Tasks That Are Finished and Ships That Have Sailed


“It is finished” (John 19:30).

In a panel discussion regarding the movie Saving Mr. Banks, actor Tom Hanks, who plays Walt Disney in the film, tells of the final conversation between Disney and the creator of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers.

“Just after the premiere of the movie, Mrs. Travers said, ‘Oh, we have much work to do on this movie, Mr. Disney. Much work indeed.’

Disney said to her, ‘Pam, that ship has sailed,’ and walked away.”

Hanks says, “It was the last time they ever spoke.”

That ship has sailed.

It’s a wonderful expression to indicate tasks that are complete and should now be set aside, events that are now history and cannot be changed, projects that are finished and cannot be tampered with.

When a movie is “in the can,” as they say, it’s done.

Here are a few other over-and-done things that come to mind, ships that have sailed….

1) The finished work of Christ.

On the cross, the Lord’s final words were, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Here’s how the writer of Hebrews puts that–

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.  For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Hebrews 10:11-14).

The Jewish temple had numerous furnishings, but no chairs.  The work of the priests was an ongoing task and never finished. And yet, when Jesus had done HIs earthly work, He said it was finished.  He sat down.  He had done what He had come to do. Soon, He returned to Heaven.

It’s a wonderful teaching that speaks to the completed nature of our salvation.  Jesus has done everything necessary for the eternal salvation of His people.  (Everything, that is, except to force it on them. According to Revelation 3:20, He even brings it right up to the front door and knocks, so strongly does He want us to have the blessings of Calvary.)

With respect to our Catholic friends, your continual “sacrifice of the mass” may safely end. The Savior has done everything necessary to achieve your salvation for all time, and nothing you do in the service or in your personal devotion adds merit to what He achieved.

When a ship has sailed, we may put the blueprints away, send the mechanics back to the shop, and forget any plans to redecorate the staterooms. The time for that has gone.

No amount of good works you and I can do will add any merit to what Jesus accomplished on Calvary.

2) Yesterday is a ship that has sailed.  Nothing we do can undo what we did yesterday.

The Lord can forgive the sins I committed yesterday, and He does, thanks to Calvary.  He can use the seed we sowed and the works we did in His name to bear ongoing fruit.  But He does not and will not venture into our yesterday to undo the good or the bad you and I did.

People returning to their past lives to correct a wrong is the theme of countless books and movies.  In Back to the Future, Marty McFly (the Michael J. Fox role) travels back 30 years to his parents’ teens and unknowingly tweaked something that was amiss in their relationship.  He returns to discover everything had changed for the better because of that one small correction.  It’s a nice dream, but completely a fantasy.

Yesterday is a ship has sailed.

3) The completed life of any human.

It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

There is nothing in Scripture to indicate people receive a second chance at anything after death.

That ship has sailed.

This life is the only chance we have to get this right, and there are no practice runs.

4) Other ships that have sailed….

–Sometime after your wedding, you begin thinking about an old sweetheart. Sorry, Charlie.  She’s off limits from now on.  You have a wife to whom you are committed and a home to build. As for the old girl friends, that ship has sailed.

–You are a preacher and are driving home after church. You think about the sermon you just delivered and know there are ways you could have done it better. You should have remembered to include that illustration, spent more time on the first point, and driven home the application.  But it’s over now.  Close the book on it and get some rest, as you prepare for the next sermon.

–The young wife said to me, “My husband says he has forgiven me. But he keeps throwing it up to me every time we have a disagreement.” I said, “How about that, husband?” He said, “I have forgiven her. I just can’t forget it.”  To no one’s surprise, this marriage did not survive her infidelity and his inability to forgive.

–Forgiven sins are gone.  The gospel song said, “They’re underneath the blood of the cross of Calvary, as far removed as darkness is from dawn….”  Scriptures teaching this include Psalm 103:12 and Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17.


1) We do well to devote ourselves to learning all that was accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross. The more we learn, the more we will appreciate the depth of His love, the power of His grace, and the effectiveness of the gospel.  And–we must say–the less we will be driven to “add to” what He did.

2) The opportunities God sends our way must be seized while the moment presents itself. They may not return.

3)  We must not spend time reliving past mistakes or old glories.  We learn from them, then close the door and work at living for today.

4) We cannot undo what has happened in the past, but can pick up and go forward from here. In the days of door-to-door sales, successful salespeople had to master the art of sloughing off a slammed door and a harsh rejection at the last house in order to smile and be hopeful at the next.  It’s a good skill to have.

5) Let us show grace to others who made mistakes in the past but who are working to grow past those failures.  Let us demonstrate the same grace we appreciate so much receiving from the Lord. Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8).

6) Finally, let us not waste time trying to redo what God has already done, reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

This is the day the Lord has made; let’s be alert to see what He had in mind for it.