The core belief of the Christian faith is that one man died for all. Christian faith is centered around the cross, the wooden structure on which Jesus died. Nicky Gumbel, of the Alpha course, wrote in his book for the course, “A high proportion of the Gospels is about the death of Jesus. Much of the rest of the New Testament is concerned with explaining what happened on the cross. The central service of the church, the communion service, centers on the broken body and shed blood of Jesus. Churches are often built in the shape of the cross.” (from Questions of Life, p. 43) So, with so much emphasis on his death, the question is, “Why did Jesus die?”
The Problem for all Humanity is Sin
Jesus died to save us from our sins. Now, some people may think, “I’m a good person. My good aspects outweigh any bad things I’ve done. Yeah, I sort of believe in God. But why do I need Jesus? He’s talked about as being the Savior of the World. I don’t think I need saving. My life is perfectly fine.”
And, I’ve no doubt they’re right in the sense that they may have a job and a home and no big troubles on their horizon, so all seems well.
But, what does the Bible describe? The Bible tells the story of “a Fall.” In the beginning, human beings turned from God to do things their own way. Every single one of us has been doing the same ever since.
Adam and Eve Represent All of Us
The story of Adam and Eve is in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, in chapters 2 and 3. Adam and Eve had a whole garden, a paradise, and they were not to eat from one tree, just one tree, in the garden. All else was theirs. But, they could not be satisfied with all that God had freely given them. They wanted the one thing that was off limits.
The writer, Mark Twain, described our universal human problem so beautifully in his book, Puddn’head Wilson. He said, “Adam was but human. This explains it all. He didn’t want the apple for the apple’s sake. He wanted it because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent. Then he would have eaten the serpent.”
We Tend to Want Everything but God
The authors of scripture describe God’s holiness and perfection in various ways. And they have let it be known that only holy people can be in His presence:
“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:3-4 BSB)
Our Dilemma is That We Can’t Be Perfect
That presents a real dilemma for all of us. Who truly has clean hands and a pure heart? The Bible also says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 NIV) and “there is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10 NIV)
Again, many people will protest and say, “Look, I’m a good person.” But the Bible answers back, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Even when many of us appear to be doing the right thing, we may be doing it for the wrong (sinful) motive – to appear good, to compete with others, out of ambition, etc. Often we can’t even see our mixed and poor motives.
And here’s God’s final pronouncement on our protests of personal goodness. “…whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10 NIV)
But God Sent His Son, Jesus
The other night I heard a very well-known anchor on a news station say that God does not judge. “He’s understanding and accepting of everything.” Wow! Talk about being deceived and biblically illiterate. Not only that, the man is dangerous because he is teaching his own thoughts and preferences, not biblical truth.
Let me be very clear. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:23 that the “wages of sin is death.” When people do not follow the laws of God perfectly, the result is death, eternal death, separation from God, hell.
But, no one can follow the laws of God perfectly and have pristine motives. So, from before the beginning of the world, God, who knew this would be our situation, had a plan. His name is Jesus. Jesus is God (John 1:18) who came to us as a human being. He came to die in our place, that is, take the punishment due to lawbreakers, us, on Himself. Why did Jesus die? To rescue us.
Jesus is the Perfect Lamb of God
In the ancient Bible times, people had a system of “clearing their slate” with God. They would sacrifice an animal that represented them. It would die in their place as an offering to God, a sign of repentance and contrition.
Hebrews 9:22 points back to this system described in the Old Testament (Leviticus 17:11) saying:
“…without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus was called the Lamb of God by John the Baptist when Jesus began His ministry in Israel. He would be the “lamb,” the once and for all sacrifice to take away the sins of the entire world forever, for anyone who will believe that He has done that and who then, will trust Him. Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
With His death, the system of sacrifices came to an end. They were no longer needed and not what God wanted. They were an ineffective human solution to our problem. God wanted and wants relationship with us, not blood shed.
How Does Jesus Dying Save Us From Our Sins?
God is merciful. The tv anchor was correct. But God is also just. He hates sin, cheating others, hurting people, and so on. Note these words from Psalm 5 (and there are many other similar passages):
“For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest.” (Psalm 5:4-6 NIV)
Treating God as though He is some kindly old grandpa who will never mind what we do or don’t do is foolishness. We need to be reverent, respectful, but nevertheless, we’ll never be able to be perfect on our own.
A Little Story May Help Us Understand Why Jesus Died
From the Questions of Life book from the Alpha course mentioned above comes this little story that helps us understand how Jesus’ dying helps us.
“Two people went through school and college together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one went down and down and ended up a criminal.
One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend and faced a dilemma. He was a judge, so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off.
On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offense. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and he wrote a check for the amount of the fine.
He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.” (p. 52-53)
Jesus Said, “I am the Door.”
Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…” (John 10:9 NKJV) He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6 NIV)
The death that Jesus suffered was horrendous. He was tortured with a crown of thorns, with beating, whipping, and finally was killed through crucifixion, one of the most heinous ways of killing another person ever devised. Crucifixion was finally outlawed in 315 A.D. Even the Romans had had enough of its horror.
But Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be taken and killed this way. God “stepped down off the bench” and paid the just penalty for the sins and offenses of humanity. That is love. The penalty had to be paid, or there is no justice, but God loved us so much He took our place in Jesus.
Easter is a Celebration of Jesus Being Alive
The good news is, though Jesus was killed and buried. He rose again and lives forever and ever. When we put our faith in this Good News, the Gospel, that Jesus has paid the price and we don’t have to, everything changes for us. Believing in Jesus means His powerful, resurrected life intersects with ours.
We become new, forgiven, people, blessed and protected in this life, and destined for heaven.
The simple answer to the question, “Why did Jesus die?,” is He died so we wouldn’t have to and that’s why Easter Sunday is such a glorious celebration for Christians. The simple declaration on that day is, “He lives!”
If you want to know more about “Why Did Jesus Die?” please write me in the comments or on the contact page of this website. Check out the Alpha course and its materials.
If you have never received the benefits of the love and salvation of Jesus, a simple prayer for His salvation is this:
“Jesus, I am sorry for the wrong things that I have done or thought and for the good things that I have failed to do. Please forgive me.
I am turning from these things now. Thank You that You died for me on the cross so that I could be free and be forgiven. Thank you that You send Your Holy Spirit to help us. Fill me with Him now.
Please come into my life and be with me forever. Amen”
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