"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me here and to finish his work. Do you not say, "Four months more and then the harvest"? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." - John 4:34-35
Our view of labor is a reflection on our view of life. Most of us have a tendency to have a darker view of the word “work” than the word “play.” When I was a child, I can remember distinctly grumbling over having to “work, work, work…all day, nothing but work!” This was especially true of Saturdays when we trimmed the thick privet hedges that surrounded our back yard. Those privet branches were prickly, and they left little cuts on my hands, arms, and legs. So, I grumbled while I worked. Similar feelings crept into my attitude on the completion of Labor Day weekend, which signified the official end of summer and the beginning of another year of drudgery in school. Nor did I shed that attitude entirely upon entering my adult years…check me on any Tuesday at work after a long weekend (like Labor Day, for example!), and you might find my face a little irritable.
Jesus had an entirely different view of work than that. He lived for work, He loved His work, He would give anything to finish His work. As a matter of fact, He did give everything to finish His work when He poured out His life for us on the cross. He delighted to do His work, most especially because it was not merely His work, but it was the work His heavenly Father had given Him to finish. Jesus delighted in doing the work of God as much as a lover of gourmet cooking loves a fine meal: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Our food provides us with nourishment, with fellowship (usually) and with pleasure. That’s exactly how Jesus saw His work. It gave Him nourishment to do God’s will. It was a reflection of His perfect fellowship with His Father. And it brought Him delight to see it through to its end. Even though that end meant His violent death on the cross, Jesus still did it for pleasure: “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Heb. 12:2).
Jesus did nothing on His own…the work He did was only what He saw His Father constantly doing (John 5:17-19). And that work was His highest delight, because it glorified His Father and brought His sheep into eternal life. Twice in Hebrews, Jesus says to His Father, “Here I am!” The second time was the cause of the first. The second time: “Here I am, it is written about me in the scroll, I delight to do your will, O God” (Heb. 10:7; see Psalm 40:8). The first time: “Here I am, and the children God has given me” (Heb. 2:13)! Jesus presented Himself to God to do His will, then presented to God the fruit of His obedience…His children! The delight of the Son was to do the will of the Father and finish His work, and that work was to save the children God had given Him: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:38-39). For that work Jesus lived, and for that work Jesus died.
"Jesus had an entirely different view of work than that. He lived for work, He loved His work, He would give anything to finish His work."
Amazingly, though, He has given us a similar work: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Immediately after telling His disciples that His food was to finish the Father’s work, He challenged them to open their eyes and look at the harvest fields, ready for reaping. The disciples had just been into the Samaritan village to buy physical food, and they had left without making any eternal difference at all! They had not led anyone to Christ, they had not spoken the gospel, they had not healed anyone or demonstrated the love of God in any way, as far as we know. Their minds were on earthly food, and Jesus challenged them by saying “I have food to eat you know nothing about” (John 4:32)! He was calling them to a life of work in His footsteps and after His example…reaping souls for the Kingdom of God through labor in His fields. This is our “Labor Day,” as long as it is called “Today!” For Jesus said “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Let us labor for eternal fruit as long as it is day. Let us not be like the disciples who went to a town and bought physical food, and knew nothing of the eternal food that Christ enjoyed…working the works of God.