News is out that a certain celebrity has come to town. But why has he come? No one is quite sure. So, everyone’s guessing — one suggesting this, another suggesting that — until someone comes up with the really bright idea: ‘Why not just ask him?’ So they do. And he tells them!
It’s now Christmas and lots of people are talking about Jesus. How he came from heaven to earth. How he was born in a stable in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. What a very special person he was, God’s own Son. But the big question is this: why did he come?
With the help of the Bible we can put that question to him directly and hear the answer from his own lips. ‘So why did you come?’ Referring to himself as the Son of Man (as he frequently did), his answer is as follows: ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10.45).
Three things for us to note. First, he came to serve. Not to be served (though given who he was, people should have been falling over themselves to serve him), but to serve.
It was his great concern throughout life, ‘What can I do for others?’ And he did lots. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He raised the dead. He fed the hungry. And at the end of it all he died for people.
The whole orientation of his life was outward toward others. He had come into the world to serve, and serve he did. And those who are his followers are to be like him in this. Always we should be asking, ‘What can I do for others?’
Second, he came to suffer. One hundred years ago, on the battlefields of France, men in vast numbers were suffering and dying for others. But that wasn’t the reason for their birth. Suffering was something forced on them by cruel circumstances. By contrast, in Jesus’ case, suffering and death were the very explanation for his birth. Why did he come? It was to give his life. To lay it down for others.
This is the extraordinary link between Christmas and Easter. Jesus’ death on Calvary was no unforeseen tragedy, not a defeating of the great end of his existence. On the contrary, it was the very object of his coming. He quite literally was born into our world to die.
Then third, he came to set people free. Here we come to the climax of his statement. He gave his life ‘as a ransom for many’. We all know what a ransom is. It is a price that is paid to set someone free. Jesus is saying: ‘That’s why I came. So that, by my death, I might set people free’.
Free from what? From the guilt of our sin; from the punishment that our sin deserves; from sin itself; from the dreadful effects of sin on our bodies.
It couldn’t be done for nothing, but only at the price of Jesus’ life. And freely, lovingly, for our sakes, he paid that price. So we don’t need to guess, do we? We know why he came. He tells us himself.
But we mustn’t leave it at that. The freedom Jesus purchased at such a very high price is a freedom each of us needs. It is a freedom, too, that each of us may have. It’s what makes the story of his birth the best of all news.
In Jesus, a liberator was born, who can set you free from the damning guilt and destructive power of your sin. Look to him for that freedom and give him no rest until it is yours.
David Campbell is the minister of North Preston Evangelical Church, UK