Jesus accomplishes his earthly purpose as a single adult
Hebrews 2:14 summarizes why Jesus came to earth. The writer states that Jesus came so that “he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death that is, the devil.” His purpose in coming is simple—destroy death and in so doing destroy Satan’s power over God’s creation. As we grow up, most of us discover that God has a particular purpose in mind for us. Sometimes we know exactly where this will take us, and sometimes we have no idea where the road will lead. Having turned, let’s say, a late 30-something I still tell my friends and family, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
Even though I look in surprise at the past and see how God has used me, it is not completely clear to me how he will use me in the future. Yet I know that by following him and grasping the opportunities he gives me, I’ll never be in the wrong place.
Jesus didn’t have this problem. He was born knowing the end result of his life—the death of his physical body to destroy Satan’s hold on death. Jesus was single-minded in pursuit of this purpose.
Living as a single
We often overlook the fact that Jesus chose to follow this path as a single man. Jesus is God himself, and so he was present at creation. He knows that the creation of the woman completes the man. Jesus knows and intends that the marriage union he establishes between the man and the woman should bring harmony, love, enjoyment and completeness. Yet when God became man and lived among us, he chose to live as a single man to achieve his purpose. He is single-mindedly single.
Many times through the ages stigmas have been attached to being a certain race, creed, sex, age or marital status. Just as Jesus elevates the place of women, children, Gentiles, outcasts and the poor in society, Jesus, by his very life, destroys the stigma attached to being and remaining single.
Being single, however, in no way holds Jesus apart from other people. Everywhere he went Jesus is a vital part of people’s lives. He is not just involved with those who need him; he is involved with those who want him for who he is. He is a likeable person. He is invited to weddings and dinners, and Jesus even throws a couple of picnics where he provides the food. People want to be around him. His singleness makes no difference to them. Jesus demonstrates God’s love to others, not just by dying for them at the end of his life but also by responding to their need and desire for friendship and companionship during his physical lifetime.
Even with his involvement in the lives of others, Jesus probably experienced times of loneliness. There are many in our world today who are lonely. I have met single people who spend their time focusing on the loneliness in being single. I have met married people who are lonely in spite of their married state. Sometimes loneliness comes from a state of being, and sometimes it comes from a state of mind. Jesus must have felt this loneliness often since he was so completely in the world but not of it. Yes, he relies on friendships with his disciples and followers, but when Jesus feels the loneliest he seeks the companionship of his Father. Joshua 1:5 reminds us that God will not leave us, nor fail us, nor forsake us. Whether married or single, young or old, we must rely on this promise just as Jesus himself does.
Living and worshiping with others
Being single does not isolate Jesus from the weekly time of worship either. We find him entering the temple and participating in the corporate worship of God. He gathers with others to study the law and the prophets and to focus on God’s work in the lives of individuals.
We human beings are so contradictory. We say that we do not want to be like everyone else. But then when we gather with others, we want to know if there’ll be someone “like me” in the crowd. God provides a purpose for our lives and we must determine to do his will, regardless of the circumstances or the people surrounding us.
Single people can minister to those who are married and married people can minister to those who are single. Let’s not allow our marital status to keep us from serving the one true God or fellowshipping with his people. Just as Jesus was single-minded in the pursuit of the goal for which he had been sent, we need to remain focused on God’s call to each of us and serve one another.
When I was a single college student, I remember the churches where I was allowed to work and minister. In one church I directed the children’s choir. The adults of the congregation accepted and respected me, and they worked with me. We worked together in spite of the fact that I was single and they were married. I worked one summer in my home church with the youth and the same scenario occurred. I worked with the teens and their families and they with me—disregarding my marital status.
Just as Jesus ministered to people in all walks of life and in all situations of life, we need to minister to everyone around us. Our congregations and their married people need to reach out to and fellowship with those who are single. Our congregations and their single people need to reach out to and fellowship with those who are married. We are together the body of Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think this can be expanded to cover marital status. As a member of the trinity, Jesus Christ created individuals and he created the institution of marriage. He knows the benefits and the joys of marriage and family as well as the constraints of marriage. If we are married, we are called to take care of the needs of our spouse and our children. We must take care of them as Christ would care for them, or we will have to answer to him for our actions. If we are single, we are freed from these constraints and there is more time and energy to put into God’s work.
God, in his wisdom, chose that Jesus should perform his earthly ministry as a single man. That means that the church, his bride, is his immediate family, and as such he is committed to taking care of our needs. When we pray, we pray to the bridegroom who answers our needs with stunning accuracy and infinite compassion.
Jesus Christ’s purpose was to conquer death and to bring us to life eternal. Jesus achieved his purpose in conquering death and now waits with bated breath as we choose the life he offers or the death he conquers. He did this with single-minded singleness. He did this so that he can minister to us, the bride for whom he waits with patience, gentleness and understanding and to whom he ministers eagerly and lovingly.
Joanna Felts is a freelance writer living in Fresno, Calif. She is a 2004 MB Biblical Seminary graduate, and from 2004 to 2006 she served as the interim editor of MBMS International’s Witness magazine.