Why Jesus? Part Three

In part one and part two, we saw that Jesus came to live with us and show us what God is really like, and to show us who we really are.

What we are focusing in on in this series is the significance of Jesus’ life rather than His death and resurrection.

We are now ready to look at the third reason for Christmas.

He came to show us what love actually looks like

Love is not one of God’s attributes. He doesn’t have love; He is love (1 John 4:8). It’s part of His divine essence. From this understanding, let’s look at what the angels declared to the shepherds in the field when Jesus was born:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 *)

The Greek word for “goodwill” is εὐδοκία (eudokia), which means “good will, favor, good pleasure, purpose, intention” (Mounce). The Greek word for God’s love is transliterated agape, which means benevolence (from the Latin bene volentem: to use our volition, or will, for the benefit of another).

So, God’s agape love is His other-centered good will toward us. Putting this all together, we could rightly say that the angels declared:

“And on earth, God’s other-centered, self-giving love toward men!”

This kind of unconditional and other-centered love was foreign to the Hellenistic world Jesus was born into. The Greeks wrote about eros love (erotic passion) and phileo love (deep friendship), ludus love (playful, childlike), pragma love (longstanding, mature), and philautia love (self-love),  but not so much about agape love. And what Jesus showed us was that all of Scripture was summed up in this one statement about agape love:

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt.22:37-40*)

Jesus told us this because this is exactly how God loves us:

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  (John 15:9 *)

23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23 *)

This kind of love does not wait to be loved, or for us to deserve His love. It always initiates and is unconditional and eternal.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom.5:8 *)

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. (1 John 4:10 MSG *)

Love didn’t sent a text or post a tweet on Christmas day to tell us how He felt about us. No, He came in the most vulnerable way and lived among us, showing seeking wise men and women the way back to Himself:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 *)

Finally, Jesus came to define this counter-intuitive, other-centered, self-giving love in concrete everyday terms, as Paul elaborates on what this looks like when it’s working in us:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. (1 Cor.13:4-8 NIV)

We will continue this series after Christmas.

* New King James Bible translation unless otherwise noted. All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Father Heart of God, Grace, Love and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Why Jesus? Part Three

  1. God bless you,
    this message is Good

  2. 🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚

  3. Hi Mel,

    This “story” has certainly been told and retold and recycled many, many times with slight variations as well as bigger variations. However, there is also some factual history of Antiquity during this time-period that is NOT so commonly known, shared or talked about, especially in Conservative Western-Civ mainstream Catholic and Protestant circles. I’d like to mention some of it, if I may sir.

    The story of Christmas, Jesus/Yeshua, his birth, etc, is identical to a large major river until its final mouth into the sea/ocean — an immense convolution and conglomeration from all types of snow caps, streams, and tributaries spread out over time. LOTS of time and ingredients! The ‘Christmas River’ is no different and here is one example…

    During the very first upsprings of Greco-Roman Messianism (c. 27-29 CE) in the Judean-Transjordan region of Rome, there was another (competing? fusion?) religion/cult/faith rising in popularity called Mithraism. Here are just (8)eight similarities to our Greco-Roman Messianism:

    • Known as the Light of the world/Sun or Son
    • Broader morality for all ethnicities
    • Twelve original followers of Mithra
    • Humanity’s Savior/Redeemer
    • Unheard of Miracles
    • Birthdate of December 25th
    • A Virgin birth, as all deities have
    • Torturous killing, following resurrection, then ascension into heaven

    Specifically regarding Dec. 25th, scholar and Antiquity expert Franz Cumont states:

    Have you ever wondered why December 25th was chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ? If the accounts in the Bible are correct, the time of Jesus birth would have been closer to mid-summer, for this is when shepherds would have been “tending their flocks in the field” and the new lambs were born. Strange enough there is an ancient pagan religion, Mithraism, which dates back over 2,800 years that also celebrated the birth of their “savior” on that date. Many elements in the story of Jesus’ life and birth are either coincidental or borrowings from earlier and contemporary pagan religions.

    The debate or controversy that is important to recognize here is this, was Christianity merely an offshoot of Mithraism or did they converge when Emperor Constantine chose ‘the Cross’ as Rome’s legal, offical religion and all others as heretical as well as punishable? The two cults have remarkable and many shared beliefs and rituals. This is undeniable. And the reasons the two cults/believers were different is quite uncanny! For example,

    Christianity eventually rivalled the four-century old cult of Mithras in Rome, the two cults/sects were outwardly practiced by followers of different social classes. Echoing its roots, Christianity was favored in urban areas inhabited by the Jewish Diaspora, whereas Mithraism, being indifferent to Sectarian Judaism, was found in more rural settings like the outer Roman provinces. Mithras was popular among soldiers (as suggested by the archaeological prevalence of Mithraea at military sites), it fostered elitism, barred women, and (as a mystery religion) promised knowledge that was HIDDEN from outsiders. Today, this ‘hidden knowledge’ suggests a reflection of the doctrine of WHO the Holy Spirit fills. Christianity’s message on the other hand was simply more public, with slaves, women, and the poor welcomed into the brethren; a highly successful welfare system of which Emperor Constantine was very fond. Christianity thus enjoyed a broader appeal by sheer numbers, even gaining a significant following in military ranks which ironically enforced the Emperor’s wishes/mandates. Also, it is very important to note that after the Constantian reforms of the early 4th-century CE, one had to be a Christian to gain promotion within the army or social advancement.

    There are 4-5 compelling theories as to which cult/religion came first and influenced which and how, but the debate, the arguments, or the winning cult/religion was ultimately decided NOT by any universal-cosmic truth(s), but by a mere man, an opportunistic Emperor: Constantine. And THAT political manuevering is explicitly a long-standing Greco-Roman tradition seen all throughout Imperial Rome’s entire history!

    Of the 4-5 theories, I particularly lean to the one by Samuel Laeuchli, who writes that the two faiths could’ve developed:

    A common contemporaneousness [conglomeration] resulting directly from [the root/river’s] sources. Two religions could have spoken to a Roman condition, a social need, and a theological question without having learned from each other or even without having known of each other’s existence. As in so many other instances…parallel thoughts and social patterns can appear independently of one another as “new” elements with the authentic consciousness of such newness…if a religion moved into the Roman sphere, the soil would have altered the content of different religions, thereby creating striking parallels.

    Happy Holidays everyone and for you Mel.

    • Citizen Tom says:

      @Professor Taboo

      People have been denying this undeniable nonsense since the 1st century. If someone is curious, it is easy to look up appropriate references. There is no reason to spend a lot of time refuting something that has been refuted for centuries.




      • Nan says:

        Do you really expect to “prove your point” when all the links you offered are Christian-oriented?

        The Professor outlined some excellent information, but you would do well to do your own research (may I suggest Wikipedia?) before you claim the belief in and surrounding Mithraism is “nonsense.”

        One other point. Mithras was prominent in the Persian religion, Zoroastrianism — which played a major role in the development of early Christian beliefs.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Nan and all,

          I just saw this conversation. I don’t have a lot of time today but had to respond to this.

          I’m sorry but the accusations that Christians borrowed from other pagan gods for Jesus’ story is just utter nonsense. These kinds of stories comparing Jesus’ story to Mithra (or Horus, Osiris, Krishna, etc.) are nothing more than popular urban legends passed around by Anti-Christian sources. As one of Tom’s articles pointed out, the Mithra myth was debunked over a century ago but has made it’s way back into popularity on the internet with Jesus-mythers. I posted some videos debunking this and other popular comparisons on my post, “Debunking popular myths about Jesus.”

          Here’s the video on the Mithra myth in particular:

        • Citizen Tom says:


          Am supposed to link to Atheist-oriented websites?

          On the subject of religion, there is no such thing as the unbiased, neutral observer. So don’t be silly.

          Wikipedia is crowd sourced. People provide content because they care enough (biased enough) they want to get their opinion out there.

          Sometimes people even write a deliberately erroneous Wikipedia article as a joke. So Wikipedia”s reliability is always a bit suspect.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I do use Wikipedia sometimes. But I agree with Tom, it’s sources are often suspect. It’s not like an actual scholarly-sourced encyclopedia.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          Since it is convenient, I use Wikipedia all the time too, but I try to be careful about it.

        • Nan says:

          Huh. Biased is an interesting word …

          And I just suggested Wikipedia. There are numerous other sources that provide background not only on Mithraism but many other early century beliefs as well. I’m well aware that Christians are convinced their particular religion is the only “true” one, but in reality many of its core doctrines can be traced to the early “mystery religions.” Of course if people never do the research, they will assume what they have been taught is truth … and will vigorously defend it as such.

          Merry Holiday. Don’t overeat.

        • Citizen Tom says:


          So I am supposed to figure out which sources you would like and pick them? Have you considered doing your own research?

          If you checked the link Mel provided, there is no reason the story of Jesus’ life was fiction borrowed from myths or “mystery religions.” Most such claims are just outright lies.

          I did not convert to Christianity until I was in my 50’s. I am too inclined to be skeptical. One of my concerns was exactly what you suggest. The problem is that whatever myth Jesus might have copied always turns out to be a copy of what He did. The historical record just turns out that way.

          Check for yourself.
          1. There is historical evidence Jesus lived. Jesus was not fictional.
          2. The New Testament was written within a relatively short time after His resurrection. The authors either knew Jesus or talked directly to people who did.
          3. Rather than recant their belief in Jesus, people (including witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection) suffered horrific deaths.
          4. The record of the New Testament tells us how Jesus fulfills prophecies recorded in the Old Testament. Those prophecies have nothing to do with “mystery religions.”

          Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Don’t drink and drive.

        • Nan says:

          Just one quick comment and then I’ll leave this conversation to die of its own accord.

          You asked, “Have you considered doing your own research?” Actually I have. In fact, I spent about 7 years doing research, which resulted in a book that I published in 2012. Oh, and BTW, many of my resources were Christian-based. One rather voluminous reference book was “The Crucible of Christianity:Judaism, Hellenism and the historical background to the Christian faith.” If you ever come across it, I suggest you take a gander.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          Yeah. I have seen your website. I know you wrote a book. Because people have been writing books for about Christianity since Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, neither of us can read all references. Fortunately, some books matter much more than others.

          The basic problem is not in the references. The basic problem is in us. Are we willing to believe? Those who say “yes” claim they believe in the truth of Jesus because God strengthens their faith. Those who say “no” claim the facts don’t support belief. Yet both sides say logic and reason support their choice.

          How can both sides be right? Well, the Bible does a very good job of telling us about ourselves, but what the Bible tells us about ourselves is something some people choose to ignore or disbelieve.

        • How can both sides be right? Well, the Bible does a very good job of telling us about ourselves, but what the Bible tells us about ourselves is something some people choose to ignore or disbelieve.

          I am obligated to take contention with this personalized claim and its closed or limiting (biased?) framing. I will explain my contention for the sake of any others who may be reading, and after I will not to discuss/debate its validity/invalidity with its author; that is futile. He will certainly share more of his personal perspective, which is fine. So onward… 🙂

          I ask, Why can’t both sides be wrong? Or why can’t both sides be partially right or wrong? Why can’t it be TBD!? Why does Fundamentalist Christianity — like so many other brands of Abrahamic religions (forms of radical Islam in particular!) — insist on constant black or white, A or B, right or wrong… nothing in between? Nothing in degrees of accuracy and inaccuracy? This condition is absolutely prevalent, evident, and observable in Nature! In people and so far by what we know and are discovering in the Cosmos, monism or strict duality is an erroneous HUMAN construct!

          So why the hyper-oversimplification here on a subject that covers 2-3 millenia, several thousand square miles, a MINIMUM of 4-5 cultures/languages, all brutally conquered, exterminated, ruled, exiled, and assimilated into NEW cultures and languages over those many centuries by one of the greatest single, most impactful Empires in all of history: Rome!? And then the most critical, significant act of any major historical sociopolitical manuevering ever… Emperor Constantine hammers down the mandate that the Greco-Roman (Pagan? Gentile?) version of Messianism (not the one Yeshua taught or the Sectarian Jews bitterly argued over; see the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls as one example) would be the Empire’s official religion, enforced by the gladius or lethal torture/death, making all others heretical AND punishable, including Mithraism.

          WARNING everyone! Or HOPE everyone! There is a plethora of equally valid (or better) sources of self-reflection, self-examination, self-improvement WITHOUT the 4th century CE Canonical New Testament (exclude the various Old Testaments) legends, mysticism, myths, and heavily Greco-Roman theology or deification to sift and wade through to find your ultimate purpose and meaning. These questions presented here RARELY (never?) have only two choices/answers as this author above purports.

          But don’t take my word for any of this. Please, do your OWN research, seeking, and exploration… and hopefully starting from a neutral standpoint.

          Everyone have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve and Year!

        • Citizen Tom says:

          @Professor Taboo

          Now you are going to pretend you are not debating me?

          I am obligated to take contention with this personalized claim and its closed or limiting (biased?) framing. I will explain my contention for the sake of any others who may be reading, and after I will not to discuss/debate its validity/invalidity with its author; that is futile. He will certainly share more of his personal perspective, which is fine. So onward…

          That’s funny. The reason people have blogs that are public is so that they can do pretty much what you just stated, benefit the public. Thus, you are just stating the obvious and trying to make it sound insulting. Yet if you did not think I would be taken seriously, what is the point in responding?

          Why don’t you just skip the personal attacks and stick to the subject? Why don’t you actually discuss what this post is about? Wouldn’t have anything to do with those words you quoted, would it?

          How can both sides be right? Well, the Bible does a very good job of telling us about ourselves, but what the Bible tells us about ourselves is something some people choose to ignore or disbelieve.

          You don’t actually want to discuss Jesus. That would require you to think about what He said about the state of your heart and your soul.

          So, we will consider the crux of your question. Why can’t both sides be uncertain? Well, Christians don’t actually claim to know a huge amount about God. The Bible makes it clear God is beyond our understanding. What are we certain about?
          1. God exists, and He created everything.
          2. The Bible is a revelation from God.
          3. God sent His Son to redeem us from our sinful nature, and His Son’s redemption of Man is the story the Bible tells us about.
          4. God loves us more than we can know.

          Of course, the Apostles’ Creed states what Christians believe more formally and in a bit more detail. However, that creed does not directly address your question: why can’t both sides be uncertain? If Christians believe the Bible is God’s revelation of the truth, why should we be uncertain? What you are demanding is that Christians lack faith in something we think we have good reasons to believe to be true. That faith is important. Without that faith, we will not love and obey God as we should.

          So to justify your self, you wave that phrase, “Fundamentalist Christianity”, as some kind of totem that justifies your own militant disbelief.

          Consider. You are not raising any new issues. You are just recycling contentions that each generation of Christians has had to consider and set aside as silly nonsense. All it does is divert some of the people who never wanted to believe anyway (see The Parable of the Sower and the explanation in Mark 4). Those are people like yourself. Yet you still have a choice.

          It is time you examined Jesus. Who was He? What did He do? Why do people believe it makes far more sense to believe in Him than not? Instead of circling like a shark around the periphery, focus on Jesus. Learn about Him and enjoy a Happy New Year!

        • Bravo to you Nan!

          I spent a good 10-12 years in my extensive research simply because the INDEPENDENT sources available on the 2nd thru 3rd century CE Levant, Fertile Crescent, the 4-5 different cultures/languages WITHIN the Roman Empire of Antiquity are nowhere near as easy to find and get hold of when most everything on the relative subjects are strictly from Judeo-Christian and/or Roman Catholic/Protestant sources and viewpoints. The latter I covered for more than 8-years, including in seminary; a viewpoint I knew inside and out.

          If I may Nan, for the sake of fairness I’d like to offer what I found to be one exceptional NEUTRAL source for these events and the origins, orthodoxy, and context of the Canonical 4th century CE bible. It was/is my go-between source:

          The Bible Through the Ages, Reader’s Digest Association (1996) — ISBN# 0895778726

          This large volume was compiled by many renown scholars and does an exceptional job of presenting historical events and facts so that the READER can form their own conclusions and opinions. For that reason this book is found in many libraries of religion, not just Christian. Furthermore, my page “Bibliography — Origins & Orthodoxy” lists several more of my own sources of Independent studies/examinations of this subject as well.

          Good stuff Nan! 🙂

        • 👏 for Nan and also warning about unhealthy overeating/obesity. 😁

        • Thanks Nan. You make valid points about the historical method of these ancient events. Many times (with the layperson) it all boils down to just how fair, how broad and objective seekers truly want to be, even when their long held constructs or ideologies are challenged or dismantled. Humans on average do NOT LIKE to be corrected or in (temporary) turmoil… so they do the osterich head in the sand jig. 😉 Besides, there’s nothing wrong with suspending a verdict either, until further notice as more info and facts become available! Some have a difficult time doing that and being in a state of limbo or ambiguity, a form of OCD by the way. Hahaha.

          But what hinders or blinds(?) many wearing tunnel-vision goggles is their strict Monism they cling to like rigor mortis.

          Thank you Nan for your addition here. 😉

        • Mel Wild says:

          @ Nan, Professor Taboo, Citizen Tom.

          Okay, I’m finally back after Christmas festivities. I really need to comment on this Mithra(s)/Jesus myth that continues to be propagated by anti-Christians. It IS a total myth based on bad historical research. I already referenced the video clip and blog post where I summarized the reasons this is indeed a myth. It also debunks the typical “list” of similarities that anti-Christians like to propagate on the Internet.

          But since Nan criticizes Christian sources, I will recommend an atheist site that criticizes the “New Atheists” bad representation of history (“History for Atheists” Tim O’Neill) In fact, this would be a good “snopes.com” site for Anti-theists to fact-check before repeating their favorite urban legends. His research is very good. The post is titled, “The Great Myths 2: Christmas, Mithras and Paganism.” You can click on the title to read it. It’s very good.

          O’Neill (again, an atheist) concludes what most reputable scholars conclude today, that the connection between Mitra, Mithra, Mithras and Jesus is almost non-existent (other than coincidentally).

          And since Franz Cumont was brought up. Here’s one quote from O’Neill about his research:

          The late nineteenth century scholar Franz Cumont was once almost the sole western expert in Mithraism and he propagated the idea that the Persian Mithra was adopted wholesale by the Romans and spread across the Roman Empire from the east much as Christianity was to do later. So Cumont assumed that anything that could be said of Mithra or Mitra could be said of Mithras and vice versa.

          Unfortunately, Cumont’s assumptions were criticized and overturned by the next generation of Mithraic scholars and the current consensus is that the Roman cult had very little in common with the Persian or Indic cults and that the Roman Mithras shared not much with his Persian counterpart, other than a form of his name, his hat and his trousers.

          The article is very good and worth the read if you’re interested in going beyond the anti-Christian echo chambers that continue to list these erroneous connections between Mithra(s) and Jesus.

        • Nan says:

          Careful Mel … this statement is not correct: since Nan criticizes Christian sources. I don’t “criticize” Christian sources. I simply point out that Christians use Christian sources to validate their claims and when the discussion is with an non-believer, such references are worthless. Of course, the same generally holds true on the other side as well.

          However, I will say this — at least when a believer provides references it shows s/he has done some research. As I’ve asserted many times before, in discussions with non-believers most “lay” Christians simply repeat what they’ve been told. Very few have investigated how the doctrines and beliefs they live by came into practice.

          One final comment — my research indicates that while there are “similarities” between Jesus and Mithra, they’re not to the degree presented in the popular listing. But for the same reasons I gave above, the comparisons are generally made because the individual didn’t do the research. They simply passed on what they heard — which O’Neill points out. 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          “I don’t “criticize” Christian sources. I simply point out that Christians use Christian sources to validate their claims and when the discussion is with an non-believer, such references are worthless. Of course, the same generally holds true on the other side as well.”

          Nan, it came across like a criticism (why blog communication is so poor!). In other words, Christian sources aren’t valid. If that was not the intent, I do apologize. And I DO understand your point and agree. I would add, though, that the links from the Christian sites Tom provided were not all Christian sources. But, again, we should not just be echo chambers (theist or atheist) but read various sources outside our own circles. This is why I like Tim O’Neill’s blog and other more balanced secular/atheist sites. So, yes, one should do the research if they are going to make a claim.

          And the Mithra claim is one case in point why people should research this better before continuing to propagate popular anti-Christian myths.

          I brought this all up because just like atheists get tired of hearing cliché arguments against their position, I get very tired of hearing the old “Mithra” connection with Jesus. It’s shop-worn and not even true. Would these people PLEASE research this out better before continuing these urban legends.

          And thanks for your comments. 🙂

  4. Argus says:

    I’ve long forgotten how many saviours went through the whole virtually identical process—Mithras being just one footprint on a well trodden path.

    The easiest ‘out’ here is to use Him/Them as a ‘dummy run’ or dress rehearsal.
    In the meantime let’s all enjoy Christmas (or for some, Solstice) celebrations in our own way with peace on Earth (hopefully) and Goodwill to all men/persons …).

    • Mel Wild says:

      As I said in the other comments, the Mithra comparison is an urban legend that was debunked over a century ago, but has made it’s way back on the Internet with Jesus-mythers.. A closer look at the evidence shows that a lot of the Mithra claims were actually added on after Christianity was well established, so the reverse is more likely to be true. The Mithra cult was probably copied from Jesus’ story.

      But I will say that December 25 was picked on purpose to celebrate Christmas in order to overthrow the pagan Solstice celebrations in various cultures as Christianity was spreading around the known world. But this is also centuries after Christianity was already established. It’s very unlikely Jesus was born on December 25. Some say Spring, others say late fall. The date was never important to Jesus’ story. The Eastern Orthodox don’t celebrate Christmas on December 25, but on January 7th.

      Merry Christmas to you, and I do agree about peace and goodwill toward all. I have to go to another Christmas party now myself. 🙂

      • Argus says:

        I remember it being brought up here in New Zealand during the sixties (pre internet). It looks as if ol’ Mithras has been re-resurrected …

        And I wouldn’t expect a devout Christian to have mentioned that the struggling embryonic Christian religion was tacked onto the Winter Solstice with a view to hijacking it—excellent strategy by the early church: it worked. (It’s an ancient technique, if you can’t beat ’em in the field, join, undermine, and eventually supplant ’em.

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