What’s It All About?

December 15, 2011

By Lance Johnson

Even by my calendar the Christmas season is here. I realize that my calendar for such things runs a bit later than for many others, particularly our nation’s retailers and shoppers, but now that we are more than a week into December I will concede that the Christmas season has begun. Those of you who read my Christmas articles last year* know that I really do not like the way we celebrate Christmas. Blatant materialism aside, we tend to focus on the events surrounding Christ’s physical birth rather than celebrating the meaning of those events, which is the foundation of our redemption. Why did Jesus come? What did he do when he was here? That question needs some thought.

What did Jesus do while he was on earth? The Scripture only provides us with a condensed version of his life, but that version is sufficient to answer our question. Anyone who went to Sunday School knows that Jesus gave sight to the blind, gave strength to the lame, cleansed the lepers, gave hearing to the deaf, and raised the dead, and did many other miracles. Why did Jesus do these things? Was it just compassion? Did he do these miracles simply because he cared about people and desired to relieve their suffering? Certainly Jesus did love people and had a great deal of compassion, but more importantly all that Jesus did was to fulfill his purpose. So what was that purpose?

We usually speak of Jesus’ purpose in technical, theological terms such as ‘redemption’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘substitutionary atonement’, and ‘propitiation.’ All of these are good terms. All of them are correct. However, on a practical level something often is lost in the translation. Think about it this way. Jesus came to overcome the consequences of sin. Before the fall there was no death; there was no sickness; there was no affliction. All of this and much more is a consequence of the sin in this world, both individually and corporately. Jesus came to defeat the power of sin. Notice what Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples when they inquired whether he, Jesus, was in fact the Messiah:

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, and blessed is he who is not offended by me. (Luke 7:22)

The proof of his divinity, of his messiahship, that Jesus offered was that the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up. All of these things are the consequence of living in a fallen, sinful world, and Jesus had power over them as well as the power over spiritual death and hell that we usually think about. Everything Jesus did was a demonstration of his divine sonship and his power over sin, death, and hell. This is why Jesus came. This was the purpose of the Incarnation. He came to conquer sin and death so that we might live.

As we celebrate Christmas 2011, may we remember and meditate upon the reason Jesus came. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, the craziness of shopping and traffic, and the preparations for feasts and families, never forget that Christmas is more than just a moving story about a baby, angels, shepherds, and wise men. It is a key chapter in the greatest story every told, the story of God’s redemptive work.

* Christmas Articles 2010:
Just Call Me Ebenezer
The Ignorant, The Faithless, and The Empowered
In Just One Word
Phew! It’s Over. Now What?

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