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The Third Reason Jesus Came


MORNING MESSAGE – John Cline

John 1, John 14, Galatians 4

Reader: Richard Wallman

In our Advent preaching series, we are exploring the reasons Jesus came. Last week, we looked at the second reason: to bring light into darkness. Jesus declared that he was “the light of the world”, the fulfillment of that famous Isaiah 9 prophecy which Christians read every Christmas season (“for unto us a child is born, a son if given”), a prophecy that was referring (you read in the preceding verses) to the “Great Light” whom God would send to drive out the darkness.

We read that Jesus made the declaration, “I am the light of the world”, at the Feast of Tabernacles which, after Passover, was the second largest of the seven annual Jewish festivals, attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims from foreign lands as well as Judah and the surrounding nations. The Feast of Tabernacles had two foci: water and light. The theme of water we will look at next week, but the theme of light focus was what propelled Jesus to intentionally choose that festival to be the place where he would reveal that he was “the light of the world”. At the Feast of Tabernacles, pilgrims, who had been staying in darkened tents outside the city, were allowed to enter the Temple area of Jerusalem only if they were carrying lit torches. After they gained entry, the pilgrims joined with priests in an all-night celebration of singing and dancing. By the way, only the men were permitted to do this, the women had to watch (a situation that Jesus, as we will later see, dealt with). The pilgrims and priests were celebrating two aspects of light: first, God’s Shekinah glory, that dazzling and overwhelming light wherever God was present; and second, they were celebrating in anticipation of the “Great Light” who would come into the world to shine light into their darkened existence (and it was a time of darkness for the Jews as the Romans suppressed them). The singing and dancing took place at a preselected spot in the Temple court which was in front of four huge oil lamps which had been lit. The light from those lamps was so bright that it filled every courtyard in Jerusalem. It was in that spot and at that time, things intentionally chosen beforehand by Jesus, that he shouted out, “I am the light of the world”! In effect, he was saying, “You don’t have to wait anymore. I am here!” So, to bring God’s light into this darkened world was Jesus’ second reason for coming. We saw that last week.

Two Sundays ago, we identified the first reason Jesus came to earth and that was: to be our saviour, to bring salvation to us. This theme of Jesus as the saviour was a constant one in the Christmas narratives.

First, there was an unnamed angel (maybe, Gabriel) who announced to the shepherds, “A Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Go and see him.”

There was the angel Gabriel – we read last week – who informed the aging priest named Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth – who was beyond child-bearing years – would have a child (they had been childless up to that point). Gabriel told Zechariah that they were to give their son the name, “John” and that son would turn out to be John the Baptist, the one who would later prepare people’s hearts and minds to receive “the horn of salvation”, Zechariah prophesied, that God was sending. That “horn of salvation” would be Jesus, the “Great Light”.

There was the angel Gabriel who next went to Mary to tell her that her Holy Spirit gifted son would be the “saviour”, as would be shown in the name she was to give him, “Jesus”, which means “the Lord saves”.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Finally, there was the angel Gabriel then going to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, a righteous man who was understandably having difficulty with the fact that his virginal fiancée was pregnant. Gabriel told him that the child within Mary was of God, and would be the “saviour”.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Those historical announcement and birth of Jesus events were written by the Gospel book writers Matthew and Luke. Their Gospels were filled with narrative explaining the life and ministry of Jesus, and their focus was on his miracles and his many parables on the kingdom of heaven. John didn’t write like that. In his Gospel, he mentions far fewer miracles and not one parable. John wrote theologically, not narratively, and explored the “why’s” of Jesus’ coming. He wrote theologically, with a purpose. He explains why he wrote what he did:

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

Unlike Matthew and Luke who started their Gospels with the Christmas birth stories (Mark’s Gospel, by the way, started with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and with John the Baptist), John began with theologically, with the reason Jesus came. By the way, if a poll were taken, I am sure that Luke’s Gospel would be the favourite of most people, then Mark, then Matthew, with John being the least favourite because of his theological focus. We have already seen in John and elsewhere that Jesus came to bring salvation and to bring light. John, in chapter one and throughout his Gospel, then gives a third reason for Jesus’ coming. See if you can hear it as it is read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:1-3,10-18)

Jesus came from heaven, incarnate as God made flesh, to make his dwelling or live among us and, in doing so, he came to earth on that first Christmas to reveal God the Father to us. This is the third reason Jesus came: to make known to us that God is our Father.

Throughout history, humans have wondered about the nature of God. That God exists is pretty much taken for granted by most. The usual question is not whether there is a God, but rather, what kind of a God is He? Is He tough, or tender? Is He laid back and easy going, or demanding and strict? Does He notice small fry like us, or is He mostly concerned with world leaders and the rich, the famous, and the influential? Even people who hold to no particular organized religion have created their own view of God, made after the image of God that they think He ought to be. For evangelical Christians, the matter is settled by the pages of the Bible, that large collection of books written by prophets, kings, poets, priests, and apostles; people we believe were inspired by the Holy Spirit. I contend that gaining an accurate perception of God is the most important education one could ever hope to receive; more valuable than computer skills, scientific abilities, or a knowledge of world history, as good as those are.

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

Jesus said that. Without a true knowledge of God, humans become idolaters and religious pretenders. Leaders of other religions who demand that their followers kill in their name of their god, and cultists who persuade their followers to commit mass suicide are acting out the consequences of a false, utterly deceptive view of God. Not only does Jesus tell us that we must worship God according to truth, but that God is a Spirit, totally unlike what humans might imagine him to be. When asked by the apostle Philip to simply show them God the Father, Jesus, who appears to be flabbergasted with Philip, responded this way:

“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Let’s explore why Jesus was frustrated by that question. For example, just a few days before that question, Jesus had told the apostles,

I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

Philip would have heard Jesus say that, as well as the many other times Jesus had made such pronouncements. Certainly, Philip and the other apostles should have known who Jesus was and who the Father was. For instance, Jesus claimed that the prophet Isaiah had revealed that he was the Messiah and there was the Isaiah 9 prophecy:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Philip must have known that. Later, there were some in the early Church who interpreted verses like these, that Jesus and the Father are one, that Jesus will be called “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father”, etc. to mean that Jesus was himself the Father, merely appearing on earth in disguise. However, that is a misunderstanding, for there were several times when Jesus distinguished himself from God the Father. For example, on the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. Jesus was thus not God the “Everlasting Father” on earth. He would be “called” that by others, Isaiah stated but Jesus would have understood that those phrases showed how Jesus was so united with God the Father that people, if they wanted to know God, would be able to see God the Father in him. The apostles, including Philip, should have understood that. Certainly, John the apostle did get it. They had been with Jesus for three years by that point and so they should have known. The timing of Philip’s request was bad for it came right after Jesus had emotionally revealed to his sorrowing apostles that he was about to be put to death, but then he tried to strengthen them and cheer them up by saying that he would be resurrected and would come back to take his followers to the place where he was going. Philip ignored all of those words of Jesus with his request of Jesus to simply show them the Father and that would be good enough for all of them. Before Philip blurted out his request, however, the apostle Thomas had asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” So, here’s the rest of that passage:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. (John 14:6-11)

So, I think we can understand why Jesus was frustrated with Philip. He was about to be arrested and put to death, and Philip still didn’t get his message or understand who he was or why he had come. Using modern terminology, Jesus was saying to Philip, “C’mon! You’ve got to be kidding me! You still don’t know who I am or who God is? Haven’t I revealed God the Father to you through the words I have spoken or the miracles I have done? Philip, think about it: have I not shown to you that God is a heavenly Father who cares deeply, and who is forgiving, loving, and patient. When I healed lepers, or fed the hungry, or blessed the children, or gave hope to the despairing, or made the outcasts feel special, or raised Lazarus and others from the dead, was I not revealing to you truths about God the Father? No mere human could have done those things. I and the Father are one.” Now, the very day before that conversation, we read that Jesus had told his apostles,

Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

(John 12:44-46)

Jesus had reason to be frustrated. But then, mere hours later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus presents a more positive tone, for in his famous prayer for his immediate disciples and for all those (including us) who would come to believe through the disciples’ witnessing, these were his concluding words:

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:25,26)

The message of Jesus was that he had come to reveal God the Father. In Jesus, we discover God the Father and, as we read at the start of his book, the apostle John certainly understood this to be the case.

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)

The apostle John got it! And, in our previous sermon series through Hebrews, we saw that the author of that letter got it:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:3)

So, we can read through the New Testament and see that consistently the writers got it! It must be said that there are some Old Testament references to God as the Father of Israel, but for the Jewish people the thought of having a personal relationship with God the Father was too much to bear. They held that “the fear of God being the start of all wisdom” was the most important fact they could cling to. God was too holy, too strict, too remote, and too distant to regard Him intimately, as our “Father”. Yet, to we his followers, Jesus revealed something very different about God, that when we are praying, we are to begin our prayers by addressing God as “Our Father”. That is mind-blowing reference to intimacy with God. Then, taking that intimate relationship with God one step further, John wrote this about Jesus:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12,13)

You see, if God is our Father, then we are His children. The world teaches that every person is a child of God. A case could be made that if God is every person’s Creator – which He is – then they are His children, but the New Testament teaching about God supersedes the universality of such talk about everyone being God’s child. Jesus taught that to be in God’s family meant that all of the blessings that come from being adopted into that Father-Child, family relationship and which comes through placing our faith in Jesus, means that we will gain salvation and light, and God as our Father. Later, John wrote about this in the first of his three letters preserved in the N.T.:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

This love of God the Father propelled him to send His son to earth:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

In conclusion, the apostle Paul wrote theologically, like John did. In his letters, Paul didn’t mention any of the historical Christmas narrative events about the birth of Jesus, either but he did have his own Christmas section, as we will read. Paul wrote theological reasons for Jesus coming and one of those reasons was this third one we have been exploring today: that Jesus came to reveal God the Father. We need to remember that Paul was writing to Christians in the Roman Empire, and Roman law taught that females, particularly daughters, had few rights. For example, daughters had no claim on their father’s estate. Only sons could be heirs. Daughters were as slaves. So, who would want to be a daughter in the Roman Empire? No one. And, yet Paul revealed that anyone in the Roman Empire – and, afterwards – who believed in Jesus, whether male or female, was a “son” in God’s eyes. Male believers are “sons” of God’s riches and estate. Female believers are “song” of God’s riches and estate Every believer is an heir of God’s riches, estate, and promises. In verses that uninformed people think are sexist and exclusive, but which are actually amazingly inclusive and liberating, Paul writes his own Christmas story: Jesus came to make us all God’s children, the equivalent of “sons”. This is true for both male and female believers in Jesus, for we are all heirs of everything God offers and has for us.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

We are often challenged to expand our thinking about God. “How big is your God?”, we are asked. Well, in this instance, the question should be, “How full is your understanding of God?” Jesus revealed to us, in the third reason he came to earth on that first Christmas day, that God is our Father in heaven, a loving, just, forgiving, patient, and protective God who is knowable through him, through Jesus. Do you know God as your heavenly Father? That is the question for today. Let’s pray…

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