Finishing Well

Over the next month, most students will be finishing up their spring semester. Some will be graduating, some will be moving away to work internships, and some will travel. It’s easy to think about the destination, but I want you to think for a moment about now. One of the most important traits about someone is how they finish. 

How will you finish?

Jesus Christ had to finish. His life on earth was leading him somewhere. Sprinkled throughout the gospels, you will find phrases such as Jesus being “on his way to Jerusalem” (Luke 17:11) or Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) to remind the reader of his mission. 

So, what did his last couple of weeks look like? What was Jesus’s default setting when things got really hectic? Right before Jesus would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, get falsely accused and tried, beaten, and eventually crucified on a cross, he would meet a man named Zaccheus. Jesus’s interaction with him should help us reconsider how we can finish well:

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

- Luke 19:5

Jesus Saw Zaccheus

We can get so bogged down in the day-to-day grind of life that we can forget to look up. Life is about seeing. David Foster Wallace described it like this in his 2005 Commencement Speech to Kenyon College:

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how's the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What is water?’

The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see”

(The whole speech is well worth 20 minutes of your life; also, please excuse the language)

Wallace is describing an intentionality about life that demands a shift in focus. The default focus of every human being is self. Jesus’s default focus was others. 

With the crowds and the chaos pressing in all around him, Jesus looked up and saw a man.

Jesus Stayed with Zaccheus

It’s one thing to take your focus off your self and on to others. It’s an entirely different one to sacrifice to be with them. In the hardest, busiest, most stressful time of Jesus’s life he takes the time to go to Zaccheus’s house and sit with a sinner. 

There are obviously some outliers to this, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Jesus is don’t leave; to actually enter into the mess, not run from it. When life gets hard, our default setting tends to look down, not up, and to leave, not stay. 

Why would you want to do any of this?

Jesus teaches us that the outcome of seeing and staying will be salvation. If not other’s, at least yours. 

“And Jesus said to [Zaccheus], ‘Today salvation has come to this house.” (Luke 19:10a)

Seeing and staying will not make your last couple of weeks on campus easier or add lines to your resume.  It will not help you make a greater living, but it will help you live greater because it will lead to salvation. At the end of the day you were not ultimately made for comfort, control, or success. You were made for redemption. 

I’ll conclude with Wallace’s conclusion:

"The really important kind of life involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real living. The alternative is unconsciousness – the default setting – the 'rat race'. I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun or breezy or grandly inspirational. But we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over, 'This is water. This is water.'"

By doing so we have a chance to finish well and come alive to the glory of Christ and his salvation for us and for others.

Luke Rakestraw