Jesus did not come to die
Until recently, I believed that Jesus' primary purpose on earth was to die on the cross to cancel my self-inflicted death sentence by sacrificing his life for mine. Still, I think most of those things to be accurate, but I came across a passage of scripture that completely shook my perspective regarding Jesus' primary purpose on earth.
What if Jesus didn't come to die?
What if he was here for another purpose?
What if his death was a secondary purpose, a catalyst, or maybe even a fringe benefit?
So you may be wondering, what is this mysterious verse? You will find it in the book of John in chapter 17. In this passage, Jesus is praying. I like to call it the Apostles prayer because, in this prayer, you get a glimpse into the big picture of Jesus' strategy. You get to see what He intended to accomplish. He even reveals what his Father's master plan was.
Guess what? It all revolved around mentorship and preparing His disciples to establish His church (the kingdom of God) on earth. His end game was the church.
Salvation, forgiveness, and new life is infinitely valuable, but without the church, the kingdom of God (second-born followers of Jesus) can not reproduce. It can not extend its reach to the ends of the earth.
Westerners are mostly individualistic in their worldview. If we are not careful, our theology can be negatively affected by this limited view of the world. I think that is what has happened here. After thousands of years, we have convinced ourselves that Jesus came for ME. When in reality, He came for every tribe, nation, and people, to draw them to Himself through the church.
I am eternally grateful that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for my sins and bring me back into right standing with God. But I am equally thankful for the church that Jesus trained the Apostles to establish because if it hadn't been for the church, this gentile would have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ.
So let us look at this verse in John 17. In this prayer, Jesus prays for himself. Then, he prays for those he has been discipling. Finally, he prays for those who would come to believe through the testimony of the disciples (that's us). But, Jesus says in verse 4,
"I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do."
Wait a minute. This is John chapter 17! The crucifixion doesn't happen until chapter 19. The resurrection in chapter 20. So, how could he say that he had COMPLETED the work that his Father had given him?! Perhaps because Jesus' crowning achievement was mentoring the Apostles who would establish the church, not his death and resurrection.
During the three years Jesus spent with his disciples, he taught them how a citizen of God's kingdom is supposed to live.
They watched Jesus model for them how to interact with their enemies.
He exhibited how to treat the poor and marginalized.
How to teach the common man and how to confront the hypocrisy of the religious.
He showed them how to pray.
He taught them how to gather together with other believers.
He revealed to them the real power of God and faith.
He modeled for them how to submit your will and accept the Father's will even when it would cost them everything.
He gave them examples of how to be compassionate and when to be bold.
He warned them that they would suffer for the sake of his name and that they would pay the ultimate price for their devotion to Him.
He established the seed of the church in their hearts.
After he died on the cross, it was a time of spiritual drought. They doubted, they feared, and they lost faith. But the resurrection caused the seed of the church to break through the hard ground of their hearts.
That seed produced the most beautiful creation that God has ever made. His Church.
It is God's masterpiece, and Jesus accomplished it through mentorship, and he did it even before he shed his blood for us.
All he had to do was, let the rest of God's plan play out, and every nation and every tribe would eventually hear the Good news of Jesus. All accomplished because of the ever-advancing church established by Jesus of Nazareth, which was the natural fruit of three years of life-on-life mentorship.
So, to sum things up here is a simple formula:
Cross - Mentorship = Localized Impact
Mentorship - Cross = Dead in our Sins
Mentorship + Cross = Establishment of the Eternal Kingdom of God