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Born TO Die

by Tim O'Hearn

Every one of us who has been born, and that is all of us, eventually understands that we are likely going to die. It is a fact of life. The moment we are born we start dying. Imagine, then being born knowing that you whole purpose is to die. Most of us wonder at some time what we are doing here. What is the purpose of my life? We don’t often think that the purpose of our life is just to get us to our death. But for Jesus that was his purpose. He wasn’t born to live; he was born to die.

That is not to say, however, that the life of Jesus had no meaning. If that were true, then he could have lived sin-free for about twenty years and died without teaching or healing. Instead, he felt the need to teach his disciples, so that they could teach others after his death. If the gospels are any indication, though, much of this teaching came in the last few weeks of his life. Almost two-thirds of the gospel of John takes place in the final week before the resurrection. Over half the book of Matthew follows Matthew 16:21,

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

It seems that Jesus felt that only one subject was the most important for him to teach about. That was his death.

Healing was an important part of his ministry. But that was because it established who he was; it let people know of his authority. In spite of what many would have us believe today, social benefit was only a minor part of Jesus’ teaching. The bulk of his teaching was about “the kingdom of God,” whether that was the church (most of the time) or heaven (occasionally).

Some today ask, “Shouldn’t we take care of the homeless and poor in America before sending aid abroad?” They imply that not helping these people is a sign of weak Christianity. (And that ignores that they are talking government aid, and that there are poor people all over the world.) An example of what Jesus taught shows their (sometimes intentional) ignorance of the priorities Jesus held. Three of the gospel writers tell this one story. (Matt 26; Mark 14; John 12)

Shortly before the Passover when Jesus was to die, a woman, identified by John as Mary the sister of Lazarus, came to Jesus during a dinner. She opened an expensive container of ointment and poured it on Jesus. The disciples, particularly Judas Iscariot, objected that the ointment could have been sold for a large sum and distributed to the poor. (Judas considered himself one of the poor that the money should go to, but the other disciples also objected to her actions.)

And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. (Mk 14:6-8)

Helping the poor would have been a good thing, but it was not a priority. His death was a priority. They could help the poor later, because they would still be there. Jesus taught that his death was more important than any teaching about helping the helpless.

Jesus was not born to teach; he was not born to do miracles. He was born to die. The reason this is true is that all the miracles in the world cannot save anyone. All the teaching of Jesus, his immediate disciples, and every Christian since cannot save except in that the teaching is about the death, burial and resurrection. If social benefit could save us, then God could have stopped with the prophet Amos. He taught the importance of good works. If teaching could save, then the prophets would have been sufficient for us. It is the death of sinless Jesus that saves. It was his resurrection that confirms his authority to save. Of all the people ever born, Jesus was the one who was born to die.