Summary: When Jesus said, To this end was I born, He was acknowledging His incarnation.
FOR THIS I CAME
The interview between Pilate and Jesus paints a pathetic picture. The King of kings stood accused before the tribunal of an earthly governor. The prisoner appeared so unlike the usual kind of revolutionary that you could almost hear the scorn in the prefect’s voice: “You? The King of the Jews?” (John 18:33).
Jesus assured Pilate that He posed no threat to Rome: His kingdom is of another order (John 18:36). Yet He did not deny that He is the One who was to come, hoped for by Israel, and expected by the Gentiles: and that everyone who is of the truth hears (i.e. obeys) Him (John 18:37). Counselled by none other than the ultimate manifestation and personification of truth, the Emperor’s representative whimpered “What is truth” (John 18:38).
A few days before, the excited crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover had hailed Jesus as the Messiah, the coming One, the king of the Jews. “Hosanna,” they had cried, acknowledging the salvation they expected (Psalm 118:25-26). “Blessed is the king of Israel who comes in the name of the LORD” (John 12:13).
The trouble is that the people had a different agenda to the Lord. They expected a Messiah who would overthrow the Roman government, but this “son of David” (Matthew 21:9) came instead to die for His people. It is not without reason that Jesus said to Pilate, “but now my kingdom is not from hence” (John 18:36).
When Jesus said, “To this end was I born,” (John 18:37), He was acknowledging His incarnation. The incarnation is real (1 John 5:6), even though there have always been those who deny “Jesus Christ coming in the flesh” (2 John 7). When He said, “and for this cause I came into the world” (John 18:37), He was hinting at His Messiah-ship.
John the Baptist was acknowledging Jesus’ Messiah-ship when he spoke of the One “coming after” him (John 1:15; John 1:27). The Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus with just this question: “Are you He who is coming?” (Matthew 11:3). “Are you (really) He who was to come?” (Luke 7:19).
Yet He also came for judgement, to separate the light from the darkness (John 9:39). John the Evangelist said that “He came” - and was rejected (John 1:11). Jesus informs us of a future event, when the Son of man shall “come (again) in His glory” (Matthew 25:31).
In the famous “I am” sayings of John’s Gospel (John 6:35; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 15:1), Jesus was identifying Himself with the name of God - and His enemies persecuted Him because they understood that this was what He meant. When Moses asked God for His name, God had answered “I AM THAT I AM: tell them that I AM has sent you” (Exodus 3:13-14). Amazingly, in the opening greeting of the book of Revelation, John pronounces “Grace and peace” from “the one who is, and who was, and who IS TO COME” - substituting the future of the verb “to be” with the future of the verb “to come” (Revelation 1:4).