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.