Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?
Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?
If someone asked you, “Why do you believe in Jesus?” what would you say? Before you answer, you might want to ask this person, “What do you mean by ‘believe’?” and “Who do you understand Jesus to be?” Because, after all, we can believe in anyone. For example, a coach can believe in his/her players—that they can win if they really put forth a valiant effort. Parents can believe in their children, that they can grow up to fulfill their dreams. Or, I can believe that the Vikings can defeat the Lions in this afternoon’s football game and eventually make the playoffs.
What I’m getting at is belief can mean different things in different contexts. Likewise, defining who Jesus is can vary widely from one person to the next. But the question is very important. During their journey in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” (Mt.16:13). They answered, “some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (v.14). Then, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (v.15). Thus, the next time someone asks, “Do you believe in Jesus?” or “Why do you believe in Jesus?” think of Jesus asking you, “Who do you say that I am?” What is your answer?
Today’s Gospel reading from the Sunday before the Lord’s Nativity, Matthew 1:1-25 is a helpful start. For in this passage we learn through the angel of the Lord, whom according to tradition in the Archangel Gabriel, told Joseph that the child in the womb of Mary is conceived from the Holy Spirit (v.20) and His name will be Jesus (v.21). Furthermore, Gabriel tells Joseph that this baby Jesus is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (7:14), calling Him Emmanuel, meaning ‘God is with us’ (v.23). This is why the Apostle Peter answers Jesus’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” with “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt.16:16). Of course, this is all reiterated for us in the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed that we confess in each and every Divine Liturgy. This tells us that knowing who Christ is and where He came from is the absolute foundational bedrock of our Faith.
The next question who might encounter is: why did this only-begotten Son of God, become incarnate from a Virgin, to be born Jesus Christ? In other words, why did Jesus come to earth? After all that is the word ‘advent’ means, ‘coming, arrival, or appearance.’ Again, in today’s gospel, Archangel Gabriel says that the baby’s name will be Jesus “because He will save His people from their sins” (Mt.1:21). The name ‘Jesus’ literally means “God saves.” How does Jesus save us from sin? Some might say because Jesus was a very wise and profound teacher telling people how to live a righteous life and avoid sin? For some people, that’s where it stops. They believe Jesus was just a great teacher, that’s it, no more. Others believe that Jesus was a great prophet sent by God but that’s it, no more.
However, throughout the centuries before Jesus, God had already sent many great teachers, prophets, judges (like we heard about in Vespers last evening in Deuteronomy 1:8-17), and even kings. They must not have been able to accomplish what was necessary to save people from their sins. Or more correctly, they were preparing God’s chosen people, the Israelites, to receive someone who could. After all, that is the purpose of last Sunday’s commemoration of the Forefathers of Christ and this Sunday’s commemoration of the Genealogy of Christ, to remember all those who came before Christ leading right up to the Forerunner John the Baptist who said, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Mt.3:3, Mk.1:3, Lk.3:4).
Yes, eternal Word and only-begotten Son of God, would receive flesh from the Virgin Mary to become the God-Man. His divine nature would recreate, sanctify and bless every aspect of human nature and experience, even death itself. Jesus Christ united Himself to us to save us from sin and death. Now, we are united to Him beginning in baptism and chrismation, and continuing in regular reception of the Eucharist—His body and blood.
To understand better why Jesus came, let’s listen to the words of Christ Himself.
First, in describing Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Second, in the home of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, Jesus says, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Third, when at Matthew the Tax Collector’s home, Jesus says, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mt.9:13).
Fourth, after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus said, I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46)
Fifth, immediately after this Jesus tells His disciples, And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. (John 12:47).
Sixth, after the mother of James and John asks for her sons to be seated in high places with Jesus, causing a stir amongst the rest of the disciples, Jesus told them, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mt.20:28).
Seventh, in predicting His death on the Cross, Jesus says, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
Eighth, in His sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Mt.5:17).
As we conclude today, we remember that Jesus gave many other reasons for His coming, so this is only a partial list due to limitations of time today. We must personalize these reasons for the Advent of Jesus. He came so that I might have abundant life; to find and save me who was lost; to call me a sinner to repentance; to bring light to my darkness; to give Himself as ransom for me who was held captive by sin and death. We must remember that there is another Advent, the Second Coming of Christ, to judge the living and the dead and establish is everlasting Kingdom. Are we prepared for Jesus’ first Advent that we will celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Will we be here to greet the baby Jesus who comes to save us from sin and death? Are we looking forward to Jesus second Advent, preparing to give an account of our life before His awesome Judgment Seat that is represented for us in the Synthronon behind the Holy Altar Table. Participating in the ongoing liturgical life of the Church, especially receiving the Holy Eucharist, is at the heart of this preparation. It is the pre-season, regular season and playoffs for the Super-bowl of Salvation. See you there!