Ever since I was a little kid, I have heard hundreds upon maybe into the thousands of homilies and talks that discussed why Jesus came to live, die, and be resurrected. Whether it is to bring salvation to the world, wipe away original sin, or any other particular reason that has been given, I have long had this particular reaction which has not gone away. Simply put, I have either felt that explanations were incomplete, or didn’t account for the fact that God is God, which meant that as the Creator of the cosmos and spiritual realities, he has both the ability to forego laws and create any reality that he desires. Put another way, if God the Father needed a mechanism to “wipe away our original sin”, then surely he could have done this without requiring Jesus to be on this earth.
But as I have thought about this further, I do believe that there are certain things that God, even in his omniscient, omnipotent role could not have done for us as people not so much because of his limitations, but because of ours. Although we as human beings are given vast domain and understanding that other beings don’t enjoy, we also cannot ever fully remove ourselves from our humanness no matter how much we embrace our divinity. Thus, maybe God’s primary need for Jesus in this world was so that he could embody and model that which God, in his spiritual form, simply could not approach for us in a way we needed. Moving beyond this overarching idea, here are a few ways in which Jesus provided what God the Father could not, thus bringing into a new era, a new closeness to our Creator and others that prior people would have never known.
First, it is one thing for God the Father to provide his natural law and order for the world. But until Jesus arrived, never was there a human being that fully embodied it. For those of you that have raised (or are raising) children, you recognize that it is one thing to know what a parent should do, but it is an altogether different experience to witness it being done. For us as people, this is what Jesus provided when it came to God’s ideal for how we should live. For thousands of years, God had passed down his desires for the world through his laws (e.g., Ten Commandments), his prophets, and his leaders. But in every instance, each of these modalities failed to truly personify what it meant to avoid sin, love others, and embrace the natural law among many other things. But when Jesus arrived in this world, for the first time, people began to truly see what it meant to live and be as God intended. From the moment that people in the first century came to forge a relationship with this itinerant preacher, to millennia later when billions of Christians seek to understand what God is about, no longer can we claim that we do not understand because we are not God. Rather, all of us now can come into His fullness because His fullness became a “him” and provided a link for humanity that God could not do alone.
Beyond this obvious reality, though, came another game-changer the moment Jesus began his ministry. Since the beginning of time, God had always healed people, both in direct ways and even through other people. But when Jesus came to this earth, he changed healing forever in that he made it abundantly clear that we as human beings can be healers for others, in the most holistic, spiritual way. Over and over in the New Testament, people come to him for healing of all sort of infirmities, and what they found was they were not just healed of their malady, but often of their heart, mind, and soul. Think for a second about what we know regarding the “placebo effect”, which is the situation in which healing occurs in the absence of any healing agent, such as getting better after taking a sugar pill or after a conversation with a physician occurs. What the placebo effect has taught us is that the creation of hope, facilitated by another person or commodity that possesses “healing” potential, is something that occurs when people place their trust in another. When a mother comes to the aid of a child whose legs are hurting, or when a father talks to his son about how thinking more positively can create unrealized energy to hike further even when exhausted, both individuals are providing healing of all sorts in human form. All of this is possible, of course, through God, but it was Jesus himself who provided all of us—-as human beings—-as a means of how this could occur through each other.
Although many other reasons exist, I will end with a final one. It is said that throughout the Bible, that no less than 365 times God tells us to not be afraid, and to trust and love him fully at all times, no matter what the circumstance is. And yet, although people certainly died for many noble, faith-based reasons prior to Jesus’s arrival, the reality is that all human beings could have (and probably did) respond to God that “it is one thing to say this, but it is another thing to live it.” Put another way, for anyone that has experienced excruciating pain or unrelenting sorrow and uncertainty, it is understandably easy to allow these fears to overwhelm feelings of trust and love and to take a different course. But as Jesus’s ministry continued, and we saw him persecuted, assaulted, undermined, betrayed, and ultimately crucified and killed, he truly became the personification of what it meant to not let fear lead the way. Unlike God, Jesus struggled with frustration, disappointment, sadness, and ultimately fear as exemplified in the culminating moment in Gethsemane, but he never altered the course for what it should be. God may have long told and reassured us that if we trust him, all will work out in the end. But he needed Jesus to show us the very human, painstaking methods in which we could make this happen.
In the end, Jesus may very well have come to wipe away our original sin or provide salvation for all humanity. Without any formal theological training, I am perfectly fine in acknowledging my ignorance in this matter although I doubt I will fully ever relinquish the sense that God could have done it all on his own. But, what occurs to me as being self-evident to any of us who have lived is that just as God the Father provided things for humanity (e.g., creation) that Jesus could not, so Jesus provided for which God could have not. In the end, in God’s ultimate wisdom, it seems “he humbled himself to share in our humanity” not just as an ultimate gesture of love and humility, but out of necessity. Maybe he realized that sometimes, we just need one of our own.