Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Of all the ways Jesus could have died for our sins, why the cruelest, most horrible form of torture ever devised? When we understand the answer, we’ll never again need to wonder if God loves us.
…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
Why did Jesus have to die?
Let’s begin by remembering why He had to die at all.
Because God is holy and heaven is perfect, the debt of our sins must be paid before we can enter His paradise. Since sin removes us from God, the only source of eternal life, the consequence of sin is death. Thus, someone must die to pay our debt.
Hebrews 4:15 But since we’re all sinners, we cannot pay each other’s debt. Only a sinless person could do that. And Jesus is the only sinless person who has ever lived (Hebrews 4:15).
Thus, He had to die to pay the debt we owed in order for us to be forgiven and given eternal life with God.
But why did Jesus have to die in the way He did? The Jews executed by stoning, as we see with Stephen; the Romans executed their citizens by beheading, as with Paul.
Why did Jesus have to suffer the cruelest, most horrific form of death ever devised?
Jesus’ death fulfilled prophecy
The Word of God predicted the manner of Jesus’ death a thousand years before it happened.
In Psalm 22, David wrote these words: “Dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet” (Psalm 22:16). Note that he made this statement five centuries before the Persians invented crucifixion.
So, Jesus died on the cross to fulfill prophecy. But why did the Spirit author this prophecy?
Why did the Father decide that His Son must die in this way? If He simply needed to die for our sins, the Lord could have predicted His death by stoning, beheading, or any number of other means. Why this?
The nature of crucifixion
Research has revealed much about the manner of Jesus’ death.
We know that He was scourged, a whipping that tore flesh from bones and caused many victims to die.
The victim was then taken to the place of crucifixion. This was intended to shame the victim as he was paraded through the streets, stripped of most of his clothes, and executed in such a public and violent way.
Since Passover was coming, the Jews wanted Jesus to die as quickly as possible. Thus, spikes were driven through His wrists into the cross and through His heels. The body weight of the victim crushed his lungs, forcing him to pull himself up on his crucified wrists to breathe. Eventually, he lost use of his arms and had to push upon his crucified heels.
The Romans would then break the legs of the victim, who would die shortly of suffocation. But Jesus chose to die before the Romans took His life from Him.
Crucifixion is so horrific that it has been outlawed in nearly every country on earth. Why did Jesus die in this way?
Why Jesus chose the cross
I can think of only one reason the Father and the Son chose the cross: to show us their solidarity with our most horrific, indescribable pain and shame.
There is no physical pain we can feel that is worse than His. No pain from disease or disaster, war or criminal attack or accident. The worst that can happen to us is no worse than what happened to Him.
There is no shame we can feel that is worse than His. We know the shame of our individual sins; He took the shame of the entire human race on Himself. Then He demonstrated that fact by dying in the most shameful manner possible – paraded through the streets, stripped, and executed before His mother, His best friend, and His enemies. The Romans most often crucified people naked to intensify the raw shame of their public display.
None of this was necessary for Jesus to understand our pain and shame. He was and is omniscient. He did not learn something about us at Calvary that He did not know beforehand.
But we learned something about Him at Calvary we did not know beforehand. We now know that the God of the universe is not a Zeus atop Mt. Olympus, impervious to our needs; He is not an Allah, removed from our sufferings; He is not an impersonal force like the Hindu Brahman; He is not simply a judge of right and wrong as some in Judaism picture Him.
The Son felt the worst we can feel. His Father watched His Son suffer in such pain and shame, proving that He understands all we feel for those we love.
The bottom line: Jesus chose the cross to show us that He will help us bear our cross, whatever it is.
Name your suffering or shame. Bring it to Calvary. Know that Jesus died to pay your debt, to forgive your sin, to bear your cross. Trust your need to His grace, your pain to His love.
Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, by Your death on the cross, I know God's love. Teach me never to doubt it again.
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