What makes the Christmas story unique is the purpose for which Jesus was born into the world. If the point of Christmas was only about the birth of Christ, it would at most be an interesting story of the birth of a king, like the birth of many other kings before and after – born in humble circumstances, growing through adversity and rising up to be king. While these things are true about the birth of Christ, what sets His birth apart from every other was the fact that He was born to die. This is the paradox that Christian’s celebrate at Christmas. We celebrate the cradle of Christ, because of the cross of Christ that was to come.
The death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross was not an unfortunate turn of events in His life. It wasn’t a ‘rags to riches’ story that went horribly wrong. He wasn’t simply a victim at the hands of cruel men and an unjust system. Everything that happened in the life of the Lord Jesus was foreordained by God and purposefully carried out by the Son of Man. It is undeniably clear in the Bible that Jesus came into the world to die.
He Came To Save SinnersThe first angelic announcement that we read of is in Matthew 1:21. The angel says to Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15). Right here we see that His purpose was to save sinners.
Everything that happened in the life of the Lord Jesus was foreordained by God and purposefully carried out by the Son of Man.
The way that Christ was to redeem His people from the destructive and powerful clutches of sin was through His incarnation and His passion[i]. Paul writes in Romans 8:3, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh…” The cross is where Christ dealt decisively with sin by sacrificing Himself once for all (cf. Heb. 9:12 – 14; 10:4 – 10). The debt that we owed God for our sin was now paid for by His Son. This is why Jesus came into the world.
The words of the song ‘In Christ alone,’ capture the purpose of Christ’s incarnation well:In Christ alone who took on fleshFullness of God in helpless babeThis gift of love and righteousnessScorned by the ones He came to saveTill on that cross as Jesus diedThe wrath of God was satisfiedFor every sin on Him was laidHere in the death of Christ I live[ii]
The Spirit Foretold The Son’s Purpose Through The ProphetsThis purpose of Christ’s incarnation – to save sinners – was foretold by the prophets in the Scriptures through the Holy Spirit. Peter reflecting on the Gospel writes in 1 Peter 1:10 – 11, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” The prophets clearly foretold the sufferings of the Messiah (cf. Isa. 52:13 – 53:12; Ps. 22; 69; Acts 3:18; 26:22, 23).
The prophet Isaiah, carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), spoke clearly of the incarnation and suffering of Christ in the well-known passage of Isaiah 53. He spoke of the ordinariness of Christ’s incarnation (53:2), emphasizing more significantly His suffering for sinners (53:4 – 12).
God Foreordained And Predestined The Purpose Of Christ’s LifeWe also read in Scripture that it was God’s plan to send His Son to die for sinners. This is clear from the prayer of the disciples in Acts 4:28 where they prayed saying that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews acted against Jesus, “to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.”
Earlier in Acts 2:23, Peter says in His sermon to the Jews, “…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (cf. Acts 3:18).
The New Testament speaks of the coming of Christ and His suffering for sinners as a mystery that God had kept hidden for ages (Eph. 3:5,9; 1 Cor. 2:7,8). In other words, it was always God’s plan, and whatever God plans and purposes, He accomplishes (Isa. 46:10).
Putting these thoughts together, we see God’s purpose in redeeming people through His Son Jesus. The closing lines of the well-known carol, ‘Hark the herald’ speaks of God’s purpose put forth in Christ.
Mild he lays his glory by,Born that man no more may die:Born to raise the sons of earth,Born to give them second birth.Hark! the herald angels sing,“Glory to the newborn King!”[iii]
The way that Christ was to redeem His people from the destructive and powerful clutches of sin was through His incarnation and His passion.
The Son Lived His Life With This Purpose Before HimFinally, we see that the Lord Jesus Himself knew that He had come to die. He says in Luke 24:26, 27, “‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (cf. Lk. 18:31; 24:25 – 27)
Not only did He know the purpose of incarnation, but He also willingly embraced it, “for the joy that was set before Him.” (Heb. 12:2b). Isaiah spoke of this hundreds of years earlier when he wrote, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” Christ knew what His incarnation and passion accomplished and so He willingly took it on (cf. Jn. 10:11, 18).
The early church is believed to have sung Philippians 2:6 – 11 as a song of praise to Jesus. Paul records it for us in his letter to the Philippians.“…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
This Christmas, let us join the early church in singing praises to the One who came into this world to redeem us. He who willingly and joyfully emptied Himself into the likeness of men and endured the cross in our place.
The words of a contemporary Christmas song capture all this well. They go like this:Light of the world, Crown in a mangerBorn for the cross, To suffer, to saveHigh king of heaven, Death is the poorerWe are the richer, By the price that he paid [iv]
[i] Passion (Greek πάσχω “to suffer, to be acted on” and Late Latin (chiefly Christian) passio “passion; suffering”[ii] Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music[iii] Written by Charles Wesley (1739)[iv] Light Of The World (Sing Hallelujah) lyrics © Capitol Cmg Paragon, Capitol Cmg Genesis, We The Kingdom Music