Why Jesus Came

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : John 1:1, 14

Each of the four New Testament gospel writers is especially concerned to do one thing: introduce the reader to Jesus. But they all go about it in different ways, and John, in particular – the writer of the fourth gospel – offers a breathtaking introduction to the person of Jesus Christ.

John speaks for all the gospel writers when he explains his purpose near the end of his book: “[This is] written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Each of the four gospels wants supremely to introduce the reader to Jesus Christ. In John’s case, he begins with a profound theological statement about the nature and incarnation of the divine Word, a statement which can help us understand just who Jesus is and why he came to be one of us.

He Came to Save

Why did Jesus come into the world? What was the purpose and effect of his life? Christians believe that he came, first and foremost, to be the Savior. He came to offer good news to a world in deep trouble, and hope to people living in hopeless conditions. Jesus came into a world of desperate need and terrible suffering.

Society then was filled with antagonism and division: racial divisions between Jews and Gentiles, class divisions between masters and slaves, gender divisions between men and women. It was a time of moral corruption and gross evil. Life was cheap and individual persons had little meaning or value. The abandonment and killing of babies and small children was common. Suicide was a popular option. The family had nearly disintegrated, as divorce grew ever more common, and through it all sexual perversion flourished.

Jesus’ era was a time of pessimism and despair where freedom was an alien concept for most. In first-century Rome more than half the population were slaves. People had grown cynical about the future course of history, fatalistic about the world and its chances. Believing disaster and destruction were inevitable, people had grown tired of living, and yet were afraid of dying.

Now if all that sounds familiar, it’s because our world is so similar. There are outward differences, of course. Our slavery today is more spiritual than physical. Our entertainment spectacles of sex and violence are no longer played out in Roman arenas, but are broadcast in living color on television into each person’s home. Now there’s progress for you!

We live in an age strikingly similar to New Testament times. And just like today, the world into which Jesus came was also a time of great longing, of hunger for hope. People were yearning for something better, looking for good news in the midst of all the bad. Everywhere men and women were searching for salvation, for knowledge of the true God and hope of life beyond the grave. And into this world the gospel came as the announcement of the end of that search. Salvation and hope are present now in the person of Jesus Christ. The gospel’s good news is that by his life, death and resurrection Christ delivers those who trust in him from sin, evil, despair and death. So he came to be the Savior.

He Came to Reveal

But there is a second reason for his coming. Jesus was and is the Son of God, and as such, he came in order to reveal God more fully to the world. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus declared. This is why the New Testament calls Jesus the Word of God. The fourth gospel opens with this magnificent statement of the cosmic status of the divine Word who became the man Jesus Christ:

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father.

John 1:1,14

God’s glory is his infinite goodness, his praiseworthiness, the overwhelming beauty of his character. In the life of Jesus of Nazareth, this glory was revealed for all people to behold. “We saw it,” says John; “We were eye-witnesses to the glory of God displayed in the person of Christ.” The Bible tells us what God is like; but Jesus shows us – in the flesh. Jesus Christ is the living icon of God the Father.

He Came to Show

But there is also a third purpose for Jesus’ life, one more reason for which he came. “The Word became flesh,” says John, as if to emphasize the full reality of Jesus’ humanity. The ancient world was full of stories and legends about the gods coming down to earth and taking on a human disguise. They would adopt a body briefly, as actors put on a costume to play a role. But Jesus wasn’t like those mythological gods. His human nature was no disguise. He wasn’t playing a game, merely pretending to be a man without actually becoming one. No. The disciples who met him and began to follow him were drawn first of all to his genuine humanity, to his attractiveness as a human being. Only later did they begin to suspect that there was more to him than met the eye. But neither was there less to Jesus than met the eye. His life on earth was no role play, no charade. Nobody ever came up to Jesus and said, “Say, you aren’t really human, are you?” He appeared to his contemporaries as one of them because he was one of them. “He was like us in every way,” says the Bible, “except for sin” (see Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus was not only a real human being, he was the human being. He was, as Martin Luther called him, “der rechte man,” the proper man. After a wonderful meal a guest might push back his chair from the table, heave a satisfied sigh, and exclaim, “Now, that was a proper dinner!” What it means is that this was an ideal dinner, dinner as dinner was meant to be, the sort of meal all meals would be like if this were a perfect world. That is just the kind of person Jesus of Nazareth was. He was the ideal, the real human being, the proper man. His life is a model once and for all of how all people ought to live if this were a perfect world. Jesus doesn’t only reveal God to us; he shows us what human beings are meant to be as well.

What it Means to Be Human

So here is another big question: What does it mean to be human? Are we really no more than the chance result of a mindless, accidental process of evolution as materialist philosophy says? No purpose, no intrinsic value, no unique nature as creatures in God’s image – just a bundle of tissues with electronic brains; is that all we are?

If you ask materialists what it means to be human, or how humans ought to live, they can offer no certain answers. But Christians have a radically different view. We believe that human beings have been created by a personal, infinitely good God. If people are the image of God, then they do have intrinsic value. Every human life is infinitely precious, including the lives of the unborn or the terminally ill. Discrimination and prejudice are abhorrent sins, sins not just against people but against God himself. And right and wrong are not simply a matter of personal preference or individual choice. Ethics and morality are based on the character of God and the laws he has built into his creation.

These moral laws for human behavior are just as real and important as the laws of physics that govern the movements of the universe. And to show us most clearly what these moral laws require for human behavior, God created one perfect human life to be the supreme example: Jesus of Nazareth. Born without money or social status, living without worldly prestige, dying as a homeless, itinerant preacher, he was nevertheless the “proper” man, the ideal human being. His was the life among all human lives we still remember and hold up as the model for one and all, perfect in every respect.

WWJD

Some years ago the “W.W.J.D.” phenomenon was launched, you know, those little letters which encourage us, when faced with a difficult decision or situation, to ask: What would Jesus do? Or later: “What would Jesus drive?” Or even “How would Jesus vote?” These can all be good questions; after all, Jesus is the “proper” man. The Word became flesh. So he serves as a model and example for all of us. But it was the Word that became flesh. Jesus is also God and Lord. So maybe we should be asking ourselves a slightly different question. When we face a tough issue, the question ought to be, not just what would Jesus do but what would Jesus want me to do? What does Jesus command me to do? This is why he came, not just to be an example for us but to save us and to make us creatures who will be one day just like himself.