Why Did Jesus Have To Die?
I can remember the statue remarkably clear. As a young child, my family and I attended Saint Catherine Labouré, a Catholic church close to my grandparent’s house where I grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As I would enter the church, dip my fingers in holy water, cross myself, kneel before the pew and cross myself once more, and then finally find my seat quietly, there would sometimes be an eerie feeling that would accompany me. A conscious feeling that someone or something was watching over me. I say a conscious feeling because I was aware of what seemed to lurk behind me on the wall at the back of the parish. At the back was a life-size statue of Jesus crucified and it hung on the wall in a dismal fashion, with his dismayed eyes staring at me. The statue scared me, and I did not understand the reason why God’s Son needed to be killed and why he was virtually always depicted as being dead on the cross throughout the church. This question of why Jesus had to die would not be answered for me until I was a freshman in high school and the answer would change my understanding of Easter forever. So, why did Jesus have to die?
ALL HAVE SINNED
The author and prophet Moses sums up the totality of the Law in one sentence, “you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). This is what the Lord desired from us, that we would be a people who loved him and walked in his ways. Roughly seven-hundred years later the prophet Jeremiah would echo this desire from God by writing his words, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23). God desired our love and obedience to him and in return, God promised that he would be our God and we would be granted the privilege to be his people. But we have all loved other things more, namely ourselves, and given obedience to our own wills and desires. In other words, we chose to worship ourselves as gods rather than the true Creator of the world. As King David says in his psalm, “they have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). This is sin – to turn away from God by preferring to love things other than him and giving our obedience to them. We glorify what we enjoy most. And it isn’t God. The seriousness of sin becomes apparent when understanding its’ consequences. Sure, there are immediate consequences that can happen when we sin against each other, such as adultery leading to divorce, theft leading to prison, or drunkenness leading to death. But none of these compare to the consequences of sinning against God. “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isiah 59:2). The ultimate consequence of sin is the separation it causes between us and God. We see a parallel of our sinful situation with God within the first book of the Bible when Adam and Eve are forced to leave the Garden of Eden because of their choice to worship themselves rather than the One who created them. No longer did Adam and Eve have the opportunity to walk with God, but were banished from His presence. Not only do the Scriptures use the language of separation when we sin, but it also uses the word “cursed” when explaining the condition we are in. “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). We are separated from God and we are cursed. So, why did Jesus have to die?
TO REDEEM US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW
When I was staring at that statue of Jesus as a young boy I wish I could have known this truth; Jesus died because God loves us. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). One of the greatest demonstrations of love by God was that he was willing to send his own Son to die in the place of sinners. “The wages of the sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The Law requires death for sin, but instead of us dying, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,” (Galatians 3:13). This is the meaning of the word “propitiation.” God removed his wrath towards us, by providing a substitute in our place. The substitute was Jesus Christ. We owed a huge debt to God and Jesus willingly paid for it! This is why we celebrate Easter; because of God’s forbearance to pass over former sins by the blood of His own Son (Romans 3:25). Jesus’ purpose on this earth was to glorify His Father in life, death, and resurrection.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” – Jesus (John 10:14-18)
Praise God for the good shepherd who willingly laid down His life for us!
Be sure and check out our other blogs in this Easter series: