Why Did Jesus Have To Die

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The Problem

Personally I’ve never heard the question asked out loud but I have asked it of myself. I would find myself looking at scriptures and from an early age the question that was at the forefront of my mind was ?Why??

Not the ?why?? of life or the ?why?? of pain (although these questions did come up). But Why the death of Jesus? Why did He have to suffer and get crucified?

I mean, you can look at modern day capital punishment and see the electric chair in all its gruesome glory or the death by lethal injection. Thinking about these forms of death bring a shudder to my body and yet, we as Christians find ourselves singing about cherishing ?the old rugged cross? or wearing the symbol of the cross around our necks. I read an article where the brother was humorously commenting on how it would look if people walked around with the image of an electric chair or guillotine around their necks.

The Given of Deity

The world may look at the death of Jesus and state various theories. Jesus was insane some may say. His message had no pertinence to society and this resulted in his death. Or Jesus died because he failed. He had a message and vision of peace and died without his dreams coming to fruition. He was spared of the violence of 70 A.D. and the destruction of the temple. Jesus, others may say, died because of what he believed in. He died a martyr’s death as the ultimate example of what it is to be non-aggressive. His message was peace and he embraced it to the cross?a public example of what peace and love is.

The problem with these views is that they remove a vital component from the nature of Jesus and his ministry–that is his deity. They deny the “Christ” aspect of Jesus the man. They deny the power of his life, the strength of his message and the work aspect of his death.

When trying to answer the question “why did Jesus Christ die?” we must take several points as givens (in this discussion). Jesus was (and is) the promised King (Matt 1, John 1:49 ). Jesus Christ was (and is) the fulfillment of all that the prophets (Acts 3:18 ), the fathers and the law (Rom 10:4) were referring to (Heb 1:1). Jesus Christ was the very son of God here on Earth (Jn 11:25 -27). It would be outside of the scope of this essay to try to answer these other questions without getting to the point of seeing some validity to what the scriptures says of who Jesus Christ is. We can get to the establishment of Jesus as Christ in another article, I’m sure.

To Profess Love

I believe that you can look at the death of Christ in circles. Imagine, if you will a large circle drawn on a page. Centered within that circle there is another. Centered within this second circle is another smaller circle and within that third circle is a fourth. The circles would represent the reason that Christ died. You could perhaps view the circles as the closer you get to the core the closer you get to the truth?but I think that this usage of the circles is distracting from my proposed reasoning process.

Instead, let’s look at the circles as the major circle being the major reason and the other reasons being encased in the major reason. The major circle is all encompassing and the minor circles are not minor in scope, merely in the stage of reasoning.

The first reason that is constantly spoken of in evangelical churches today is also the one that is most readily available to people who hear the gospel. Christ died because he loved us and he demonstrated his love toward us (Rom 5:8) in this form. John 3:16 is probably the most quoted verse in the world translated in thousands of languages. It is easily noticed that in this we know love, that Christ loved us and gave himself for us (Eph 5:2). In the teaching of Christ and the Church we see that Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Eph 5:25 ). Love is a key component of why he died.

Looking at our chart can we put love as the all encompassing reason why Christ died? If that were the case couldn’t he show love in some other way? Couldn’t he give out a universal hug? Couldn’t he paint the stars with the message of love, perpetually put in the heavens for all to see and awe? Why did he have to die such a horrible death?

If man is the recipient of Christ’s love we are forced to look at the condition of man to merit such love. Man is doomed to die because all of mankind is the progeny of Adam (1 Cor 15:22 ). Man finds that he is riddled in sin because of the sin of his father. But men are not dirtied simply because of a distant event. We find out in Rom 6:23 that all men themselves have sinned and the second charge laid at the feet of men is that they have all fallen short of the glory of God. To continue in the depraved nature of man we see in Isaiah 64:6 that all the good works of man are like dirty rags and that in fact there is not a single action in the works of man that can merit the love or saving power of God (Eph 2:8,9). Man is hopelessly soiled.

To Purify and Purchase

Well, scripture gives us another reason why Christ died and that can be seen in Hebrews 9:22. The idea that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. There is no cleansing action without blood shed. We see in Hebrews 10:4 that although there was blood shedding of animals, they could not fully clean a man. Their position didn’t fully clean anything and in fact, the priests were forced to continue offering sacrifices all the time.

Then we see Christ, standing resplendent and clean, no sin in him (Heb 4:15 ) approaching the waters of John the Baptist and John cries out to ?Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!? (John 1:29). Christ’s life was that of an unblemished Lamb, and his death had the cleansing power of an unblemished Lamb infinitely times stronger because of who Christ is: The Lamb of the eternal God whose sacrifice was once for all (Heb 10:4; A study of 1 st John in light of John 1 may be helpful to appreciate the awe of the Eternal Life being revealed).

But we’re left with the question of why death? Why couldn’t Christ show his love and wipe away the sins of man by simply saying ?Be healed and sin no more!?? He would have accomplished both a great act of love and a great act of cleansing in one shot.

Being recipients of such cleansing power, we must once again look towards the condition of man in such an action. Although the death of Christ cleanses we see that man is sold under sin as a slave. Such a life can not be ended by money alone but a higher cost is required (Rom 6:16 -18). Life for a life. That is the only payment acceptable from freeing this slave who is under the rule of sin.

Thankfully the death of Christ is also a payment for sin. Christ’s death was as a ransom for sin (Mark 10:45 ) and it would redeem the person to himself. No longer were they to be slaves of sin but now they were made slaves of God. In such servant hood there is freedom to live in such a way that glorifies God.

But we’re left with the question then if Christ is the creator and sin is holding the man under it?.can’t he break the rules and say ?Sin you have no power over man. That’s it. Man you are no longer a slave. Be healed and sin no more.? He could have accomplished much by merely changing the rules and making sin no longer matter by the use of a word.

To Propitiate

Once again we find ourselves looking at the condition of man but now we are forced to look at it in contrast to the nature of God. Man’s heart we see in Jeremiah 17:9 is desperately wicked and man is positionally an enemy of God ( Col 1:21 ). God hates sin because it is darkness and against his very nature which is light (1 John 1:5). Why? Because God is holy (Psalms 99:9). He has been wronged! He has been slighted by his own creations and is forced to judge sin and the participants thereof. To do otherwise is against his very nature and automatically declares him not to be the perfect and ultimate being! God must judge the wickedness of man

Now we see Christ once more, laying down his life and taking the punishment from God that is rightfully man’s. He’s the only person who can do such a thing because He is God and He is eternal and He is the Christ. We see that in the death of Christ there is a willful laying down of life?a sacrifice reminiscent of the sacrifices of unblemished lambs. They were innocent creatures and their power was not to cleanse man completely because man continued to sin but something happened when those lambs were slain.

During the first Passover (Exodus 12), the Angel of the Lord went into Egypt to strike the first born of animal and man throughout every house in Egypt . The Angel of the Lord went in seeking to shed blood because God was wronged by Pharaoh and Egypt . God in his infinite mercy and love told the children of Israel what they should do to protect their homes and this visible action was one that I’m sure the Egyptians could have espoused but did not. When the Angel of the Lord came he would see that these houses with blood on the posts and lintel had blood that has been shed. He was appeased and He subsequently passed over those houses. Here we see the all encompassing reason, our outer most sphere if you will, for the death of Christ.

It’s all about God. The purpose of life is to worship God (Acts 24:14; Rom 12:1,2, Eph 5:2) and in this we see that the very life and death of Christ was an embodiment of worship . God has been wronged by his creation. Christ appeased God by taking the punishment that was rightfully mans (Rom 3:25 ). In the laying down of his life he made a payment for sin to release man from its bondage (Rom 6:16 -18). In doing this action he was performing a cleansing action on sin which would make a relationship between God and man possible (Rom 8:303-29). In doing such an action he demonstrated amazing love (Rom 5:8). Christ had to bring peace between God and men (Rom 5:1). Christ decided to take the punishment in man’s place to leave man positionally pure before God. Christ sought to purchase man from the slavery of sin and translate him to the kingdom of God ( Col 1:13 ). Christ died as a propitiation, an appeasing sacrifice, for God (Rom 3:25 ; 1 John 4:10 ).

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