“I have finished the work!” What a blessing to be able to say at the end of our work here on the earth, “Father, I have finished the work that You gave me to do.” It is clear in John 17 that Jesus was about to complete His assignment. He knew that on that very night, He would be arrested and finish the job that He had started.
What did He say that He had come to do? He mentioned a few things in His prayer meeting recorded in John 17, as He was praying in Gethsemane:
- He said that He had come to glorify the Father (vs. 4).
- He said that He had come to manifest the name of the Father (vs. 6).
- He said that He had kept the Word and had given His disciples the Word of the Father.
- He said that He had kept all the disciples that the Father had entrusted to Him, with only one exception (Judas), and that the Father knew why He had lost him.
He would go forth that night to set in motion the rest of His assignments: the greatest of all being the redemption of the human race, for all who would believe.
Oh, to be able to feel that we have been obedient to God when we are finished. But what is it that we are sent to do?
I’m sure that we can find many noble tasks to give our lives to as followers of Jesus, but nothing comes close to the assignment given to us in Matthew 28:18b-20 as Jesus was about to leave and go back to heaven: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (KJV).
I know that we can quote these verses and have preached on them often, but have we noticed what is missing here? Notice that Jesus did not say that we were to go and build His church. Jesus previously said that He would build His church. Jesus told us to tell the gospel story, baptize the converts, and teach them to observe what He had commanded. Did you get it?
We have been told to tell the story of the good news, baptize the believers, and make disciples. Jesus will build Himself a church; we are to make disciples — the church will be built by Jesus, Himself.
Yes, we are to gather and organize the believers in communities after they have been given the good news and after they have believed. We baptize them into the church as He adds to it. The church is the product of our obedience to tell the story of Christ’s obedience unto death and His powerful resurrection. When we tell this story, have people accept the story and become what are called believers, we form a body of believers known as the local New Testament church. However, the church is really a post for discipleship! There are many different things that the church will do in a community. Still, we must never fail to know what we have been sent to do: tell the greatest story ever told, baptize believers to identify them as followers of Jesus, and disciple those who believe.
And when we finish, maybe, just maybe, we can say, “Father, I have finished the work that You gave me to do.” And it is our desire to hear the Father say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Dr. Harold Phillips is the pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church and the president of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
Cover photo: Adobe Stock photo by Palidachan.