What was Jesus’ reason for coming to earth and preaching the Good News of the gospel? What are the core desires of His heart when He looks at human beings? How can we become more like Him in how we preach and what we desire?
I’ve been thinking about these questions, and others, a lot this week. Part of it’s prompted by some messages I heard last Sabbath and part by recent events. There is a lot of strife and division in today’s world. We fight and bicker and separate ourselves by classes, genders, races, and churches. Such division is not what God desires. In fact, I don’t think it is going too far to say that such things break His heart.
God is grieved deeply by human sinfulness and suffering. He’s also deeply motivated to change things for the better, which means we should be motivated to work toward a better future as well. This truth carries with it a great deal of hope and purpose for us both in this life and in the future. And it’s all connected to the reasons Jesus came to this earth and the core desires of God’s heart.
Why Jesus Came
Jesus Christ is our example. He is the Word made flesh; God who became man. We’re supposed to mimic Him and to tell other people about Him and why He came to this earth. In order to do that, we need to understand these things for ourselves. There’s no better place to start than with what Jesus Himself said about why He came to this earth.
- To preach. “He said to them, ‘Let’s go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because I came out for this reason.’” (Mark 1:38, all quotes from WEB translation)
- To call sinners to repentance. “Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” (Luke 5:31-32)
- To give abundant life. “The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
- To die as a sacrifice in our place. “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ But I came to this time for this cause.” (John 12:27)
- As a light for those in darkness. “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness.” (John 12:46)
- To testify to the truth. “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.'” (John 18:37)
These goals are all part of an overarching goal that Paul talks about in terms of reconciliation. God created man and gave them guidelines for how to live. They disobeyed, and brought a death penalty on themselves. Years passed, He formed a covenant with certain people, and they broke that as well. Someone had to pay the price for broken covenants and disobedience, so God decided to do it Himself. Jesus’s death paid the penalty for our sins and made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and enter a new covenant relationship with Him (Rom. 5:9-11; 2 Cor. 5:18; Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 1:19-22).
The Heart of Jesus
I recently listened to an excellent interview with Dane Ortlund, author of Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. In this interview, Ortlund pointed out that there’s one passage in scripture where Jesus gives us a clear description of His heart. Jesus Himself described “the very animating center of who he is and what makes him tick” and the words He used are “meek and lowly” (KJV translation).
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29)
Wow. The One through whom and for whom God the Father created all things — the Word who was God in the flesh here on earth — described Himself as meek, gentle, humble, and lowly. That’s an incredible self-description, and it becomes even more so when we realize what this means for us.
“What that text is trying to say is Jesus is the single most accessible and approachable person in the universe. You don’t have to go through security to get to him. You don’t have to work your way up into a hearing before him. He is gentle and lowly in heart, which really is a fulfillment of what the Old Testament says about God himself. In places like Isaiah 57:15 God will say, ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly.’ So already we have these glorious hints and teachings in the Old Testament about God being accessible while holy, which Jesus is the tangible incarnation and concrete reality of.” — Dane Ortlund
We All Need Reconciliation
Jesus’s accessibility isn’t confined to an elite group of people. You don’t have to be perfect before you can get to Him. He wants all to come to Him, especially those who don’t think they are worthy, as the context of the verse we’ve been talking about makes clear:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
To borrow another phrase from Ortlund, Jesus is actually drawn to our fallenness. He constantly reaches out to people who are broken, weary, exhausted, and burdened with literal and figurative loads. Traditionally, those who were ritually “clean” avoided those who were “unclean” but Jesus walked around touching their lives and bringing healing. “His impulse—his heart,” Ortlund notes, “was to bring purity to the impure. That was what was pouring out of him.”
This connects to a verse we already referenced, where Jesus explains, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). It’s not that Jesus doesn’t care about those who are living in obedience to His word. Rather, as God (who is love) He will not abandon those who need Him. And really, if we’re honest about the state of our own hearts, we’ll recognize that “there is no one righteous; no, not one” and that includes us (Rom. 3:9-11). We all need Jesus, and we’re preciously the kind of people He’s looking to help.
Our Role in Reconciliation
The incredible fact that Jesus loves us and reconciles us to Himself and the Father should result in a change in our own hearts. We’re meant to become like Him, and to live for Him. We’re a new creation in Him (2 Cor. 5:14-17). Our hearts are becoming like His heart.
But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:18-21)
We’re supposed to become like God and part of that involves seeking reconciliation with a similar zeal that He does. Once we enter a relationship with God (a process of repentance, belief, and baptism), He makes us part of His family and we become more and more like Him the longer we walk in covenant with Him. We are to put on God’s mind and be transformed into His likeness, and so His desires should become part of us as well.
God our savior … desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3-4)
The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but he is patient with us, not wishing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)
We cannot make other people reconcile to God. Opening someone’s eyes to the truth is a decision God makes (John 6:44, 65). He has, however, given us an important role as preachers and teachers who bring glad tidings of the Good News of peace (Rom. 10:14-15). And we should have a certain sense of urgency in our desire to preach because we, along with God, want to see as many people as possible choose life.
We also can’t force people to reconcile with others they’re are at odds with, but peace should still be our goal for every interaction we have (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18). The last thing we should want to do is stir up more strife and division. Even if/when we need to stand up and speak a truth that others don’t like it must be done in love. God’s patience, His eagerness for reconciliation, and His desire to see people choose life must become part of us. And the more we develop a heart and mind like Christ’s, the more effective we’ll be at sharing His message of reconciliation.
Featured image credit: Jantanee via Lightstock