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Why did Jesus come? Last update: August 2011

In this article I look at Old Testament prophesy about the coming of the Messaiah as well as what Jesus said about His coming, and I ask the question which parts of Jesus' To Do list we as individual Christians are doing today?

Why did Jesus come?

Why did Jesus come? What is the 'main thing' His disciples should be concerned about? What is that thing that He wanted us to know is central to His coming? It seems like such a simple question, yet the answer remains elusive. I would posit that Christianity is mainly divided on the basis of a clear answer to this question. Most will say, ‘to save the world’ and they’ll be right, in a way. John 3:16 is that verse in the Bible that springs to mind for most as having the conclusive answer - [so that we can] ‘have life’.

Whether that ‘life’ primarily means physical life and health or financial health, or a sense of social justice and peace, or a sense of enjoyment and fun, in my opinion, is the question that brings division amongst most Christians. And, whether such "life” in ourselves is achieved through humble submission and lowliness or through conquering power on the basis of His victory on the cross remains a point of difference for many.

Moreover, whether such "life" is achieved in others through uncompromising speach or simple frienship, or whether it is automatically afforded to all, has been and remains the subject of many debates, criticisms, critiques, exclusion and/or preclusion.

Why this question is important?

If we can fully understand why Jesus came – what His primary purpose was – then we can understand what a disciple of Jesus looks like, and whether or not we fit that description?

This, truly, is an important question because whilst we may think we have the answer we might be completely off the mark. We may follow a tradition or a way of thinking about Christ and Christianity on the basis of the way we were brought up, or the place where we came to know the Lord, and not actually follow the way He intended. Jesus warns His disciples in this way, “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35, NKJV).

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Old Testament prophesy about the Saviour

Whilse the Apostle Paul said: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15), Old Testament prophesy about the coming of the Messiah suggests that he would ‘liberate the Jews’. And this is exactly what they expected, only that they expected the ‘liberation’ to be a physical one and from that of the Roman Empire, not a spiritual one from their own fleshly desires and from the rule of Satan. In Isaiah 53 the prophet describes the coming of the Messiah as follows:

“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked - But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:2-11, NKJV).

The above passage tells us about who the Messiah is as a person within society as well as what Man’s response to Him would be and what the effect of His coming would be. It also tells us why He came:

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5). Five areas of human life are noted: 1) griefs and sorrows, 2) transgression, 3) iniquities, 4) peace, and 5) the need for healing.

This underlines the fact that:

There are other text in the Bible that clarify some of what is written here. For instance, when Isaiah speaks about “peace”, he is not speaking about peace between people or nations, as many believe. To the contrary, he is speaking about an inner peace.

To know this we need to look at what Jesus says about peace: Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Luke 12:51, NKJV). So, we should not assume the meaning of a word or phrase without a clearer understanding on it. This way we can understand why Jesus came and how we are to follow Him.

In short, God, through Christ acknowledges the corruptness and the brokeness of Man's life here on earth as well as the life hereafter. And, through Christ, He sends the answer for all of mankind to participate in. This we see clearly from Jesus' own lips.

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Jesus’ To Do list

In Luke chapter 4, Jesus famously reads from the same prophet Isaiah noted above to announce His arrival as the Messiah - the Savior of mankind:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD (Luke 4:18-19, NKJV)

Thus, Jesus Himself proclaims the purpose of His coming as follows:

From what we see under the two headings above it is quite evident that Isaiah’s version and Jesus’ version of His purpose or His To Do list, although using different words, agree entirely.

Isaiah says the Messiah will come because:

Jesus says why He has come:

Man suffers griefs and sorrows

to heal the broken hearted

Man does not have true inner peace

to preach the gospel (the good news)

Man suffers from emotional, psychological and physical disease or disorders

to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind

Man suffers from a condition of the heart that gives him the propensity to act contrary to the nature of God. Thus, Man, through the iniquities of his heart, lives for and through the desires of the flesh.

to set at liberty those who are oppressed [by Satan]

Man is inherently sinful, and thus, from his own innate desire, wants to live distant from  God

to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD (the year in which all debts are released or pardoned)

 

To narrow the above list down to two, Jesus came to address our physical well being and also our spiritual or eternal well being. Thus, Jesus came to bring soteria – the Greek word for salvation.

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Is the choice of work ours?

How does Jesus' To Do list speak to His disciples today? Personally I think most of us ignore most parts of Jesus' To Do list and simply choose those parts we like or enjoy so that we can do according to our own desires or the talents or ‘gifts’ we perceive to have received from God.

So often do I hear, “Oh, I have not received the gift of public speaking, so preaching the Gospel is not for me” or “I have not received the gift of mercy, so I will stay away from reaching out to the poor”. This is said without considering Scripture, which says that in our weakness - not our strength - His power is made perfect. Look at the example of Moses where God uses a man with a speech problem, to be His chief negotiator on behalf of His people. Moreover, did not God use Paul, a man weak in appearance and speech, to proclaim the Gospel to the world? If these men, of which these are only two examples, worked for the Lord in areas where they were not naturally gifted, should we not pursue work within the Kingdom where God's strength is also made perfect by our personal weaknesses?

As so-called followers of Jesus I think that most of us think of Christianity as some kind of a buffet meal – where everything is laid out for us and we can pick and choose what we like to do according to our strengths. But, is that what a true disciple of Jesus does? It strikes me that even the first disciples, who were uneducated and clearly had an occupation within commerce (they were fishermen who sold their product on the open market), left that all behind in the interest of Christ. Their 'talents' had no bearing on what they would do for Christ and His Kingdom. In fact, the only resemblence to what they did before is that they would become "fishers of men" by virtue of acknowledging that His strength was made perfect in their weakness. These men (and women) had no frame of reference, no education, no talent and no skill for their new profession and there was no money to be made in it. They knew it, yet they pursued it because the value thereof was much greater than money and, being used by God was never going to be according to their own ambitions anyway.

How many Christians do you know who regularly and on an ongoing follow Jesus' To Do list: preach the gospel (the Good News) to the poor, heal the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, set at liberty those who are oppressed, and, proclaim the acceptable year (the year in which all debts are released or pardoned) of the Lord?

I have been a Christian for a few years and I do not know very many who do that, myself included. Instead I know quite a few who have very clever reasons why they should be excused from the above. Recall the guests who were invited to the Master's feast: "But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused." (Luke 14:17-19).

As I have noted, I too do not do all these either. But should that be any comfort to me? No, it should be my wake-up call because the love we have for Christ and the love we have for our neighbour is reflected not only in our words but in our deeds also (James 1:22-24).

We are one body

It is also true that we are 'one body' that has many parts and several different functions: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to uslet us use them: if prophecylet us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministrylet us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8).

How do I then reconcile the 'one body many parts' principle noted above with the notion that the disciples of Jesus will have adopted the same To Do list as He did? The key is to understand that in the passage above Paul is speaking about us being members of one church - one body of believers. And, within this body of believers, we serve each other in different ways. We each have different functions in the body for the body: prophesying, ministering, teaching, exhorting (encouraging others within the body), giving, leading, and, showing kindness and mercy.

Whereas Jesus' To Do list (Luke 4:18-19) speaks about believers' works in relation to the unbelieving world as well as the believing world, Paul, in the book of Romans above speaks about believers service to other believers. Note, there is no mention of evangelising, which is a function aimed at the unbelieving world.

Nevertheless, Jesus' ministry was aimed at both the believing world as well as the unbelieving world. So should our ministries be.

Similar to the above passage in Romans, the gifts of the Spirit speaks largely about Christians' service to the body of believers (the church): "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

and,

“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tonguesAre all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?  But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 27-30).

The inference in the passage above is that not all have the same function in the body of Christ for the body of Christ.

But it is the passage below, which clearly speaks about Christians' role in relation to both the believing body as well as the unbelieving body that perhaps helps us to understand that we all have the same To Do list as Jesus had, only that we each approach it from a different point of view:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Because, it is faith in the Word of Christ which we bring that achieves all of the above, not our own strength. And we are all light bearers for Christ. All apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers can:

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What was Jesus’ primary focus?

Whilst Jesus seemed to have worked to improve the physical as well as the eternal lives of the people who came to Him, the Father seems to primarily have had life eternal in mind as the reason for His coming.

John 3:16, which says that God sent His Son so that, if we believed, we might not perish but have eternal life, confirms this understanding. The Apostle Paul suggests that if we were to emphasize Jesus having come in the interest of our physical well being at the expense of emphasising His coming in the interest of our eternal well being, we are the most pitiable of all men“And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19, NLT).

In line with the above, if we read the totality of John 3:16 we will come to realise that mankind’s eternal salvation was the primary reason why God the Father sent Jesus:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Perhaps Jesus Himself states this in a more succinct way: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, NKJV). In the passage that precedes this text, and by contrasting Himself with the devil, Jesus is referring to both this life as well as life eternal. But, because life eternal is the weightier state of being, and given the clearity provided by John 3:16-18, we should conclude that Jesus came primarily so that mankind may have eternal life. This, together with the notion that we should not be led by our own strengths and desires in serving the Master, should give us a clear indication as to what, primarily, we as disciples of Jesus, should keep ourselves busy with.

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Understanding Jesus’ coming helps us understand His priorities

If we are to be followers of Christ we will, in action and intent, continue the work that Christ did during His earthly ministry. Thus, we will adopt Jesus’ To Do list – both in action and in attitude. Jesus walked in Godly love – so should we. Jesus walked in compassion – so should we. Jesus brought truth to every situation – so should we. Jesus brought the Word – so should we. In fact, Jesus IS the Word. We cannot bring Jesus and His Kingdom to this world without bringing His Word to this world. Love, Truth, the Word, Mercy and Righteousness are all adverbs that describe Jesus. You cannot separate His love from His mercy or His Word from His righteousness. To think otherwise is to think contrary to Scripture:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5, NKJV).

If you or I want to bring true life and we try to bring that without bringing the Word, our efforts will be short-lived. But if we bring the Word along with our efforts to bring relief or help, God's life will sustain that person(s) into eternity (John 17:17). You cannot bring true life or true love without bringing His Word.

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Am I comfortable with my sense of eternal salvation?

The passage below should warn us not to be so comfortable about what we perceive to be our relationship with Him, but rather serve as a serious reminder of how Jesus looks at us: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV).

Am I one of the many referred to above? Are you?

In another place John says this: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" (1 John 2:3, NKJV).

Yet, to appease their conscience, many will answer the question about discipleship in the following way: ‘God is love – I honestly do not believe I have to preach the gospel to serve Him right. He knows my heart. As long as I love - that is what He requires’. One of the Scriptures that is referred to back up this stance is, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV) 

That’s pretty straight-forward isn’t it? If I can love then I am of God and I walk in His Kingdom.

Not so quickly.

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How is that ‘love’ measured?

He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6-9, NKJV).

By God's standards for love, the example above seems to indicate that despite His love for all people we still need to deliver fruit else we be "cut down".

Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last” (Luke 13:23-30, NKJV).

By God's standards for love, the example above seems to indicate that despite His love for all people He will show many away because few will actually enter into His gate, which is a narrow one.

But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:45-48, NKJV).

By God's standards for love, the example above seems to indicate that despite His love for all people some will receive a harsher punishment.

Jesus came that mankind might have life and have it more abundantly. Followers of the ascended Christ follow the same mission as He did through bringing salvation to this lost world. That is salvation for this life and, more importantly, salvation for the life hereafter. The latter is brought about through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8), not through 'being good', although 'goodness' comes as a result of true faith. And faith in Jesus is brought about in hearing the Gospel (Romans 10:17). That is how we show love to another - by bringing His life to another.

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Why judge others’ contributions?

It is prudent for us to challenge one another and to challenge ourselves, much the same way as Paul did to Peter – so that Peter may wake up from his error. And it is wise to respond the way Peter did when he was corrected - instead of reacting defensively Peter went on to praise Paul and to encourage others to listen to him.

Look at this passage from 2 Peter: “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:15-17, NKJV).

Note how Peter, once rebuked openly by Paul (being a 'lesser Apostle' by human standards because he did not actually spend time with Jesus), respond in true humility by considering his ways and understanding that Paul’s rebuke was an act of love - not hate, not jealousy, not unfair judgement or pride. But love.

Thus, to challenge ourselves and other Christians regarding our walk in Christ is not an act of judgement or jealoussy or immaturity or impatience, but an act of love. Because all will be held accountable according to what they received from Him.

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What is the key to do the things Jesus did?

Scripture. In Psalm 23, David talks about His “rod” and His “staff”. These, many believe, are references to His Word and His Spirit. Nevertheless, together God’s Word and His Spirit make up the totality of God’s Truth.

And so, as if to confirm this reality the Apostle John writes:“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32, NKJV). It is the truth that makes people free. And we know from John 17:17 that His Word is His Truth. Thus, without intimately understanding the implications of His truth (His Word) within our individual circumstances we cannot truly be free. We cannot enjoy the freedom that Jesus came to bring us. And the reason for it is because we have chosen not to intimately understand His Word within our given circumstances.

And so, if that is true for you (or me), you also cannot bringing His Word and His truth to other people and make them free either. Thus, without knowing His Word and without bringing His Word you cannot truly pursue Jesus' To Do list. Then, if you cannot pursue Jesus' To Do list, are you really a disciple of Jesus? And can you truly deliver the fruit He is after?

And so, this is how we deliver fruit – to know the Word; to be set free by the Word of Truth; to bring others the same freedom through the same Word of Truth. Compare John 15 where Jesus says that He is the vine, we are the branches and we are to deliver fruit (works) according to His nature: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:7-8). Again, without His Word we cannot bear the fruit He is looking for.

How then can you or I or anyone else deliver fruit – the fruit that God the Father is looking for - if we do not intimately know the Bible – the Word of God? We cannot. How can we love another without bringing the Word of Truth? We cannot. The 'love' without the Word is not the love that Jesus brought because He always brought the Word along with His deeds of compassion. Thus, love without the Word does not strike me to be the love that Jesus was showing the world.

Look at it from another passage: Jesus of Nazareth said: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32, NKJV). Those who ensure that the Word of God lives through them are His disciples indeed.

This is why Jesus came – that we might know the truth and that the truth might set us free!

And not only that - that because of our love for others, through us they also might know the truth and that the truth might set them free as well.

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Conclusion

But some wish to ignore these passages and say, "Jesus came to show love to the world". That is right. But, define the love of Christ according to His standards and not according to that which we would like it to be - friendship, familiarity, fun. The love of Christ and the Word of Christ is the very same thing. It sets people free.

And Jesus tells us how we know if we have the love of Christ:

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18, NKJV)

What John is saying here is that the love of God is manifested in a personal sacrifice in the interest of our brothers and sisters. It is manifested in a personal sacrifice in the interest of His Kingdom. That is how we love Him.

Life in Him is a life born out of a sacrifice for the resurrected Christ. It is a life that is born out of a sacrifice of our time, or our opportunities, or our reputation, or our relationships, or our material goods, or our ambitions, or our talents, or our opinions, or our desires and pleasures, or our klinging to our sufferings, or our devotions to other things, or our laziness, or our ignorance of His Word, or our ungodly beliefs, or our own will. It is a sacrifice of who we are without Christ so that we might be within Christ.

That is why Jesus came: so that we might have the choice to live and to love like He did, which is the choice to bring life and love like He did.

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Remember: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jesus)

Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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