Jesus is the reason for the season. That is the most frequent phrase I have heard over the holidays. Jesus is the reason for the season. Of course, I like that phrase because I am a Christian.
What does it mean though? Do people understand what they are saying when they say, “Jesus is the reason for the season”? I know what I mean when I say it. I am not certain other people understand what they mean when they say it. Maybe I can offer some clarity.
Recently, our church has been studying the gospel according to Mark. Mark is the second book in the New Testament found in the Christian Bible. We began in chapter one and verse one. We are just finishing chapter six. Throughout my personal study, three verses stand out. You could even say Mark is a kind of Christmas book because of those three verses. And every time I hear people say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” I think of them.
Jesus being the reason for the season is shorthand for saying that we celebrate Christmas because Jesus Christ, being God, became a man. That implies we understand the importance of Jesus becoming a man, why he came. Thankfully, Jesus himself explicitly tells us.
Jesus tells us why he came in Mark 2:17: “The healthy have no need of a physician but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Think about the comparison. Jesus made a comparison between the need for a medical doctor (physician), and the need to be righteous. One is a physical need. The other is a spiritual need. Both are needs. Jesus came because we need him.
The point is this. Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Only unhealthy people do. We all have met a hypochondriac or two, and we always think about how whacky they are. In the same sense, righteous people don’t need Jesus. Only sinners need Jesus.
Sin is the opposite of righteousness. To be righteous means that you are perfectly right; you are just. You have never been wrong in any one thing in your entire life. You have never lied or dishonored your parents, and you have always given God his due.
Of course, if that is what it means to be righteous, we know within our consciences that we are guilty of being unrighteous. We are guilty sinners: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Jesus came to all sinners, and all of us are sinners. Therefore, all of us need Jesus. That is why Jesus came.
But how do you get Jesus to remedy your sin problem? Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). That is how you go to Jesus to remedy your sin problem.
I can’t tell you the last time I heard someone on the street use that word “repent.” According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, “repent” means to “feel or express sincere regret or remorse.” In other words, when Jesus came, he came to tell people to express sincere regret over something.
In tandem, they were to believe in the gospel. Of course, Jesus did not intend a blind belief/faith. Jesus’ call for belief in the gospel expects his listeners to have a belief so solid it drives them to express sincere regret (repentance) for disobedience to the gospel and drives them to live out a life demonstrating that belief.
That is what true belief is. True belief is when you live for the thing you are convinced of.
Everyone lives with faith/belief. Life would be impossible without it. You drive your car because you believe it will safely get you around. You trust your spouse with your children because you believe he or she is trustworthy. You and I are beings of faith/belief.
Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” The gospel is the good news that despite the fact that we have offended a holy and just God, Jesus, being very God himself, became a man like you and me so that we could be saved from his wrath and our present sins. That is the gospel. The gospel is the fact that Jesus is the reason for the season: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus thus came for the purpose of calling sinners to repent of their sins and believe in him.
The last verse is my favorite: “The Son of man did not come to be served; but to serve and to give his life a ransom in place of many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for sin. Jesus Christ was born to suffer the wrath of God upon guilty sinners.
He came to take the place of those people who are sinners. Not only did he come to call sinners to repentance and belief in the gospel. He came to take the place of those sinners and suffer the wrath of God in their place as the only sufficient payment (ransom) for their sins.
Your problem, my problem and everyone’s problem is that we have offended a holy and just God. That is what it means to be a sinner. We have broken God’s law. And because we have broken God’s law God owes us a just penalty. That penalty is eternal torment until we can pay our sin debt.
But the only way to pay your sin debt is to be sinless. You already know that is impossible. Thus, God the Son, the offended person, Jesus Christ, came to be that perfect payment for the sins of any who would repent and believe in the gospel.
The reason for the season is that Jesus came to pay the sin debt of anyone who would repent and believe in the gospel. Repent and believe today and you will live.
The Rev. Andrés Reyes is senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Perry.