“Jesus came so that we could have a relationship with him.” This sentence which caught my eye in a book I was reading recently. I noticed it, but not because it was wrong. It was true enough; it just seemed . . . simplistic, a reduction of Jesus, all that was left after the other parts were boiled away. It’s not really fair to pick on this particular phrase, though. People do this all the time.
Jesus came to bring peace. Really? What about him saying he was bringing a sword? Maybe the sword is justice. That’s it, Jesus came to bring justice. But is it justice that saves sinners because growing up that’s what I learned he came to do – save sinners. He did this of course by dying, and we all know that’s really why he came. But you can only die if you’re alive, so the realest reason Jesus came was to show us all how to do that the right way, you know, by taking care of the poor and loving our enemies and whatnot. No matter what though, the trump card answer for why Jesus did whatever he did was to do the will of the Father and glorify Him, and that, my friends, is what Jesus came to do.
Boiled down: that’s what every one of those “Jesus came to . . .” phrases is. We boil him down to our preference, our interpretation, the point we are trying to make, or our theological framework. And it’s not that any of these is wrong, but it’s wrong when we reduce Jesus to something less than he is. Jesus is and does all of these things, and more. Our preferences and limited understanding don’t really matter when it comes to defining him. He can’t be boiled down. There is no simple reduction of Jesus. That’s why he’s worth following.