I read blogs by and for pastors because I am one. The idea that people do not understand the weight, job, etc., of a pastor seems to be a pretty common assertion. And, while I think that’s true on the face of it, I don’t think it is more true of pastors than any other profession. I don’t understand the weight of an investment banker or an oncology nurse. So, the following is not to suggest that my job is harder than anyone else’s, but to make a few observations that eventually will be important for everyone…I hope.
My job never feels finished. I can’t really point to anything in my job that feels completed. There’s always one more email to answer, another person to meet and more issues to address. You might be tempted to point to a sermon as something that can be finished. And I suppose you are right except that you spend your heart on Sunday only to realize Monday morning that you have to do it again next week. So, it still doesn’t have the satisfied feeling that comes from installing a dishwasher, building a table or laying brick. That sense of completion is just not part of a pastor’s vocational package.
I suppose anyone who seeks to make any kind of meaningful difference in the world feels this way. A mother’s job is never finished. You only have to look at the laundry to know this is true. Teachers are horribly underpaid and over worked. Doctors have an unending list of patients, each with a different need. So, this unfinished feeling may be common for many vocations, not just pastors.
It is Finished
Which makes Jesus’ last words all the more important. John 19:30 records Jesus’ last words on the Cross. One word in Greek. Three in English.
It is finished.
These are cosmically important words. History tells us that when a crime was committed in Jesus’ day, the perpetrator was issued a certificate of debt listing both the crime and punishment. This certificate was displayed while the criminal was fulfilling the debt (hanging next to the criminal while in the stocks, for instance). After the debt had been paid, the criminal would bring the certificate of debt to the judge who would stamp one Greek word over the debt, “Tetelestai.” It is finished. Probably the best way to understand it would be, “Paid in Full.”
Something in our lives is finished. Completed. Something in our lives is marked with divine finality.
In making this His last declaration on the Cross, Jesus is saying simply that the sins of all who would trust Him are paid in full. His death is the finished work that completely pays the penalty for those who make Him their refuge. It is finished. The debt of a world of criminals from every tribe and tongue and nation is paid in full.
So, for those of us whose jobs are never finished, this word that resounds through all the cosmos is critically important. Something in our lives is finished. Completed. Something in our lives is marked with divine finality. Our sins have been forgiven. Our debt has been cancelled. Our Savior has won, and for eternity His voice will be heard, “It is Finished.”
So, what does that have to with my job?
At the risk of projecting my issues, the days I most struggle with the unfinished nature of my job, I find myself struggling with anxiety. Subconsciously I’ve started to believe that I’m much more important than I am or that Jesus is much less sufficient than He is (perhaps both/and). I’ve started believing that I need to add the achievement du jour to Jesus’ finished work for me. Rather than hearing and rejoicing in his final words of victory, I think my preaching, pastoring or our Sunday morning attendance are more important.
Those are the days when I feel inordinate weight and pressure from what normally is just my vocation. On those days, I must remember those cosmically important words and rest in Jesus’ finished work to propel me into my work that never finishes.
If we are to endure in jobs that are never finished, we must remain rooted and grounded in One whose job is.
Again, i don’t want to project my issues on others, but I I don’t think I’m alone in this. It’s possible that I’m the only one in the world who struggles with taking on inappropriate weight in their job. I might be the only one who thinks that I’m more important than I am. I might be the only one who forgets that Jesus is more sufficient than I can fathom. However, Judging from my conversations with people I love in various vocations who really do desire to make a difference in the world, I don’t think I am.
If we are to endure in jobs that are never finished, we must remain rooted and grounded in One whose job is. Because Jesus finished his job, I can work hard from a place of rest rather than trying so hard to achieve. Because Jesus finished his job, I can work hard from a place of rest knowing that anything that makes a difference ultimately comes from Him. Because Jesus finished his job, I can work with confidence that the worst case scenario for my life is that I’m a blood bought child of the King. All of this because of three cosmically important words: It is Finished.
Join us at one of our Easter Services as we explore these cosmically important words from Jesus.