What Was the Purpose of Jesus’ Life and Ministry? (30 Questions)

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What was the purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry?

This post is a chapter from Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book, 30 Questions: A Short Catechism on the Christian Faith available for purchase from our store. This resource makes for a great teaching tool in local churches, especially for catechesis purposes. We’re featuring a chapter each week in hopes of encouraging you to pick up the book and share it with others as well.

The Gospels devote considerable time to telling us the story of the life of Jesus Christ. We find Jesus teaching the multitudes, training disciples, casting out demons, and proclaiming the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. But if we step back and look at the whole life of Jesus, we should see it as Jesus rewriting the history of the human race. Jesus is showing us how God designed life to be before it was distorted by sin and rebellion against God. The Scriptures tell us that Satan tried desperately to tempt Jesus, but at every point of assault, Jesus, unlike Adam, chose to obey God, to reject the forces of the rebellion, and to live without sin.

If we trust in Jesus Christ, then we participate in his obedience in the same way that we participated in Adam’s rebellion. When Jesus is tempted in the desert and declares that he will love the Lord God and serve him only, you are there with him in the desert learning how, in Christ, we can resist the devil and serve God. When Christ confronts the demonic world, exercising authority over the rebellion, you are there in Christ defeating the enemy. You are in Christ as he obeyed, just as you were once in Adam as he disobeyed! In every situation where the first Adam disobeyed, the second Adam obeyed. Whenever the first Adam said no to God, this Adam said yes. In Christ, the entire history of the human race is being rewritten, and now we can turn the clock back and get it right.

The final test culminates in the Garden of Gethsemane. The whole thing started in the Garden of Eden, and now here we are in another garden, facing the same question of obedience. The Second Adam is now poised to obey or disobey, just as the first Adam was in the first garden. After a whole lifetime of choosing the Father’s will above his own, is Jesus prepared to choose God’s will in this final test? Is he ready to take upon himself the sins of the whole world, to suffer separation from his Father, to bear the wrath of God for all the sins of humanity from Adam until the end of time? This is the most intense moment of human history; the decision of Jesus at this very moment, on his knees sweating blood and crying out to God, holds the whole fate of the human race in the balance. Finally, Jesus says the words which have changed the world: “Not my will, but thine be done.”

At the heart of our rebellion against God is the declaration through thought and word we want our will to be done. However, in that moment, Jesus reverses the motto of the rebellion and declares that he wants to do God’s will. This effectively turns the tables on all the powers of evil. Man’s great “no” of rebellion is being swallowed up in Christ’s great “yes” of obedience.

The whole of Jesus’ life and ministry can, therefore, be summed up as the invasion of the Kingdom of God into this world. The Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God. Apart from Christ the world is oriented towards the assertion of self and participation in the rebellion against God. That orientation leads only to death, as Adam was warned in Genesis 2:17. But in the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus we see another path set forth which leads not to death, but to life.

Scripture Reading

John 10:7–11
John 18:37
Romans 5:15–19
1 Timothy 1:15–17

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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