Imagine you are transported back to Bethlehem two thousand years ago.  There you are standing around the manger. The shepherds approach with a question.

“Do you know who this is?” they inquire.

“Actually I do,” you say, “his name his Jesus.”

“That’s right,” they tell you. “The angels told us to come and find him here. The whole night has been amazing. We can’t stop praising God for leading us to this special child.” But then they ask one more question. “Still, we aren’t entirely sure what is so special about him. He must be sent from God. But do you know why he was sent? What has this baby come to do?”

What would you answer the shepherds? “Well, he’s come to show us how to live.” Or, “He’s come to heal people.” Or, “He’s come to show God’s love to the world.” Or, “He’s come to meet people’s physical and spiritual needs.” All of those answers would have some truth to them. But there’s a better answer, more to the point, more to the heart of Jesus’ own mission. Jesus us tells us why he came in Mark 10:45.

Why did the Son of God come to earth? What was his one driving ambition that determined everything else he did? It was this: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus healed. Jesus cast out demons. Jesus taught about the kingdom. But all of that was to the end that he might serve his people by death and resurrection. Not just service broadly conceived as blessing people with his care and compassion, but service in the best way possible way, and in the way only Jesus could fulfill, service through suffering on a cross.

Other texts make the same point. Recall the angelic instructions for Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). That’s why Jesus came–not first of all to set a moral example or to make us feel special–but to save us from our sins. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Jesus says in Luke 19:10. Elsewhere: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). That was his goal and it could only be accomplished through death. As R.T. France concludes in his commentary on Mark 10:45: “This, then, is the stated purpose of Jesus’ mission. His many acts of mercy, healing, teaching, challenging the norms of society, and all the other elements of Mark’s story must be seen in the light of this own purpose, to give his life as a ransom for many” (The Gospel of Mark, 421 [note: the last part of the sentence France leaves untranslated in Greek]).

Why did Jesus come? What was the baby sent here to accomplish? What was his mission? Quite simply, Jesus came to serve. And how did he serve? Mark 10 shows us how (full sermon here): He gave up his life (10:45, 32). He drank the cup (10:38). He paid the ransom (10:45). Thank God for the exalted Son of Man who, for our sakes, humbled himself to become our Suffering Servant.

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7 thoughts on “He Came to Serve”

  1. Kirk Johnston says:

    Kevin, this is your most important post in a long time. Yesterday’s was very good, but this one is even more critical. Christ came to serve, and more specifically, to die for sinners like you and me. If we as Christians focused on this 24/7 we would impact our world in a way not seen since the first century. It will be interesting to see what kind and volume of feedback you get on this post. God bless you, your family and your church during this season, Kevin. And thank you Lord for giving up your life for us wretched, yes wretched, sinners!

  2. Tommie says:

    Micha 5: 2″But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days”
    ‘for me’
    I’m always scared to see something in the Bible that’s not there but, these two words has gotten me thinking. There is more truth in them than first meets the eye.
    In a way Christ coming to earth, becoming human was more “for God” than for us.
    Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying God needed nor needs anything. Christ came “for God” to show His glorious grace and unbending righteousness.
    Christ supreme reason for coming is Gods glory, not our salvation. Our salvation and Christ actions to secure that salvation glorifies God and that why he came “for God

  3. Mike says:

    Well this is certainly true and the pinnacle of why He came, but if it was the only reasons He could have died at 12 or 18 years old, perhaps 30 years plus 1 day if you believe the priestly age was important.

    He did come to show God’s love and character to us. 1 John 4:9 makes that clear. He was the prototype perfect man and is our example. By considering His life we gain endurance (Heb 12:3). His actual life is really important, not only His death. I think too often people in our camp jump to Calvary as if the actual time He spent on the Earth – which is the most amazing miracle in history – isn’t worth talking about.

  4. Kirk Johnston says:

    What I feared came true, Kevin. You posted your most important and profound post in months, and only three people had anything to say about it. Me and two others. Everyone wants to weigh in on the White Sox, Keswick Theology, women having “authority” over men, and Jesus going to Egypt. But Jesus coming as the ultimate servant doesn’t really move us. Maybe it’s because we all agree on it…or maybe it’s because we as evangelicals still haven’t truly come to grips with the most basic and crucial elements of our faith.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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