Special missions — they are common among superheroes and secret agents in movies. Audiences are accustomed to the typical mission of a hero saving the world or a spy defeating a villain.
Although comic book heroes, like the Avengers, Superman, and X-Men, have gained popularity in recent years as individuals on larger-than-life missions, there is a person described in Scripture whose mission was epically greater than any plot in a modern superhero movie. This real-life hero is Jesus Christ.
Readers of the Bible can sometimes become distracted by other events in Jesus’ life and believe these events were the focus of His mission, such as His good life as a great Teacher or His discussion of Kingdom ethics in the Sermon on the Mount.
These events in His life are important, but paradoxically, Jesus’ main aim in His ministry is found in His death. Christ came to die for the sins of mankind and to be resurrected, bringing the gift of salvation to all who place faith in Him.
Jesus’ mission as Savior of the world is demonstrated in His name, the biblical birth narratives, and His personal statements.
Before diving into how these aspects display Jesus’ mission for coming to the world, understanding why Jesus had a mission to begin with is an important point to establish.
The Story Begins
God’s plan to save humans began long ago, with the first people on earth. Adam and Eve, perfect in creation, chose to disobey God’s special orders not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17).
Because of man’s sin, humans were utterly desolate and without hope. Thankfully, God did not leave them in that position but gave them hope.
A Savior would be born as the seed of woman, who would crush the head of the tempter, the deceitful serpent, Satan (Genesis 3:14-15). This promise of salvation, known as the protoevangelium, foretold of a coming Messiah who would save His people from their sin.
Thousands of years later, the Messiah appeared, heralded by a beacon: A bright star in the sky (Matthew 2:1-2,10-11). No, the Messiah was not the political leader the Jews wrongly believed Him to be, breaking them free from the chains of Roman rule.
The Name of the Hero
Derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua or Joshua, the name “Jesus” is theologically charged. In Bible times, names carried significant depth and meaning, which can be easily overlooked by modern readers.
For instance, in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, the daughter-in-law of Eli the Priest gave birth to a son quickly after she heard the news of her husband’s and father-in-law’s death, as well as the loss of the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 4:19-20).
Because of her despair over these events, she named her son Ichabod, whose name in Hebrew means “no glory” since she noted how “[t]he glory has departed from Israel” (1 Samuel 4:21). As seen in this example, biblical names hold strong meaning and significance.
Jesus’ name fits His goal since His name means “the Lord saves” or “Yahweh saves.” When the angel Gabriel told Joseph to name Mary’s son “Jesus,” he explained the name choice: “Because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Significantly, the Hebrew derivative of Jesus, “Yeshua,” also carries the meaning of “rescuer” or “deliverer.” Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:20), who came to bear the sins of the world and take mankind’s punishment upon Himself through death on a cross. He successfully carried out His mission as Jesus — the God who saves.
Matthew and Luke detail the birth of Jesus and the events directly after His birth. As was shown through His name, Jesus had already been foretold as the Savior of His people (Matthew 1:21).
Not only did this message from Gabriel indicate Jesus’ saving purpose, but also Simeon’s prayer of praise and Anna’s reaction to seeing the Christ child at the temple demonstrates His salvific mission.
Simeon’s prayer alluded to the salvation Jesus would bring. As he states in his prayer, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all nations” (Luke 2:30-31). According to Simeon, Jesus would be a “light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
This passage is an allusion to Isaiah 49:6, which links the light of the nations to the Lord’s salvation. Also, when Simeon saw Mary and Joseph, he prophesied of Jesus’ death, which would cause Mary anguish (Luke 2:33-35).
In addition to Simeon’s recognition of the young Messiah, the prophetess, Anna, also referenced Jesus’ mission of redemption, focusing on His mission in relation to Israel (Luke 2:36-38).
She gladly proclaimed the good news of Jesus’ coming as the Messiah to all those who were listening in the temple courts (Luke 2:38).
Even from the time of His presentation of the temple, people had begun to recognize Jesus’ true reason for coming.
Jesus’ Statements in the Gospels
Throughout His ministry, Jesus prophesied His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). During these times, the disciples did not understand what Jesus was referring to, but Jesus’ continual mention of these events emphasized their significance.
His focus was on accomplishing the mission the Father had given Him (John 6:28), which was to lay down His life for others and rise from the dead, according to the prophecy of Scripture (Luke 24: 25-27, 46-48).
In addition to the individual predictions of His death and subsequent resurrection, Jesus also stated His intention for coming in clear declarations.
When Zacchaeus expressed faith in Jesus and experienced a change of heart, Christ succinctly declared: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Reflecting Simeon’s prophecy of Jesus being the Savior of all, Jesus made this statement after commenting on Zacchaeus’ status as a son of Abraham, even though he was a despised tax collector and “sinner” (Luke 19:2,7).
When addressing the Pharisees’ negative statement about Jesus eating with “tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus spoke about the purpose of His coming.
Rather than coming to help those who believed themselves to be righteous, Jesus came to save those who acknowledged their true spiritual state of deadness.
Using the comparison of a doctor helping sick patients, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). All people need the atoning work of Christ to cover their sins since no one can pay for their own sins, but not all recognize this need (Romans 3:9-18).
Many other statements point to His world-saving mission. He declared Himself to be the Bread, which brings eternal life (John 6:51), the Light of the world (8:12), the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11), the resurrection and life (John 11:25), and the Way of salvation (John 14:6).
His death and resurrection was the goal of His coming, to bring salvation to those who believe (John 3:16-17). Only Jesus, who is the God-Man, could act as the perfect sacrifice to pay the terrible sin debt of all people (1 Peter 2:24).
Even so, He had no sin, He took all of man’s evil deeds upon Himself, dying in mankind’s place on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). Bringing victory over death at His resurrection, Jesus freely gives new life in eternal relationship with Him to all who place faith in Him (Romans 6:23).
In a hero-like description of Jesus’ saving act and how this sacrifice affected his own life, the Apostle Paul wrote in a letter to his friend Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Through His own power and choosing, Christ laid down His life as the sacrificial lamb of God (John 1:29). This act of salvation was a one-time event, but it continues to affect people around the world just as it did over 2000 years ago when His mission was accomplished. No other superhero act compares to the sacrifice of the ultimate Hero, Jesus Christ.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/RyanKing999
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.