I remember where I was and what I saw on that day. It was the first time I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was in third grade and some local firefighters had come to my school to talk about fire safety, and I’ve never forgotten what they said, “If you’re ever on fire [and trust me, that was a real possibility for me then], you should stop, drop and roll.” I can’t believe I still remember that!
I remember being so excited looking at all their gear and then telling my parents when I got home, “I’m gonna be a fireman!” When my parents asked me why, I boldly told them, “Because I want to save people from the fire! I don’t want any of them to die!”
This was the same motivation Jesus had when He committed to coming to earth as God in human form: He didn’t want any of us to die. And at the same time, His mission on this earth was to set people free—spiritually, physically and mentally.
The Bible clearly describes the Messiah’s mission: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1, 2).
The apostle Luke tells of the time Jesus was in the synagogue formally announcing His mission and ministry. He opened an Isaiah scroll and quoted this passage: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18, 19).
Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus said. This is the first time He publicly and formally announced His ministry here on earth. His mission was fivefold:
- Preach good news to the poor.
- Proclaim freedom for the prisoners.
- Give sight to the blind.
- Release the oppressed.
- Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
Remember, Jesus was making it clear that as the Messiah, He was not there to build a flashy and violent kingdom that would free the Jews from Roman rule. Jesus didn’t come to focus on hanging out with the elite. Rather, Jesus came to look out for all people, specifically focusing on those segments of society that were forgotten: the weak, the sick, the disabled, the homeless, widows, orphans and prisoners.
Jesus made some people really mad, especially those who didn’t believe He was the Messiah. They were hoping for a revolution that would end the Roman government’s rule over them. Others were offended when Jesus associated with people they didn’t think deserved to be saved. Some even got so mad that they wanted to kill Him!
But Jesus was here to more clearly show us what God is really like. He came to serve others selflessly and to show us how it’s possible to have a closer, deeper and richer experience with God. Ultimately, He lived to die for the sins of all humanity and rise from the dead—all so that we may have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.
The Bible says that all of us are dirty with the irreversible stain of sin (Romans 3:23), and the only option for sin-stained, sin-imprisoned people is death (Romans 6:23).
Understandably, Jesus wasn’t really excited about dying on the cross. He had to ask God not once but three times for the emotional and physical strength to willingly die a horrible, torturous death (Matthew 26:36–46).
So what was His motivation? Christians around the world often refer to His actual suffering and death as “the Passion.” And the reason is that although He wasn’t excited about dying, He was very excited—passionate, in fact—to do whatever it took to spend eternity with you and me. And the cross was the only way it could happen! Hebrews 12:2 puts it like this: “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Why would Jesus do this for people who had rebelled from His plan and program? The answer is love. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him” (John 3:16–18, The Message).*
So if Jesus was perfectly perfect yet died for a hopelessly imperfect humanity, what should our natural response be to such a profound, freely given and unselfish gift? We have just two options: we can either accept it or reject it.
Have you ever received a gift from someone and said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” all the while thinking I wish she wouldn’t have—because now I have to give her a gift in return! Well, accepting Jesus’ gift of salvation is nothing like that. Rather it’s this: “For it is by grace [through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection] you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Translation: there’s nothing you can do to acquire this gift on your own. There’s nothing you can do to earn it. Just accept it by faith.
Jesus came to this earth to save all humanity. To be sure, He didn’t say the actual words: “Stop, drop and roll.” Yet He did say them in the way He lived His life; served others; and ultimately suffered, died and came back to life for all of us. His goal was to save every human being from the flames of destruction that would cause death and separation from Him.
During this season of the year when Christians everywhere celebrate Christ’s life, death and resurrection, you can accept the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers you. It’s as easy as saying, “I believe in You. Thank You, Jesus.”