Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?

By Brian Key    |    December 19, 2022

Topic:    

“Because he loves us,” said my little girl with a big, knowing grin as she fidgeted in her seat, probably wondering why her daddy was asking her another question about Jesus. That wasn’t the answer I was looking for, for the record.

I had asked her, “Why did Jesus come to earth?” The answer I was looking for was “to save us from our sins.” However, she had a penchant for answering questions about God and Jesus with “because he loves us.”

“Who made you?”
“God.”
“What else did God make?”
“Everything.”
“And why did God make everything?”
“Because he loves us.” (She was supposed to say, “for his glory.”)

So, when I asked her why Jesus came that day, and she responded, “Because he loves us,” I wasn’t surprised at all. Was I perturbed that my kid’s humor was subverting my catechetical attempts? Likely. But I now look back on that conversation differently. At that moment, I was asking her a question with the hope of receiving an answer about the purpose of Christ’s incarnation. But she answered my purpose question with an answer of motivation.

Why did Jesus come to earth?
Because he loves us.

As I reflected on that conversation again in this Advent season, I realized how much I need to be reminded of that reality: Love motivated the incarnation. It wasn’t just that Jesus had a cosmically vital task to accomplish. The incarnation was motivated and animated by nothing less than love. This love is the foundation of the jaw-dropping miracle of what we celebrate at Christmas. In his incarnation, Jesus left his eternal experience of God’s perfect love to demonstrate God’s perfect love so that he could welcome us into his own eternal experience of God’s perfect love.

His Eternal Experience

Towards the end of his prayer in John 17, Jesus reminds the Father that “you have loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). The Son, who eternally existed with the Father, describes his existence as an eternal experience of giving and receiving love within the Trinity. Creation is the result of an outpouring of that eternal love and is an invitation to share in that love. And when humanity rebelled against God in the garden, love poured out became love rejected.

But the one who is love had laid plans before the foundation of the world to redeem rebels, adopt them, and welcome them back into his perfect love (Eph. 1:4–7). However, to welcome us into that love required Jesus to experience something that he had not yet experienced: separation from the perfect, unfiltered experience of nothing but the eternal dance of love. The author of Hebrews says that he had to be made like us in order to accomplish for us a “great salvation” (Heb. 2:3). And so, in what Michael Reeves calls a “gracious cascade . . . a waterfall of love,” in the incarnation, the Father pours out more love from the endless supply of his eternal essence.

Once we are in a comfortable place, it is hard to get us to move to get something for ourselves. Think about the number of times you have chosen hunger or thirst over getting up off the couch to grab something to eat or drink. To do something sacrificial for another person, even someone we deeply love, feels like an even bigger imposition.

As it turns out, as I was trying to catechize my daughter, God was using her to catechize me.”

—Brian Key

And, yet, because that was the only way to accomplish the Father’s plans, in love, the Son leaves his eternal experience of perfect love. He puts on flesh and dwells among us as a tangible expression of the love of God.

Why did Jesus come to earth?
Because he loves us.

His Demonstration of Perfect Love

It is one thing to declare love for someone; it is quite another to plan an act of love. But every one of us has experienced empty declarations, plans, or promises that weren’t kept. Demonstrations prove that declarations, plans, and promises are meaningful and real. In that way, the incarnation proves the willingness of God to do everything necessary to embody, exhibit, and extend love to his creation.

Paul tells us that in Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). In other words, Jesus is nothing less than the embodiment of the God who is love (1 John 4:8). John goes on to tell us that in this embodiment of love, Christ exhibits the love of God to us (1 John 4:9–10). It was in this demonstration of love that Love incarnate extends it to the world (Rom. 5:8).

The motivation for the incarnation and all that it entailed was love from start to finish. In The Gospel Without Compromise, Catherine de Hueck Doherty writes, “The Gospel can be summed up by saying that it is the tremendous, tender, compassionate, gentle, extraordinary, explosive, revolutionary revelation of Christ’s love.”

Love motivated him to cross ontological boundaries into a world he created, but that humanity subsequently broke. Love motivated him to bring the full essence of God near to people who, in sin, were “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). Love motivated him to lay down his life for unlovable people to welcome us into a love that will never let us go.

Why did Jesus come to earth?
Because he loves us.

His Welcome into Perfect Love

Jesus sums up the purpose of his obedience in word and deed at the end of his prayer in John 17, saying, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26, emphasis added). Michael Reeves sums up this outpouring of love powerfully:

The Father so delights in his eternal love for the Son that he desires to share it with all who will believe. Ultimately, the Father sent the Son because the Father so loved the Son–and wanted to share that love and fellowship. His love for the world is the overflow of his almighty love for his Son. . . . The Father so loves that he desires to catch us up into that loving fellowship he enjoys with the Son.

That outpouring of love is what we begin to see at Christmas. In the birth of Love Incarnate, we see an overflow of the love that the triune God poured out as an invitation into the kind of love we were made for. He welcomes us into what hymnist George Matheson called a “love that will not let me go.” It is a love that the fiercest human love can’t compare to, and it is a love that even the worst circumstance can never separate us from (Rom. 8:31–39).

Again, Jesus left his eternal experience of God’s perfect love to demonstrate God’s perfect love, so that he could welcome us into his own eternal experience of God’s perfect love.

As it turns out, as I was trying to catechize my daughter, God was using her to catechize me.

Why did Jesus come to earth?
Because he loves us.

Brian Key

Brian Key previously served as a professor of urban ministry at Grimké Seminary.

Keep Reading

The Power of Song and Testimony in Church Tradition

By Brian Key | October 17, 2022

What Does it Take to End Well?

By Brian Key | November 7, 2022

What more from SE? Subscribe to our Substack.

Subscribe