Why Jesus? That is a key question. Why, 2000 years after his birth, are we still talking about Jesus so much? Has he got any relevance to life in today’s world?
The question was asked by a colleague. I had worked alongside her for about six months and been impressed by her sharpness and clear thinking. It was late November and the shops in Birmingham were decked out for Christmas. She had been shopping at lunchtime and returned to the office irritated: ‘Christmas is bad enough’, she said, ‘but why do they have to push all this religious stuff? Why Jesus?’
As I explained to my colleague that November day, so also I want to explain to you – that Jesus Christ is the most relevant person to you this Christmas and at every other point in your life.
Christ helps people with problems
Let me tell you two stories about Jesus from the New Testament to illustrate my point. You can read them in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 7, verses 31-37; and chapter 8, verses 22-26).
In both stories Jesus encountered someone with a huge problem – a man who was born deaf and dumb, and another who was blind. Their lives were blighted by their disability, especially in the culture of that time.
They were brought to Jesus because their friends felt he was the only hope for them. That was true, and Jesus demonstrated it quite remarkably.
But before we go any further you will be asking how this applies to you. Answer – these men had real potential as human beings but were seriously limited by their conditions. We’re all like that.
We all have great potential – amazing opportunities and enough resources to make something significant of our lives. But we never seem to achieve what we hope for. We feel we could ‘fly’ but something holds us down. We have so much to live with and so little to live for.
The problem? We were all created to serve God and unless we relate to him we cannot fulfil the purpose for which we were born. But we are blind to him – we do not recognise his presence or his purpose. And we are deaf and dumb towards him – we can neither hear him nor communicate with him.
Spiritually speaking, we are just like the two men in our stories. And that is the first answer to ‘Why Jesus?’ Without him you will never be what you were intended to be.
Christ does the unexpected
When these men were brought to Jesus he did something unexpected. He first took them away from the crowd – he wanted to deal with them individually and personally. Then with both men he put spittle on the disabled parts – on one man’s tongue and on the other man’s eyes.
It was a very personal – almost intimate – message. I guess no one else had ever been so direct and personal with them. But he wanted them to know at the outset that he had a tremendous interest in and concern for them as individual people.
We probably think about Christmas as ancient history. A baby boy was born who went on to become a famous teacher and miracle worker, but was eventually killed by his enemies. Jesus Christ is someone who generates all sorts of disputes and arguments.
But if we think like that we miss the whole point. Jesus came into the world at Bethlehem; lived a stupendous life; was crucified by the Romans; and, according to his disciples, rose from the dead. OK, but why?
He did it all because he had a personal interest in saving individual people. There was nothing vague or haphazard about it. His birth, life, death and resurrection all had this one clear purpose.
And that is the second answer to ‘Why Jesus?’ He came to do something for you and me personally that we could not do for ourselves. And what is that?
Christ changes lives
Jesus touched both these men and brought them healing. The deaf and dumb man began to hear and speak. And that was phenomenal because he suddenly had a vocabulary he had never learned through hearing!
The blind man could now see. He could walk around without being led. He could function effectively in the world around him and understand it in a whole new way. Each man’s life was changed – they had been set free to be the people they were born to be.
This is, of course, the message of Christmas. Jesus came to transform our lives. To set us free from the limitations and disabilities we suffer because we have rejected God and sinned against him.
That also is why he died on the cross – to bear our sins and clear the way for us to receive new life through knowing him personally.
Why Jesus? Because he is the one who alone ‘forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your [spiritual] diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things’ (Psalm 103:3-5).
And this he does for all who turn to him in repentance and faith, relying entirely on his power.
He will set us free and give us purpose and value in place of a deep sense of lack. And that is the third answer to ‘Why Jesus?’ He can set us free and change us into the people God intended us to be.