It seems like every year when Christmas rolls around, we find ourselves having to explain to people what Christmas really means. Debates spark up, usually on Facebook, and each year there is a new “war on Christmas”—if it’s not a red coffee cup, it’s something else. As our nation grows more secular in stance, many people find themselves asking: “What is the point of Christmas? Why did baby Jesus come?” Some say, “He came to show us how to live!” Others say, “He came to meet people’s spiritual and physical needs.” All of those answers would be true, but completely miss the point of Christmas. The Christ child indeed came to heal, teach, and be a good example, but the real answer of why Jesus came, the better answer, is Mark 10:45:
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus Came to Serve
For the third time in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is giving the forecast of his last days—and it’s looking ominous. The most startling thing about this passage (Mark 10:32-45) is found in the first paragraph: Jesus was walking ahead of them (32). Why does this matter? Isn’t that what rabbis do? Sure, but the road they are on isn’t just any old road, it’s the road to Jerusalem—and the road to Jerusalem doesn’t end at the beach, it ends at the cross. This helps us understand why the disciples are amazed and afraid.
Remember the language in Luke 9:51? “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” It’s startling because Jesus is leading the way to his own death. “Like a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7)”—except this lamb is leading his own way.“No one takes [this life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn. 10:18). Jesus did not go to the cross kicking and screaming, he went marching and leading—like Isaiah’s servant of the Lord who “set [his] face like flint” toward Jerusalem. Never has there been a better example of a servant.
A Wise Teacher
The secular world, despite not believing Jesus to be the Son of God, which is a biggie, give Jesus a lot of credit for being a wise teacher. Many will say: Jesus—well He gave us the Golden Rule! Jesus taught people to never lie, cheat, or steal—and those are bad things—so he’s a wise teacher. It’s important to understand that Jesus didn’t just teach this stuff—he modeled it. Do you recall certain wise teaching of Jesus in John 15? “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Jesus didn’t just teach lessons, he modeled them with his own blood. The disciples were afraid because they knew Jerusalem was the destination, and they knew what was awaiting them and their rabbi. Jesus was resolutely set on the mission at hand, and there was a ransom to pay in the holy land.
Jesus Came to Pay the Ransom
What is a ransom? If you’re like me, you imagine a message composed of randomly cut-out letters from all sorts of different magazines and books. I remember seeing ransom letters in movies and thinking: Geez. Kidnappers must have nothing going on—that must take forever to cut out. In New Testament terms, however, a ransom is the price or payment made for our redemption.
It’s an exchange that must take place between the Father and the Son. Following the prophecy of Isaiah 53, Jesus willingly— in perfect communion and agreement with the father—laid down his life as the suffering servant. Jesus viewed His death for us just like Isaiah said it, clear as day: “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds, we are healed” (53:5). Jesus gave his life instead of us. There is no gospel without the “instead of.”
This is what Christmas means: salvation has come to us. Why did Jesus come? To serve us! Hallelujah he did, because we were wrecked without that act of service. We were sinking into an ocean of Hell and God sent the right man. At just the right time, He grabbed us with his strong, saving arm—costing Him his life in the process. The cup of God’s wrath was poured on him while he pulled us to safety.
The Greatest Sacrifice
Never before has there been such an act of service.
We must never say what Peter said when Jesus began to wash his feet in John 13: “You shall never wash my feet.” He was saying, You can’t be serving me like this! I should be serving you! Do you remember Jesus’ response? He said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” I must do this for you. Only I can perform the act of service awaiting me on the cross, and I’m doing it for you. We can, however, respond to Jesus as Peter did: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus came to do many great things, and serving to the point of death, even death on a cross was the chief thing.
If all we get out of Christmas are gifts and time with family, we will miss the best news of the good news. Of all the people we exchange gifts with this Christmas, we will never come across a better giver than Jesus.
This Christmas, I hope you gather around the manger scene, and you’re able to say in full confidence: “I know why this child came!”