We all long for purpose and meaning in our lives, a reason for our existence and a justification for what we are doing.
This search for significance is not only true of individuals, but also of corporations who publish mission and vision statements to explain to their constituents, employees and customers their purpose and goals. We all want to make sense of our lives.
So what about Jesus? What was the purpose of his life? Why did Jesus come to earth over 2,000 years ago?
While there are several ways to go about answering this question, one way is to consider Jesus’ own statements as recorded for us in the Gospels by the eyewitnesses to his life and ministry. Let us briefly consider a few of these statements.
Matthew’s gospel records Jesus’ well-known Sermon on the Mount in which he states, “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” (Matthew 5:17). In this statement Jesus refers to “the Law” and “the Prophets,” which is a shorthand way of referring to the Old Testament scriptures. Here we see one of the reasons Jesus came to the earth: to fulfill the Old Testament.
In other words, Jesus came to fulfill the promises of God that are recorded for us in the Old Testament. And the central promise of the Old Testament is that God would send a descendant of Eve to defeat the devil and reverse the effects of the curse of sin (cf. Genesis 3:15). This descendant would be the Lord’s anointed one, the Messiah, who would come to save His people from their sin. Jesus came to fulfill this great promise of salvation from God in the Old Testament.
But how will Jesus fulfill this promise? In Mark’s gospel, Jesus explains his mission to his disciples right after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). Jesus explains that he “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Twice more Jesus tells his disciples that as the Messiah, he has come to be killed and then rise again on the third day (cf. Mark 9:31; 10:33-34).
These are the very events that Christians around the world commemorate and celebrate each year at Easter. But what is the significance of these things? Why did Jesus die on the cross? Jesus’ answer is that he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty not for his own sins (for he had none), but to pay the ransom price for the sins of all who believe on him.
One final example of a statement by Jesus about why he came to earth is found in John’s gospel: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus came to do the will of his Father in heaven. And what is his Heavenly Father’s will? From Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the Messiah, we learn that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” Why? Because “the Lord makes his life an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10).
It is the Father’s will for Jesus the Messiah to be the substitutionary sacrifice to atone for the sins of his people so that they will be saved from the just wrath of God and raised to eternal life like Jesus was raised. Back in John’s gospel Jesus explains it this way: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).
This is the reason that Jesus came to the earth: to save his people from their sins by his life, death and resurrection. His great purpose was to restore sinners to their God so that they may have eternal life forever with him. And Jesus’ great purpose is what gives purpose and meaning to the lives of those who trust in him.
As the Apostle Paul states, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Have you considered the purpose of your life this Easter season?