Someone asked me recently; “Why didn’t Jesus just show up as a fully grown man like Adam was created a fully grown man. He would have spent a few days on earth, die for us on the cross as He did, and then ascend into heaven?”
You might not have thought of Jesus in this light, but this question is rightly inspired by the ideal emphasis placed on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The most important and ultimate purpose of the Lord Jesus is His death and resurrection; His entire mission and ministry climax in this.
If the substitutionary death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus is His purpose, and of course it is rightly so, why didn’t He just show up on the streets of Jerusalem only a few weeks or months before the day He would have been killed? Why was He born? Why did He have to live among us for about 33 years (30 of which was out of the eyes of the public)? No doubt Jesus’ death atoned for the sins of humanity, but how important is His life before the cross?
What Jesus accomplished before He hung, bled and died on Calvary’s cross was something no man has ever been able to achieve from Adam to the most innocent, most pious and mightiest of us all. As the second Adam, Jesus kept the righteous requirements of God’s law. According to the law of God, Jesus was found absolutely blameless; He did not inherit the sinful nature being passed down to everyman from Adam, neither was a transgression of any sort found in Him. This makes Him the first man to fulfil the requirements of the righteous law of God. For Him to die as our substitute, He has to be blameless and sinless only carrying the sins of mankind. If Jesus had been found with sin, His death on the cross would have been the punishment for His own sins. But since He met God’s entire requirement in the ‘likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:3), He died for our sins and not for His sins. His sinless life qualified Him for the substitutionary death of mount cavalry. Meeting God’s righteous demands by living a sinless life in the flesh (which Adam could not do), Jesus then went ahead to the cross to undo what Adam did by His death. Jesus was born sinless and also lived a sinless life before the cross, and this is significant.
Aside from having to be born sinless, and live out a sinless life in the flesh before dying on the cross, Luke 4:43 highlights that one of the reasons Jesus was ‘sent’ was to proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God. Jesus claimed that He MUST preach the good news of the kingdom. Thus Christ signifies that a part of His work lies in the preaching of the things concerning the kingdom He is ushering in- which is the kingly rule of God, steered by the gospel of grace and the glory that will follow. Jesus sure needed to proclaim the advent of God’s kingdom because the kingdom had actually arrived, but it is not in the form and fashion God’s people have been expecting it to be and as a result, they couldn’t recognize or appreciate it. God’s kingdom is not political, not economic, and not territorial like they have imagined; in short, it is not of this world at all (John 18:36). Jesus had to teach us how God’s kingdom operates. The ways things are done in this world under the influence of the kingdom of darkness is completely upside down, and very unlike how they work in the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not only proclaim and teach about God’s kingdom, He also demonstrated it. By demonstrating it, He particularly proved that the kingdom of God has indeed arrived (Matthew 12:28). Jesus teachings about the kingdom of God before He died on the cross, introduced the glorious kingdom to us and laid the foundation for the Church He died to establish.
Similar to Jesus’ mission of teaching and proclaiming the kingdom of God, is raising disciples. Jesus lived for about 33 years before laying down His life for us all. The latter 3 of these years were devoted to raising disciples, who successfully carried on His mission on earth after He ascended into heaven before their very eyes. If Jesus had just shown up briefly before He was brutally and sacrificially crucified on the cross, there wouldn’t have been ‘well’ prepared disciples who would have been somewhat conversant with His mission, and who would be able to carry it on when He is no longer on earth physically as they did. Jesus’ disciples, led by the 12 apostles, carried on the work of preaching about the gospel of the kingdom and nurtured the church of Jesus long after He ascended.
These are some of the principal reasons Jesus lived for 33 years before dying on the cross. His death and resurrection was His mission but these prepared Him for the cross and made His resurrection a message now believed in for several generations and all around the world.