Why did Jesus Die?

Posted on April 6, 2012 at 11:22 am,

Today is one of the two most important dates in the Christian calendar. Today is the day we celebrate Jesus’s death. Which, on the face of it, is a bit weird. Jews don’t celebrate the deaths of Abraham or Moses. Muslim’s don’t celebrate the death of Mohammed, nor do Buddhists celebrate the death of Buddha. Even in secular ideologies, the idea of celebrating a death is unusual – Communists don’t mark the deaths of Marx or Lenin. So what is it about Jesus’ death that makes it not just worth celebrating, but makes the official commemoration one of the two most important dates in our calendar?

The answer is both incredibly simple, and something that can exhaust an entire lifetime of study. The simple answer is that Jesus’ death (combined with his resurrection) dealt with the sin that separates us from God. It allowed fallen human beings to come into a right relationship with God. There is, of course, at least a lifetime’s worth of theological study to be had investigating this in more depth. I expect that I’ll still be marvelling at it throughout eternity. If you want a good introduction to the topic, have a look for John Piper’s book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die – available from good Christian bookshops everywhere (or from Amazon if you must).

Today, I thought I’d outline some of the reasons behind the cross. Bear in mind as you read this that some of these are highly offensive to 21st Century Western culture. The God of the Bible is not the nice fluffy “loving God” of popular culture (He is loving, but not in the way that our society often imagines). CS Lewis coined the phrase “He’s not a tame lion” to put across this truth.

The Wrath of God

One Biblical truth that is offensive to Western culture is that sin – all sin – is deadly serious. God is holy – set apart from the world – and righteous. Sin is highly offensive to Him. God has the same reaction to our sins that most parents would have on hearing that their daughter has been gang raped and then brutally murdered. Sin demands a punishment, and the proper punishment is death. But, as well as being a God of wrath, He is also patient and loving. He provides a way out. In the Old Testament, God gave the Jews a practice that pointed to this way out. When you sinned, you could have your guilt expunged by sacrificing an animal. The animal died the death you deserved. The cross was the ultimate fulfilment of this. God came to Earth as a human, and then suffered and died in our place. The Son took the wrath of the Father on Himself, bearing the punishment we deserved.

Buying us back

The New Testament often uses the word redemption to describe what happened on the cross. The analogy is one of buying a slave out of slavery and into freedom. One of the effects of sin is to bind us up and trap us. Once you start sinning, it is incredibly difficult to stop. Without God’s help, the best we can manage is to replace one sin with another which we find less disagreeable. The cross represents the price paid to free us from this bondage. We are free from the chains of sin. Yes, Christians still sin, but we have a way to replace slavery to sin with the joy of knowing God as our Dad.

Conquering Death

Including this one here is almost cheating, because it’s not until Easter Sunday (the other one of those two most important dates) that we get to celebrate it. But at the cross, Jesus triumphed over death. By being raised to life again, He made a way for Christians to enjoy eternal life. Yes, we will still die (unless we are the generation that will see Him return), but because of this we will experience eternal life in relationship with God – who is the most awesomely awesome being imaginable.

In this post, I’ve not even scratched the surface of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. If you’re a Christian reading this, I hope I’ve helped remind you of how amazing the cross is. If you’re not a Christian and you’re reading this, then have a look into it. If Jesus’ death really did do what we believe it did, then you really need to find out more.

I’ll leave you with a reminder of what Jesus went through:

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