his hands get dry-cracked and calloused? What expression crossed his face when a splinter snagged him? And I wonder what words crossed his lips when he wrapped up an especially challenging piece? I have a hunch I know, and you probably do as well. After all, there was the day his hands held rough-hewn beams, and they felt the ugly work of nails. And on that day, Christ cried out, “It is finished!”
Take heart. His finished work and triumphant word supply all the grace we need to press on, work hard, and finish strong.
Richard J. Goossen and R. Paul Stevens. Entrepreneurial Leadership: Finding Your Calling, Making a Difference. (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2013) 176-179.