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Salvation: Why Jesus Came (Matthew 1:21)

By James Earl Massey
II

Those to whom Jesus came knew this. The national literature was filled with stories about sin and forgiveness, about how God had delivered His people now and again, how He had saved them from sorrowful conditions and rescued them from hazards and horrors because of His covenant with the patriarchs. Sin and salvation were not strange words to informed Hebrews.

As Jesus ministered to His people they began to understand the meaning of salvation at deeper levels of their lives. Under the impress of His presence and the power of His teaching, habitual sinners found themselves released into a more responsible behavior toward God. They found that along with a deepened sense of accountability they also experienced a new power to obey. In place of a sense of estrangement, they realized a sense of acceptance, that the ritual claim for oneness with God was not a real communion with Him. It all happened as Jesus helped His disciples learn to face and deal with their sins.

III

1. As He dealt with His people, Jesus made them face up to their sins of vanity. Then as now, vanity was a central sin because it is how pride most readily grows in the human spirit.

The Hebrews needed to be saved from their blinding pride over being God's chosen people. They knew His claim upon them and the conditions of the covenant arrangement but they missed His blessing because vanity made them overestimate their importance.

Jesus saved some from vanity when they saw that religious knowledge is never a substitute for religious experience; that knowing about God is never the same as pleasing Him. Salvation lay in recognizing God as Father, and themselves as eager, grateful, obedient, and related children under Him. Salvation from vanity always happens when we get and hold a right view of self in relation to God and others. And only the truth about ourselves can lead to such a freedom.

2. As He dealt with His people, Jesus made them face up to their sins of violence. Violence is the selfish use of power to gain advantage over someone else for personal reasons. Violence is often an extreme action taken to overcome someone. It can involve outrage against them, or injury to them; it can be managed by using one's influence against someone, by intimidating them, by infringing upon their rights, and by direct assault upon them.

The seeds for violent action against Rome had sprouted in Palestinian Hebrews when Jesus came to do His ministry. The Romans held the advantaged position of power across the world of that day. Conquerors of lands and peoples near and far, their might was resented -- but not unchallenged.

Hatred of the Romans was a common fact among Jews, and that hate had spilled over and was affecting the relations between fellow Jews. Feeling subjected has a way of stirring one to seek supremacy at some point over someone else.

Jesus understood this. Instead of advising His disciples against using intimidation and force to gain some desired end, He more positively counseled them to learn how to love -- even to love one's enemy. It was a revolutionary ethic, but a highly practical one. Jesus knew that those who learned to live this way would not only survive but prove the more formidable and creative in the end.

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