Question | What did Jesus do while on earth?
Answer | Jesus fully accomplished the work the Father sent Him to do. He was crucified on the cross, raised from the dead, and taken up into heaven to secure salvation for all who believe.
Scripture | 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Explanation| Many of the questions and answers we’ve looked at recently relate very closely with each other. For example, two questions ago we looked at why Jesus came to earth. Now, with this question, we are looking at what Jesus did while He was on earth. Do you see the similarities and differences between these two? Certainly, both of their answers overlap for they both are about Jesus coming to earth with purpose. But, where we primarily looked at the reason for His coming in the former question, here, we are looking mostly at the activity of His coming. What did Jesus do while on earth?
Jesus fully accomplished the work the Father sent Him to do. Let me explore this a couple of different ways. First, what Jesus did while on earth was the work His Father sent Him to do. The Son was sent by the Father to earth. The Father sent the Son to do certain things. And, what the Son ended up doing was the work the Father sent Him to do. Does that make sense? It was all the will of the Father.1 Early in Jesus’ life, He knew He was to be committed to the Father’s will.2 As He grew up and began ministering, His desire was to faithfully do all that the Father sent Him to do.3 And, on two occasions, the Father Himself even audibly affirmed that Jesus was well-pleasing to Him because of what He was doing.4 Right before Jesus went to the cross, even He was appropriately confident that He accomplished the work the Father gave Him to do.5 Second, Jesus fully accomplished all the work the Father sent Him to do. Look at the last sentence. Notice the -ed on the end of the word, accomplished. He did the work and it’s done. It’s one thing to be sent by someone else to do a specific job. It’s another thing to actually do it, and even to do it completely. But this was true of Jesus. Everything the Father sent Him to do, Jesus did. He did it fully and He did it faithfully. No whining or dawdling with Jesus! He obeyed all the way, in the right way, right up to the end. His final words before He died even testified to that fact—“It is finished” (John 19:30). But, what was that work? What did Jesus do?
Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead, and taken up into heaven. These three actions form a good summary of what Jesus did. Yet, before we look at them (and, we’ll look at them more fully in later questions and answers, as well), let’s not forget that Jesus’ entire life on earth faithfully accomplished the Father’s will. First, as we’ve briefly seen before, all throughout His life before He died, Jesus regularly fulfilled the word of God.6 For example, after one occasion of casting out demons and healing those who were sick, we are told, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases’” (Matthew 5:18). So, Jesus’ actions of healing and exorcism were helpful to people, but also fulfilled God’s word. Second, Jesus’ own perspective on His ministry before He died demonstrates that He, too, knew He was fulfilling God’s word. For example, early in His earthly ministry, Jesus was given Isaiah to read out loud. The passage Jesus read talked about various activities, like preaching and teaching good news, helping the blind to see, and setting people free from oppression. Then, when Jesus was done, He told them, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21). Jesus clearly was indicating that He was sent to do these very things. And, later in His ministry, He encouraged people to reflect upon what He had already done—“the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). So, Jesus did many things. In fact, He did so many things that they probably couldn’t all be written down!7 Now, let’s get back to the obvious three actions that Jesus did. Jesus’ entire mission of coming to earth culminated in Him dying on the cross. Jesus said on at least three occasions that He must suffer and die.8 And that is what He did. Then, He was raised from the dead. Again, Jesus knew this would happen, and He told His disciples as much. And finally, following His resurrection after about forty days, Jesus bodily returned to heaven. Once again, Jesus was also well aware of His ascension, too.9 These things Jesus did while on earth.
Jesus, by doing what He did, secured salvation for all who believe. So, Jesus did do certain things while on earth. But, what do all of the things He did have to do with each other? In one way or another, all that Jesus did, He did to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. Let me summarize it like this. First, Jesus secured our salvation (see, for example, Acts 13:26-39). That is, He did what needed to be done in order to make salvation possible.10 To put it negatively, we don’t even have the possibility of salvation without Jesus doing what He did while on earth. But, because He did what He did, He has made salvation both possible and even guaranteed.11 Second, the salvation that Jesus secured is available to all who believe. I’ll explain this a few different ways. Jesus worked for our salvation. We didn’t and can’t do anything for it. Further, the salvation Jesus worked for is available to anyone. And why wouldn’t it be, for it’s not based on our work but His? And finally, the salvation Jesus worked for, while available to all, is made applicable to those who believe. The salvation He has worked for is only applied to you and me when we believe on Him.12
This is what the Bible teaches about Jesus.
1 John 6: 38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
2 Luke 2: 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
3 John 5: 30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
4 Matthew 3: 17 And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 17: 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
5 John 17: 4 “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”
6 Matthew 5: 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
7 John 21: 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
8 Matthew 16: 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Matthew 17: 22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
Matthew 20: 17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
9 John 14: 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” … 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
10 Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
11 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
12 Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.