Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Good Friday. The day we remember the Cross. Jesus' suffering. God's answer to our sin problem.

And I ask Christians, "Why did Jesus have to die?"

One stares at me, maybe thinking it's a trick question or that if he waits long enough, I'll give the correct answer. Another gives me the typical answer: "To save us from our sins." I can tell they're repeating what the preacher or Sunday school teacher told them and haven't thought much about it since.

Inside I groan—again, because I get these types of responses so often. And so few believers ever think much about the depth of what salvation means.

So why do Christians insist Jesus had to die? Why couldn't God just shout from heaven, "I forgive you!"—and be done with it? And why, oh why, isn't it enough to simply be a good person?

Every other belief system on earth basically says that if you do this, obey that, or give this, you'll get fixed or earn your way to paradise or enlightenment or nirvana or some kind of big banana in the sky. Only biblical Christianity insists that Jesus' substitutionary death on the Cross is the one way to getting right with God and all that follows.

What's the big deal with Jesus and the Cross? Let's cut through the theological complexities to this:

God is Holy­­--God is almighty, perfect, and separate from his creation. He is without sin of any kind. That's great, but it creates a problem for us: our sinful human state separates us from him (Leviticus 11:44-45, Isaiah 6:3-5). This is serious trouble—and it gets worse.

God is Righteous--God requires justice, either in this life or the next. A price must be paid for every wrong. Sin is like a cancer that won't go away. It must be destroyed, which means we all get the death penalty. This is why no one can ever be good enough to make it to heaven by their own effort, ever (Leviticus 17:11, Romans 3:23-26). We're all dead meat.

God is Love--God loves us, whom he's created, and wants to have relationship with us. So after centuries of Old Testament animal sacrifice, he paid his own penalty and gave us Jesus Christ, who was simultaneously God and human. Jesus died in our place to pay the price (death) for the sins of all humanity and to give a "not guilty" verdict to those who receive him as Lord of their lives (Romans 5:8). His resurrection overcame the powers of death and hades to guarantee eternal life to those who are his (Revelation 1:17-18), while here and now his Spirit brings life to our previously disconnected human spirits. This is good, very good.

When we grasp how holy and righteous God is—and then recognize his love, it becomes far more meaningful to us and impacts us more powerfully than it ever could without first grasping the kind of God we're dealing with and the mess we're in.

May you be filled with wonder at God's holiness, righteousness, and love—as it hangs on the Cross.

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV).

Lord Jesus, open my eyes and mind to the depths and reasons you came to came to die for me. Pierce my heart to passionately understand.

Copyright © 2013 Peter Lundell. Used by permission.

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