Luke 19: 10
Why did Christ come to the earth? It is not enough to know who Jesus is. By and large the world knows what Christians believe about Jesus. But what the world wants to know is this: Why did he come and what difference does it make?
Many answers have been given to that question. Some argue that Jesus came to give us an example of God’s love. Others say that he came to be the Perfect Man, the one shining example that can lift the rest of us up. Many people consider him the greatest teacher of all time. Still others believe he came to establish a new religion. Some scholars say that he was a reformist rabbi who wanted to start a movement to purify Israel.
Against all the theories of men we have the clear words of our Lord himself. Most of us know it by heart.In one simple sentence we have the sublimest statement of the mission of Christ. It is utterly reliable for it was spoken by Jesus - “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19: 10). What do we have in this simple statement?
1. We have the most magnificent historical fact.
“The Son of Man came.” Jesus has come to earth, the Almighty has entered our world, the infinite has become finite, the eternal has invaded time. Theologians call it the Incarnation–God in human flesh. The Bible calls him Immanuel – God with us.
His birth differs from every other birth - he voluntarily came in obedience to the Father’s will. We were born but we had no choice in the matter. I am here by the choices made my parents. But Jesus “came” according to the plan of God. “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4: 4). Every detail was minutely planned in the courts of heaven. Nothing happened by chance.
He came from the light into the darkness. He came from splendour into squalor. He came from purity into a world of sin. But still he came!
And not just any man has come – the Son of Man has come. Not an angel or some sort of extraterrestrial being. The term “Son of Man” emphasizes Jesus’ humanity. God himself entered the human race in the form of a tiny baby. He is the Son of Man because He was first the Son of God. “And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us” (John 1: 14 AMP).
A generation ago C. S. Lewis put this doctrine in its proper perspective: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this.”
He is entirely right about that. Sometimes we focus on peripheral questions (how did Jesus turn water into wine?) that distract us from the core issues. We believe God became a man. This is the central truth of our faith, and it is the point at which we part company with Islam and Judaism. Both of those religions categorically reject the notion that God has a Son and that God could somehow become one of us. To Christians it is impossible to speak about God without speaking about Jesus because God became a man 2000 years ago. Every other miracle leads to the Incarnation or results from it.
At the heart of our faith is this certain truth: God has come down to us in the person of Jesus. Now we know what God is like for the Son of Man has made him plain to us.
2. We have the most spiritually significant mission.
“The Son of Man came to seek and to save.” Jesus came looking for something, or rather I should say Jesus came looking for someone. What is our Lord like? He is like the woman who lost a coin and searched her house until she found it. He is like the man who lost one sheep and went out into the wilderness to find it. He is the like the Father who welcomed his Prodigal Son home again.
He came seeking sinners up a tree. Jesus came seeking those caught in adultery, blind beggars, lepers and wild men living in the tombs. He even came seeking self-righteous Pharisees who thought they didn’t need him. He came seeking fishermen, politicians, radicals, physicians, tax collectors, rich men at the top of the heap, and poor folks no one else would touch. He sought the prostitutes and drunkards, and they loved him for it. When he was dying, he came seeking one hanging on a cross beside him.
Jesus came as the seeking Saviour. We will never understand him unless we see this clearly.
3. We have the most perfect description of the state of humanity.
“What was lost.” The word “lost” has almost gone out of style in Christian circles. We talk of being estranged from God, of being confused about our purpose in life, about needing a new beginning. All of that is true, but it is hard to improve on the simple Bible word “lost.”
Read everything from Adam’s great sin in Genesis to the final great battle in Revelation. Then pick up the newspaper and see if you don’t agree with Jesus - Men are lost without God.
Isaiah 53: 6 - “we have all strayed like sheep. Each one of us has turned to go his own way” (GWT). We all by nature go our own way. No one has to teach us to run from God.
We were born running! We all want to do our own thing! We all go our own way!
We don’t even know we are lost until someone comes from heaven seeking us out. There is an important principle for us to consider. If Christ did not come to us, we would never come to Him.
We were lost until Jesus found us. Sometimes we encourage sinners to “come to Christ,” which is entirely biblical. But if Jesus did not come to us first, we would never come to him at all. That’s what it means to be truly lost. Lost without God. Lost without hope. Lost in a tangled web of sin. Lost and trapped forever.
What, then, is our hope if we are so hopelessly lost? We find the answer in the words of Jesus who came to “to seek and to save what was lost.” He did not come as a tourist or a casual visitor or an educator or an itinerant philosopher. Jesus came as a Saviour seeking to save the lost.
What It Means for Us
A. If Christ came, man’s responsibility is increased.
If Jesus had never come to the earth, we would all go to hell condemned by our own guilty conscience. If God did nothing, the whole human race would perish because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But that is not the situation. Jesus has come to the earth and made God plain to us. He left heaven to make his home among us, to reveal God to us, to show us the true nature of the Father.
In him we see God’s love. In him we see God’s mercy. In him we see God’s kindness. In him we see God’s justice. In him we see God’s holiness. He came to us full of grace and truth, and what did we do to him? We heard his words, saw his miracles, listened to his voice, considered his offer, and then we put him to death. We crucified the Lord of Glory!
We know about Jesus. We’ve heard his story over and over again. What will happen to us if we know about Jesus and still refuse him?
The same gospel that saves a man also condemns him. Consider the sun in the sky. To one plant it brings life; to another it brings death. If a branch has been cut off, the sun causes it to wither and die. As with the sun in the sky, so it is with the Son of Man from heaven. If a man will not come to Jesus to be saved, then Jesus will come to him for destruction.
B. If Christ came to save, then the sinner is without excuse.
What excuse could you give that would satisfy God? How would you explain your rejection of Jesus? What sufficient reason would you have for saying “no” to God’s own Son? John 3: 16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That wonderful truth is followed 2 verses later by this solemn warning: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” “Condemned already.” That’s the state of the whole human race apart from Jesus Christ. The best among us are just wretches in need of God’s grace, and as for the rest of us, we’re like wretches squared, if such a thing were possible.
How bad is the problem? Here is the bottom line. Sin has infected your mind, your emotions, your will, your intellect, your moral reasoning, your decision making, your words and your deeds. No part of your life is exempt from the debilitating effects of sin.
What sinners a need is salvation, not reformation. They need forgiveness, not lectures on morality. They need a new life, not a new leaf. What sinners need, Jesus came to provide. When God gave his only Son to hang on a tree like a common criminal, he gave the very best he had. But that means I am without excuse.
C. If Christ came to save the lost, then the worst may be saved.
We all have skeletons rattling around in the closet. Going to church in and of itself is not enough to keep a man from terrible sin. I do not say that to heap additional pain on anyone, but simply to remind us all that you never know what sin you might or might not commit. Thing are rarely what they seem to be. You can’t really tell by looking on the outside what is happening in the heart.
So let us repeat the solemn, joyful news of the gospel that Christ came to save sinners. There are no limits on the grace of God. “You may have come to church without Jesus, but you don’t have to leave here without him. You may have come guilty, but you can go home forgiven. You may have come dirty, but you can go home clean.” That’s the true power of the gospel to create a miracle of conversion inside the human heart.
God has more grace in his heart than you have sin in your life. Jesus is a better Saviour than you are a sinner. You don’t have to be a prisoner of your past. In Christ you can rise above your past to live a life that brings great glory to God.
“The vilest offender who truly believes, That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”
We are all adrift in the same boat, and apart from the grace of God, that boat is going down. But I have some Good News that did not originate with me. Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost! He said so himself. If that is true, then the worst among us can be saved. And that includes you and me. We all labour under a terrible sense of sins committed this very week. Of duties left undone. Of careless, cutting words we wish we could take back. Of deliberate greed. Of foolish choices made in haste.
But it is the glory of the gospel that no matter how bad your sins may be, you can be saved right now. Your past does not determine your future when Jesus enters the picture.
If you are a sinner, Christ came seeking you. There is hope for every person for Christ has come to seek and save the lost. He has the power to save you. He seeks you this very moment. When you come to Jesus, you will find that he has already come for you.