why did jesus come to earth by johnmccargo

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									                                                                Pastor Marv Thiessen
                                                       Calgary First Mennonite Church
                                                                     November 7, 2004

                     WHY DID JESUS COME TO EARTH?

I. Introduction

        Last week, Craig preached a sermon in which he directed us to consider
what our response to Jesus should be, based on who he is. He pointed out that
the things Jesus said about himself indicated that he was God. If we take a
moment to reflect on the idea that Jesus was God but chose to come to earth in
human form, we might wonder what to make of that. Why would God come to
earth as Jesus in human form? Why did Jesus come to earth?
        What would be your first response to that question? I seem to have some
vague memory that our pastor asked that question in church when I was a
teenager and that I answered that Jesus came to earth in order to die for our
sins. It seems to me that the pastor was pleased with my answer. It was an
answer that most any Sunday School student should have come up with. I don’t
mean to belittle the answer but I pondered that response as I thought about this
morning’s sermon topic and I wondered if it didn’t come up short in explaining
why Jesus came to earth. I even wondered if we could properly say that it was
the main reason Jesus came to earth.
We want to explore the question of why Jesus came to earth in this morning’s
sermon. Simply by asking the question we already recognize that there is
something very significant about Jesus coming to earth. Jesus has had great
effect on the history of our planet. Our historical timeline has been divided into
what happened before Christ or after Christ. His name occurs frequently on the
lips of even those who have no inclination to follow him. Imagine how odd it
would sound if, “when a businessman missed a golf putt, he yelled, “Thomas
Jefferson!” or if a plumber screamed “Mahatma Gandhi!” when his pipe wrench
mashed a finger.” (Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 16) Those are
famous historical figures whose names do not frequently roll off the tongues of
any old bloke. Jesus’ name, however, is often uttered in those contexts. He is
an historical figure who has elicited more interest than any other. H. G. Wells
wrote, “A historian like myself, who doesn’t even call himself a Christian, finds
the picture centering irresistibly around the life and character of this most
significant man…. The historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is ‘What did
he leave to grow?’ Did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a vigor that
persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.” (quoted in Yancey, p. 17)
So we agree to his significance to our world’s history and consciousness and
ask again from our Christian perspective, why did he come? What was the
purpose God had in mind for coming to earth in human form?

II. What did Jesus say?

      As I was turning that question around in my mind last week, the thought
occurred to me, “Why wouldn’t we let Jesus answer that question himself?”

Jesus made some statements that began something like, “I am come that” . . . or
“I have come to . . .” Why wouldn’t we pay attention to the times that Jesus said
things like that and allow him to tell us why he came. If you think of those
statements by Jesus, what comes to mind for you? Which statement first occurs
to you?
          My first reaction was to think of John 10:10 and the way I memorized it in
the King James Version as a youngster. “I am come that they might have life
and that they might have it more abundantly.” That struck me as a succinct way
to understand Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth. We’ll get back to that later.
Now, I would like to take you through a quick tour of the times in the Gospels
where Jesus says he has come for some purpose.
          We’ll do this mainly in the order that these statements appear in our New
Testament so we begin with Matthew 5:17. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have
come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to
fulfill them.” Jesus came to fulfill the words of the Old Testament Law and the
Prophets. I expect that our understanding of that statement remains vague until
we engage in further study of the Law and the Prophets. Let’s put the meaning
this way. The Law and the Prophets were concerned with how humans should
live so that God would be pleased with them. Jesus came to give the final
answer about what we need to do to be in right standing with God.
In Matthew 9:13, Jesus responded to some of the Pharisees who criticized his
fraternization with sinners and tax collectors by telling them, “I have not come to
call the righteous, but sinners.” This statement is repeated in Mark 2:17, the
only such reference in Mark and in Luke 5:32. A similar reference occurs in
Luke 19:10 where Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save
what was lost.” Jesus came to draw those who are alienated from God into a
relationship with God.
The final reference in Matthew takes place in Matthew 10:34, 35. We find the
same statement also in Luke 12:49, 51. Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have
come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the
members of his own household.” Great, this comment seems to destroy our
image of Jesus as a nice guy who promoted love and peace all around. This
sounds more like something a terrorist or revolutionary would say. Che Guevara
or Fidel Castro might have said this but Jesus? Before we get too upset about
this statement, we need to interpret it in its context and within the context of all of
Jesus’ teaching. The whole of Jesus’ teaching clearly demonstrates that Jesus
did not come to promote violent conflict. What Jesus was saying at this point
was that following Jesus is serious business. It’s an all-encompassing
commitment. You can’t compromise following Jesus in order to maintain nice
relationships with others, even if they are your own family members. It’s entirely
possible that those who choose to follow Jesus will experience ridicule and
persecution from people who are close to them but opposed to following Jesus.
This statement would probably be better understood as a statement of effect
than as a statement of purpose but it does tell us that Jesus came with a radical
call for people to follow him.

        We turn our attention, then, to the gospel of John where we find another
four statements from Jesus in which he says, “I have come.” The first occurs in
9:39 where Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the
blind will see and those who see will become blind.” At the same time, we need
to consider another reference, one in John 12:47. There Jesus says, “As for the
person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I
did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” If you’re like me, you say very
quickly, “Wait a minute. Didn’t Jesus just say that he came to judge and now he
says he didn’t come to judge?” If you were inclined to be a serious skeptic, you
might think there was an irreconcilable contradiction here and would reject Jesus
outright as a result. We don’t need to react that strongly. We can all understand
that we sometimes say things that look contradictory in different contexts when
we mean the same thing. We draw on the contrast in Jesus’ second statement
for understanding. Jesus said he didn’t come to judge but rather to save. Jesus’
purpose in coming to earth was not to consign the whole lot of us to punishment.
His purpose was to invite us to salvation. What Jesus seems to mean with his
earlier statement that he came for judgment is this. Jesus offers us salvation;
we can be in right standing with God if we believe in Jesus. What we do with
that offer judges us. If we accept that offer we are right with God; if we reject the
offer we aren’t. Because of our reactions, a judgment is going on. But Jesus’
purpose was not to condemn us all; his purpose was to offer salvation.
        Then we observe John 12:46 where Jesus says, “I have come into the
world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
This demonstrates that Jesus’ coming was to show us a way to live. This way to
live would allow us to live in enlightened ways without the cloud of wrong choices
hanging over us.
        Finally, we return to John 10:10, the verse I said earlier I thought about
first as I reflected on Jesus’ “I have come” statements. There Jesus says, “I
have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus is speaking
about those who have responded to his call and have become his followers and
says that he has come so that they can have a full life. This suggests to us that
choosing Jesus as the focus of our lives and as the one we will follow promises
us a life that has the greatest meaning and the strongest sense of fulfillment of
any life choice we could make.

III. Synthesis of Jesus’ Statements

       Now, can we put all that together in a useful way? We have surveyed a
variety of statements made by Jesus about why he came. Each is significant
and has something important to offer to our investigation of why Jesus came to
earth. But we need to put it together so that we have a more easily
understandable purpose. I suggest we use three words to describe the breadth
of Jesus’ purpose statements.
       The first word is light. Jesus said he came as a light so that none need
stay in darkness. This points to the salvation he offered. Whoever believes in
Jesus moves from darkness into light, the Scripture says. That seems to carry
several meanings. We move out of a bondage to sinful behaviour that is
darkness. We move into a relationship with God in which we are seen as sinless

because of our faith in Jesus. That is light. So light refers to salvation from sin.
At the same time, it carries the idea that as a light, Jesus demonstrated how to
live. As we choose to follow Jesus and model our lives after his, we live in
enlightened ways. So Jesus came to give us the opportunity to escape bondage
to sin and to live in an enlightened way.
        The second word is life. Jesus said he came to bring life. Again this word
suggests several meanings. One aspect is eternal life. Jesus said that those
who believed in him would have eternal life. Another aspect is what we spoke of
earlier, a life which has a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment than any other
life choice provides.
        The third word is death. Jesus didn’t say that he came in order to die in
any of the “I have come” statements he made. But his death was implicit in
many of them. How else was Jesus going to save the world? How else was
Jesus going to offer people a way to be freed from the bondage of sin? It was
by dying that Jesus made it possible for people to be freed from sin, to leave
darkness and walk in the light of God’s grace. We can hardly avoid the idea that
Jesus came for the purpose of death when we observe how much of his
biography in the Gospels is concerned with his death. Philip Yancey comments,
“Of the biographies I have read, few devote more than ten percent of their pages
to the subject’s death – including biographies of men like Martin Luther King Jr.
and Mahatma Gandhi, who died violent and politically significant deaths. The
Gospels, though, devote nearly a third of their length to the climactic last week of
Jesus’ life. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John saw death as the central mystery of
Jesus. Jesus came for the purpose of death.” (Yancey, p. 187, 188)


         How does all this material impact us? What difference does it make to
us? First of all, we must respond to the fact that Jesus came to die for us. The
Bible makes it clear that we as human beings are all guilty of sin. None of us
manage to live perfect lives so none of us live up to the standard expected by
God. Jesus’ death was in some sense a sacrifice made in our behalf, allowing
God to forgive our sin and see us as sinless. The Bible tells us all we have to do
to take advantage of God’s forgiveness so that we can be in right standing with
God is to believe in Jesus. Whenever we recognize our sinfulness, confess our
sin to God and confirm our belief in Jesus we are made right with God. As we
respond in that way, we are also assured of a life that lasts forever.
         The idea of believing in Jesus also encompasses another concept.
Believing in Jesus also means living faithfully. We said that Jesus came to
provide a model for how to live life. His life was like a lighthouse that invites us
to emulate it. Our response to what Jesus has done should be to say that we
will live like Jesus as far as we are able. To ask, “what would Jesus do?” when
faced with difficult decisions, is a good idea because Jesus came to provide a
model for how to live.
         The third thing we should say about how this impacts us is that we must
remember Jesus’ statement that he came to bring life and to bring it abundantly.
Essentially, this promise stands as an assurance to us that the reward for
believing in Jesus and living faithfully is big. Jesus has promised an abundant

life. Somehow, we will find life more meaningful and fulfilling when we choose to
believe in Jesus and live faithfully.
       When it comes down to it, Jesus’ coming was all about life. I might have
responded to the pastor’s question about why Jesus came to earth with the
answer that it was to die. That would have been correct. He did come in order
to die. But on a higher level, his coming was not really about death. It was
about life. It was about life offered to each of us as we respond to the life and
death of Jesus Christ.


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