Why Jesus Had to Die – The Short Version

Why did Jesus have to die? Wasn’t that child abuse on the part of God? What kind of parent sends his kid to die a horrible death just because he’s angry? You’ve probably heard these questions from someone who either doesn’t believe in God or is looking for an excuse not to. Unless you’ve thought about it and are ready with an answer, it can put you on the spot.

The quick answer: to pay for our sins. Can’t relate to that. Well, because forgiveness only comes through the shedding of blood. That sounds barbaric and archaic. Because Jesus was God and human at the same time, and only his death could make us right with God. Still sounds like child abuse. He loves mankind so much he offered himself as a sacrifice for sin. But why sacrifice himself? If God can do anything, why not just declare everyone forgiven and skip the grisly crucifixion?

In our enlightened and intellectually sophisticated society, none of these statements, which are typically verbalized by Christians, explains it well enough. You’ve probably heard it said if you can’t explain something, you don’t really understand it. So how would you explain why Christ had to die?

The first thing I would say is it wasn’t because God the father was angry. God, as three in one, determined before the beginning of human time to make a way for us to be reconciled to him. Why did we need to be reconciled and how did he know we would need reconciliation? Because he knew if he gave humans freedom of choice – free will – they would choose their own way. We thumbed our collective noses at him just as a little child does to a parent, except our nose thumbing has had much more serious consequences than that of a toddler. The wrath or anger of God had nothing to do with it except in the sense of God’s anger over sin and its power over us. And there’s no need to debate who killed Jesus – he gave up his life willingly, submitting himself to the wrath and anger of all humanity.

The second thing is Jesus was human. Of course he had to die – we all do. But being God, his death and subsequent resurrection was hugely significant. When he died – voluntarily falling on the proverbial hand grenade – all our sin, evil and suffering was subsumed into his being, almost in a Star Trek-like way. He took into himself our wickedness, and when he died, the power of sin died with him. When he resurrected himself by his power, the hold death has on each one of us was over. In his death and resurrection, we are free from the consequences of sin, and in his life, we are no longer in death’s grip, but are alive in him and to him.

Why did Jesus have to die? The shortest answer is because of love. He loved us before we existed.  He loves us now, with a love so selfless and unconditional that he, as God, willingly entered into our sin, suffering and death and thereby did away with it. Thanks to God for his amazing love!

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