Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? 6 Reasons from the Book of Matthew
Updated: Mar 5
As we once again celebrate the season of Christ’s death, it seems pertinent to consider why Jesus came to earth and died. You may think you know, but an overview of Matthew has revealed some interesting answers which I’d like to share. According to this gospel, Jesus came...
1. To perfectly fulfill the Law
Matthew 5:17 - “Let there be no thought that I have come to put an end to the law or the prophets. I have not come for destruction, but to make complete.” (NLT)
Jesus fleshed out the Law as no one else ever did. The Law required a perfect balance between loving God and loving people – Jesus said that! However, the Law was broken from the very beginning when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s only rule. Ever since, the Law has served to show us how far from perfect we are.
Jesus, “the second Adam,” came to fulfill the Law perfectly, to balance love of God and love of others. In order to be the perfect sacrifice, accepted by God, this was vital. In this passage, Jesus explains this. The old standard for forgiveness of sins was now changed by a perfect solution to the problem. On the cross, Jesus took all our sin on himself, paying the penalty required by the law (and thus, fulfilling the Law). In this way his righteousness became ours, so we are credited with fulfilling the Law as well!
2. To save people from the penalty for their sin
Matthew 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (NIV)
This is probably the one you thought of right away when I used the title, “Why Jesus Came to Earth.” From the beginning of time, when Adam broke the first decree of God, people have needed forgiveness. The Jews were given an elaborate system of sacrifice to pay for their transgressions, but they were warned it was only a temporary fix. As I said in #1, Jesus was the final solution to the sin problem.
3. To show what God really wants from us
Matthew 9:13 - “Learn what this means: 'I want mercy, not sacrifices.' I've come to call sinners, not people who think they have God's approval." (GW)
In Jesus’ day, the Jewish leaders were teaching an erroneous system of making a connection with God. They encouraged people to observe every little nuance of the Law (which was impossible to do) and totally neglected it’s intent – to show love toward both God and man. They believed they were accepted by God because they were Jews, because they kept themselves separate from “sinners,” and because they “kept the Law.”
Jesus pointed out, over and over, how this was far short of fulfilling the intent of the Law, but they refused to see. The good news Jesus shared: he died for people who know they need help, not those who think they can work their way to heaven on their own. And your heritage has nothing to do with it!
4. To teach the reality of the supernatural world
Matthew 10:34 - “Don't think that I came to bring peace to earth. I didn't come to bring peace but conflict.” (GW) [Some translations have “a sword” instead of “conflict.”]
This verse is one of the most controversial in the whole Bible. It speaks of strife and discord, not principles that seem to jive with Jesus and his mission as Messiah. We like to picture Jesus as a meek and mild lamb, loved by all. But here Jesus himself tells us this couldn’t be more incorrect.
In his day, Jesus was the epitome of controversy. His followers were called, “the ones who turned the world upside down.” His message of peace was based on one condition alone, faith in God’s chosen one. Only Jesus can put us in right relationship with God.
This passage deals with the reality of an eternal, supernatural, conflict being carried out on earth. There is total opposition between God and his followers and Satan and his followers. There are eternal principles of good and evil at work in us and our world, and we are largely unaware of them. Such conflicting principles lead to division, war and conflict between people and, ultimately, between people and God.
Jesus came to expose this truth and help us understand it’s meaning. Those who stand with God are on one side and those who stand against Him are on the other side. The sacrifice of Jesus is divisive because it demands a decision on your part, one that may alienate you from friends and family. To make no decision is the same as making a negative decision, and that has always been difficult for people to accept.
The Jews of that day wrongly believed that when Messiah came he would usher in an era of peace, prosperity and earthly comfort. Jesus wanted them to understand he came as the peace- maker between God and sinners, not as someone who would bring physical prosperity and ease.
His Gospel would provide peace in the consciences of people, peace with God and with other people. "Peace on earth," in the sense they expected, was not one of the consequences of his coming. In fact, he explains, the opposite would be true. His message would divide and separate the people of God from the people of the world, even among friends and families.
5. To change peoples’ thinking about “religion”
Matt. 5:43-44 - “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (NIV)
Jesus spoke of the intent of the Law, why God decreed certain things and forbid others. He demonstrated that God isn’t sitting on high ready to catch people in a sin, but that he loves them completely.
Jesus also fleshed out many of the 10 commandments to teach how everyone breaks them in some way. If you hate someone, you “killed” them, if you looked with longing at your neighbor’s spouse, you “committed adultery.” He taught that the intent behind an action was the beginning of that action. For a group of religious people who thought they fulfilled the Law perfectly, these were startling and alarming words.
No longer would the old standards of who “deserved” our care and concern hold water. God intended all of us to be brothers and sisters, caring for each other and our world. Our thoughts were meant to be first for God, then for others and, finally, for ourselves.
6. To be an example
Matthew 20:28 - “Even as the Son of man did not come to have servants, but to be a servant, and to give his life for the salvation of men.” (BBE)
Once again Jesus challenged the teachings of the Jewish leaders of his day. They believed worldly prosperity was a sign of favor from God. Jesus puts the emphasis where God wants it: He loves people and wants people to love each other. God gives blessings so they can be shared with those in need, thus giving a living example of God’s love.
Jesus came to earth to be an example of a godly man – the man God intended Adam to be when He created him. Jesus would be the fulfillment of the verse, “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for another.” His style of servant leadership was so foreign to the Pharisees (who loved their position as leaders of the nation) that they branded him a dangerous radical, but those who listened to the words of Jesus could see the truth of His message.
In his own words
So Jesus himself tells us why he came to earth: to fulfill the law, to be a sacrifice, to teach what God wants, to teach us how God intended us to live, and to show the love of God in action.