I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.
Like Jesus —
I. WE HAVE EACH OUR MISSION. We are Divinely sent. It is by no act of ours that we are here, by no migration from a pre-existent life, still less did we construct this abode of ours. Yet here we are on the theatre of this particular world, and as its lords to replenish and subdue it, but confined to it. Whence have we this range, so large and yet so defined? Because we have a definite mission, which missed or marred, the result is tragic.
II. WE HAVE EACH A PRACTICAL MISSION. We are sent to "work." There are some nobles who are sent on mere missions of pageantry or pleasure; one as ambassador, to gratify at some refined court his taste for music and the fine arts. Another, fond of travel, contrives in this way to see classic or romantic lands. But man's mission from the King of kings is sternly practical. Had he kept his first estate it would have been so, for work is Divine and older than the fall. All legitimate work is —
1. Productive. Other is not so — the thief, e.g., the marauding conqueror, the publican. But the mechanic, merchant, explorer, etc., are productive, whether of food, comforts, wealth, or knowledge, which is power.
2. Ennobling, directly contributing to the decencies and moralities of life as may be seen when we contrast the condition of the poorest in this city with that of the savage. The Jews had an excellent proverb: "He that has not learned to work, is brother to him that is a thief." From this let every man learn to honour productive and useful work wherever found. Let not the operative refuse the name of workman to the thinker, because the fabric of his thoughts cannot be seen; for our manufactures, buildings, machines are but the vesture of previous thought. And let not the non-manual class look down on the brawny arm and horny hand! for they are the solid basis of the social pyramid.
III. WE HAVE A MISSION TO DIVINE AND GOD-LIKE WORKS.
1. Our daily callings, if they are honest and honourable, and done inside our Father's vineyard, and for Him, and not outside the sacred ground as done for man merely or self. "I have not time to serve God" was once said to an evangelist. "God wants no more of your time than you give to the devil," was the reply.
2. The more special works God has laid upon us in the culture of personal religion and in the works of philanthropy. We need but read the context to find out what works Christ meant, such works as are grouped in the formula, "He went about doing good."
3. The bulk of these works is individually not great but little. The entire pyramid of human progress is made up of littles. The vast ocean is made up of drops, and the great globe of atoms; and just so in the intellectual, moral, and spiritual world life is made up of little duties. Great and brilliant services are possible only to a few, and in rare emergencies, and weighed against the ordinary, they are but of small account. What keeps the world moving is not the great deeds of kings, conquerors, etc., but the brave, patient, prayerful work of fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, etc.
4. In order to these little works being good works there is a previous work, viz., believing in Jesus and being reconciled to God.
IV. WE HAVE A MISSION THAT IS URGENT.
1. Beware of the many things that seek to rob us of one day.
2. Time lost can never be retrieved.
3. Time is inestimably precious for all our interests, but infinitely more as involving our eternity.
4. Flee to Jesus without delay, for "now is the accepted time," etc.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.