The Purpose

Our reflection for the 2nd day of Lent takes us back to the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, to John 1:29-34 (ESV):

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

There seems to be no end to the list of the purposes for which we want to enlist the resources of Christ or His church these days. We appeal to Jesus, and often encourage others to accept him on the basis of what he will do for our families, our business success, our loneliness, our sense of self-worth, our nagging addictions, etc., etc. While there is indeed no end to the extent to which salvation in Christ reaches, there is a strong temptation in today’s “everybody’s okay” mentality to overlook, or never quite get around to, the real center of why he came and what he does. He takes away the sin of the world.

On one hand, it is often too glibly said that all of our problems stem from sin. While true enough, it is easily construed as the one who sins is the one who encounters the biggest problems. Experience, honestly reflected upon, indicates that the opposite is more often true–the deepest hurts of body and spirit are usually caused by the sins of others. And our own sins can never remain private matters, as they impact those closest and often dearest to us. On the other hand, there is the error of thinking that sin is not a factor at all, that is probably best seen as the vestige of a primitive worldview that needs to be abandoned. Then we are left to explain the same phenomena of suffering and injustice, but have no moral categories remaining once failure to meet an actual standard is no longer an acceptable explanation.

Christ came to take away the sins of the world. It’s the beginning of the gospel. It is also the center. And the end. In our reflection today, perhaps we should confess any tendency to make sin a lesser category than it needs to be, to think of today’s pressing issues both personal and global as owing to other sources.

Please consider writing a prayer in the comments which reflects this concern.