The mysterious and wonderful truth of the birth of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Because it is the cornerstone of our faith we must be clear as to why the eternal Son of God was born in our flesh as the Babe of Bethlehem.
Why was Jesus born? Why did He come to the earth?
The answer to that question is not that He would enact universal peace and human brotherhood. Nor to build human self-worth and esteem. Nor to make salvation a possibility for all, depending now upon man’s choice.
Why did He come?
Jesus Himself gives the answer to that in many places. And none more beautifully and concisely than in John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
Jesus came to do the will of His Father who sent Him. That will of the Father was nothing less than to secure the salvation of all that the Father gave to Him, both now and eternally. He said, in verse 39, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
Jesus, in those words, again gives a forceful explanation as to why He came into the world. Those words were spoken in Capernaum and in the context of the Lord’s message on the Bread of Life. And Jesus Himself is reflecting on the manger of Bethlehem.
These are not the words of a supposedly insightful commentator on CNN reporting on Christmas Eve from Bethlehem. They are not the doctoral thesis of a liberal theologian reflecting on how this Christmas season reaffirms man’s self-worth. This is not the shopping-mall gospel.
But our Lord Jesus Himself, in the very middle of His ministry, fully aware of who He was and what He came to do, looks back at the events of that night when Mary brought forth her firstborn son and laid Him in a manger in a cattle shed. He says, Do you want to understand that manger? Do you really want to know the significance of what happened that night? Do you want to know the significance for you, right now? Then listen to My words, for I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me.
Jesus declares an astounding fact. That fact is that He came down from heaven, the real and glorious dwellingplace of the eternal God. Perhaps we can become so acquainted with profound truths that they fail to cause us to wonder. It ought to astound us. Jesus is saying, as He stands in the streets of Capernaum with people gathered thickly around Him, He is declaring in the most straightforward way, that He possessed a real, personal existence in heaven long before Mary gave birth in the manger. He is saying that long before the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and shocked her by telling her that in her womb the long-awaited Savior would be conceived; long before Mary was great with child and after the hard trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem gave birth to the child in the stable; long before all of that, Jesus says, I have and I had a real personal existence in heaven. I came down from heaven.
He repeated that astounding fact on many occasions. In John 3:13, when He was speaking to Nicodemus at night (Nicodemus thought he had gone far beyond the other Pharisees when he said to Jesus, We know that thou art a teacher come from God), Jesus responded, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Jesus said, There is much more than simply being sent by God. I came down from heaven. I existed personally in heaven before I came.
Again, in John 6:62, He makes the claim again, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” In that setting the people were offended at His claims, and He says, You haven’t seen anything yet. If what I have spoken offends you, what will you do when you see Me ascend up into heaven where I was before? asserting that He existed personally in heaven before He came to the earth.
Again, in John 17:5 He prays to His Father, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Before the world was, He was filled with glory. He existed with the Father.
Now He explains the manger of Bethlehem with the astounding fact, “I am come down from heaven.” The eternal Son of God, God of God, came down from heaven. That is astounding!
It is astounding, first of all, because He said it in a setting in which the people were acquainted with all the things about Him which identified Him as a real and, in many ways, ordinary man. If you read John 6 and look at verse 41, you will find that the response of the Jews after Jesus says that He has come to do the will of God is this: Is not this Jesus, the Son of the carpenter? They understood His words. When He said, I am come down, they knew He meant that He had a real existence before His birth in Bethlehem, that He is the eternal Son of God. And this was a great stumbling block. How can this be? they said. His father and mother are with us. They concluded that, since Mary was with child before Joseph took her in marriage, Jesus had been conceived outside of marriage, in fornication. In fact, in John 8:41 they insinuate that when they say, “We be not born of fornication,” implying that Jesus was.
There Jesus stood, as far as they could see, an ordinary man. No halo around His head, no glow of light in the straw, no angels carrying Him on wings. He walked, He slept, He grew tired, He ate. How can it be, then, that He came down out of heaven? They said, You’re a man and nothing more.
You see, the very thing they needed in order to have a Savior was a stumbling block to them. A Savior must be a man to take upon Him our guilt and sin. But He must also be very God of God. True man and true God. The One come down from heaven.
But His words were astounding to them also because that means that God, the second Person of the holy Trinity, came down and joined Himself to our flesh. That is what happened in the womb of the virgin Mary. John 1:1-5 and 14 explain that in the wonderful detail that Jesus is the Word, He is God, He is with God, He is the Person in the Trinity by whom all things were created and for whom all things exist. He was made flesh. He took upon Himself our flesh and blood without ceasing to be what He always was – eternal God, the Son of God, God of God. He became fully man in the womb of the virgin. Anyone who does not believe that in the manger crib in Bethlehem is the almighty Creator, the only God, the everlasting Father does not believe in Jesus Christ. That is our witness. He came down from heaven.
Any thinking person understanding those words and filled with awe at the fact that He came down must ask the question, Why? Why does God deem it necessary to take to Himself the human body in the virgin’s womb? Does He come just to show that it could be done? Is that all? Or is it as is said today that He comes simply to affirm the great self-worth of mankind? The self-esteem gurus say Bethlehem is God’s testimony of man’s self-worth. Man meant so much that God wanted to be closer to him, to be like him. No! Not because of any worth in man or in us. The very opposite is the case.
Why? Listen to Jesus tell you plainly. “I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” He came to do the will of God. He appeared upon earth with no other agenda than that which was given to Him of the almighty Father. He came as the one to do what God had willed and purposed. Not man’s agenda: to stamp out war, poverty, hunger, and make the kingdom of man. But to do God’s will. What was that will? That will was to save to the uttermost all those who had been given to Him of the Father, to save them from their sins.
The Lord answers why He came: I came not to do My own will. He is speaking against the Jews who accused Him of having His own private plans distinct from God. Oh, no, He says. You cannot attack Me in My plan as if it were independent of the Father. You cannot simply say, Well, that’s what Jesus says. He is just another man among men like Mohammed or Confucius. He is just a man. Oh, no!
I have no independent mission. I have no will of My own. I am come to do the will of Him that sent Me. You cannot escape the fact that the Father sent Me. In confronting Me and in hearing My words, you have to deal with the Father. Reject Me and you reject the Father. You cannot isolate Me from God. My coming and My birth has one great purpose – that the will of the unseen Father in heaven might be done before your very eyes. That is why I came, for no other reason.
And what was the Father’s will? This is the will of the Father which hath sent Me, said Jesus, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
How could we put that into our own words? We could put it this way: He came to accomplish the complete and final salvation of all the elect of God without a single exception. That is, I came out of the amazing, free, gracious love of the Father, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing. That is, all that would make them go lost, their sin, their guilt, Satan and temptations, all that threaten them from appearing before God, all of this I should defeat, I should lose nothing, I will let not one of them slip through My fingers, but should raise it up again the last day. When their remains go to the earth and become dust and are long forgotten, and apparently all is lost, I will raise them up in the resurrection of life and glory. Every one of them.
That is why I came to Bethlehem. To gather you who have been given Me of the Father. To defend and preserve you, keep and raise you. I am come to bring My church to glory.
He did not come in a “hope so” mission. There is no “if” here. It is certain! He did not come to save “if only” men could be persuaded of their own will to throw their lot with them. No! I came to do His will, to lose nothing, to raise them up, to work in their hearts that they might will to come unto me, to work in their hearts that they will love Me and know Me.
Will you look into Bethlehem and see those things which are come to pass? There in the cradle, a feeding trough which animals eat, in a dimly lit grotto outside of Bethlehem, there is the One who has come to do the will of almighty God. Written over His crib are the truths of God’s election, God’s choosing of who will be saved, of God’s particular atonement, that is, a sacrifice, an offering in the place of sin for those chosen of God. There, written over the crib, is “irresistible calling,” that is, the truth that Christ by His Holy Spirit will so call His people powerfully that they will come unto Him. And there, written over that crib are the words “preservation of the saints.” Not one of them will be lost. They will be preserved.
We call those truths the truths of sovereign grace. We call those truths simply “God Saves Sinners.” He has come so that you who deserve less than nothing, to be cast into Hell, that you might be gathered unto Him. Even when death turns your body to ashes and weeds grow over the tombstone and no one visits it, He will raise you out of the grave and, with a body resplendent with glory like unto His most glorious body, you shall ever be with the Lord.
That is why I came down from heaven.
Do you believe that?
That is the purpose of His birth.
Do you hear the Lord’s own explanation of Bethlehem? What consolation. He came from heaven to take a host of people back with Him to heaven. And He will not fail in His purpose. I came down not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. We deserve to be cast into Hell. I came to give eternal glory to all those given Me of the Father. And I will raise them up.
When the Jews heard this explanation of His birth and coming, they rejected Him. They rejected the truth that they were impotent, could not save themselves, and they rejected who He was. He is only a man!
Jesus said to them, You think you have the right to stand in judgment of who I am? Your problem is that you have too high a view of yourself. You need to stand in judgment of yourself. You need to know that you are spiritually impotent. Have you heard? He will do the will of God, either in damnation or salvation. Believe and worship. Obey and serve. Love and adore Him who came to do the Father’s will.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word and we pray that Thou wilt seal it unto our hearts, Amen.