Sunday, December 13, 2020

201213 Why Jesus Came

More and more we are exposed to “Christmas” every day in every imaginable way. Well before Thanksgiving sale flyers come out and the Christmas music is posted on the radio, TV, and social media. It is almost as though there were a conspiracy to cause people to have negative thoughts about the subject. Hallmark has dozens if not hundreds of “Christmas” movies. I am amazed at how many otherwise good movies can be written about the celebration called “Christmas” without mention of Christ. How many songs can be made about “Christmas” without Christ being mentioned? Did Jesus come to make people feel better? Did he come into the world to improve the economy from “Black Friday” to the New Year’s sales? By the way, “Black Friday” is supposed to be the sale near the end of the year that moves the ledger sheets of businesses into the black. Without that sale most business ledger sheets will be in the red. As much as I enjoy some of the music and much of the “Hallmark Style” I am saddened by the abuse and misuse of what should be a witness of God’s love.

A part of Jesus’ story occurred in Jericho. Jesus was passing through town when he saw a man in a tree. Jesus invited himself to the man’s home for a meal! The man, who was named Zacchaeus, not only took Jesus in but he invited his friends. The problem is his friends were not welcome guests. They were tax collectors and people associated with tax collectors. During the meal Zacchaeus repented and changed his lifestyle. When he did this, Jesus announced, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Luke 19:9-10.

So we have a statement from the lips of Jesus, Himself, that tells us his purpose in coming into the world. He came to seek the lost. He came to save the lost. To seek and to save should be our motive for ministry. Several hundred years before Jesus’ birth we have the words of God the Father, himself,f in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel 34:11-12; 16, “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” And, “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

The promise of Yahweh was, “I will find my sheep and I will bring them in. I will not just bring them in but I will also bind up the injured, strengthen the weak and destroy those who manipulate my people.

I submit to you that Jesus understood the mandate His Father proclaimed. And it didn’t just involve seeking and saving it included healing and strength. Jesus used the exact same word picture as his Father. He was a shepherd with sheep. Find Jesus words in John 10:7-10, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jesus is the good Shepherd and he not only seeks the straying sheep He rescues them and He guards against the enemies — He gives his sheep abundant life! In order to provide abundant life Jesus had to pay an extremely high price.

First, he came into human society through the womb of his mother. He could have come the way the people seemed to expect! He could’ve been mounted on a fantastic warhorse leading an uncounted number of angels. That was certainly not God’s plan! Instead of the magnificent warrior coming out of heaven’s glory into the darkness of earth. He was conceived inside his mother and he developed a body just as the rest of us have. When he was born he cried! How do I know he cried? All normal babies cry and he was certainly a normal baby. He passed through all the stages of development the rest of us have.

Jesus had to learn to sit up, crawl and then to walk. He progressed from walking to climbing and Mary and Joseph just had to deal with it. He began his life living off his mother’s milk and then he slowly added solid foods. He was strangely normal! At the age of 12 he confronted the professors at the primary theology school in Jerusalem. He amazed them by the answers he gave to their questions. More than that, he questioned them and they did not know the answers. From birth to age 12 Jesus built a fairly normal life. Then he came to Jerusalem for Passover his life changed. When he saw the temple he understood what that building was. It was his Father’s house. When their tour group left Jerusalem Jesus was not with them. After an entire day’s travel he was missed. This tells me that he was very trustworthy. Mary and Joseph had no doubt Jesus was with them. When they found out he was not there they turned around and went back to Jerusalem. For three days they searched for him.

 When Mary and Joseph finally found him he asked them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) He consciously called the temple “my Father’s house” thus proving that at the age of 12 He knew who he was. Following that event Jesus went into what must’ve been one of the hardest periods of his life. That period started at the age of 12 continued for 18 years. During that time he never revealed his true identity. As far as we know he did not come back until he was 30 years old. We are told that Mary treasured all these things in her heart and that Jesus increased in wisdom and favor with God and man. Nothing was revealed to the people of Nazareth.

We know that because of the way his family and neighbors treated him during his ministry. For example Luke tells us that he visited Nazareth near the beginning of his ministry. This was his hometown where the people knew him best, or at least longest. We find the account in Luke chapter 4.

Jesus had gone to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Then he went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After defeating the devil Jesus made his way back to Galilee. Along the way he taught in the synagogues. Everyone who heard him teach was singing his praises. He came to Nazareth and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue took the scroll of Isaiah and read, (v 18-19) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Following that reading he said to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” At first his neighbors were pleased at his words. Then he began to expand the sermon. He took Old Testament examples to say that God picked out Gentiles to bless and be blessed. Clearly, the people of Nazareth heard from Jesus mouth his reason for coming into the world. To proclaim good news to the poor. To set the captives free. To make the blind see. To free the oppressed! His neighbors were highly offended and really went wild over his interpretation of Isaiah’s words. They were no longer rejoicing! They drove him out of the synagogue with the intention of throwing him off the cliff to his death. Somehow, the mob lost control of the situation and he walked through the middle of the crowd and went away.

When John the Baptist was arrested and imprisoned he began to question whether or not Jesus was truly the Messiah. So from his prison cell he sent some of his own disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one or should they look for another? Again, Luke gives us the answer to the question, “Why did Jesus come?” The answer is found in Luke chapter 7 verses 22-23. Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

The people may have been expecting a Messiah on a white horse leading an army to throw out the Romans.

What they got was a healer of the blind and lame. A messiah who cleansed the leper and made the deaf hear. He raised the dead and, most importantly, preached the gospel to the poor.

When the messiah was born the event occurred in a stable not a king’s palace. A little later Jesus became the host of a picnic near Bethsaida. There he fed 5000 men, not counting women and children, using five loaves of bread and two fish. (Luke 9:10-17). That may have been more in line with what they had expected.

Mark 6:35-44 gives the same account with an explanation. Jesus wasn’t just feeding the 5000. He was teaching his men to trust God. Let’s look at what followed that abundant picnic. Mark 6:45-50, Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Having fed the 5000 Jesus made his disciples get in the boat and leave. Then he went up on the hillside to pray. We don’t often get insight into exactly what Jesus prayed for. But in this case I can guess. I am sure he was thankful for the huge picnic basket. While Jesus was praying the disciples were rowing their boat against an increasingly strong headwind. Jesus was praying up a storm.

After the boys were sufficiently frustrated, sometime between three and six in the morning, Jesus walked down to the lake and walked on the water almost passing his disciples by. Mark 6:51-52 tells us that he joined them in the boat and the wind died they were amazed because “they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”

A side note on this incident. It doesn’t tell the story of Peter walking out to Jesus on the water and sinking. We assume that Peter is the source of Mark’s gospel. Likely he just didn’t see any reason to include the fact that he got all wet through lack of faith. Jesus was born in a manger, raised in the carpenter’s home, and spent three years in ministry. His life was abundant. Abundantly confusing at best.

John had said, in the very beginning of his gospel, (vv10-11) He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Even though the world had been made by him it became the platform of rejection. Looking at the original language (Greek) he came to his own property and his own people did not accept him.

There is so much to tell and so little time in which to tell it.

Let’s ask the author of Hebrews why Jesus came to earth? The answer is found in Hebrews 2:14-18. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.


All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.