One of the biggest questions about Jesus’ death is – why did it happen? If Jesus paid for our sins, why did He have to actually die in order to do that? Was it really necessary that Jesus die a horrible death?
If God is able to do anything, why didn’t He just pronounce everybody forgiven? Why didn’t God come up with a different plan that would still offer forgiveness for our sins?
Since God is a loving, sympathetic, gentle, kind God, why did He send Jesus (John 3:16) to face such a horrifying death by crucifixion? Dying by crucifixion was, after all, invented by the Romans in order to publicly humiliate criminals by inflicting a slow and very painful death on them.
In 2004 Time Magazine asked its readers to respond to a similar question, “Why did Jesus die?” after they published an article by that name. [“Why Did Jesus Die?” by David Van Biema TIME, April 12, 2004]. The answers showed a widespread confusion about Christ’s death.
Here are some sample responses that Time Magazine received:
“Jesus’ life and death were an example to us. He had to die to be resurrected. Jesus attempted to show us that death is not an end. He was trying to remove some of the fear and desperation from our lives and prove that we are more than meaningless specks of dust on this planet. We have eternal life.”
“Jesus stood up to the injustices of the world, and was crushed in the process. That is happening all over the world today, and not only to Christians. People of every religion who see wrongs and try to right them lose their lives. That is what the Christian spirit is all about.”
“Christ died in a dramatic and painful way to demonstrate that even in the most ignominious death, there is a spectacular resolution. Thus death is not the end of hope or life. Christ’s death was necessary so he could rise again, the ultimate proof that he was no longer a son of man, but the Son of God.”
Christians often say that Jesus died for our sins, but famous TV preacher Robert Schuller (1926-2015) actually ridiculed that idea. He said that sin had nothing to do with Christ’s death: “There is no greater damage that can be done than to refer to the lost sinful condition of man. I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” [Christianity Today (October 5, 1984) as quoted in an article by David Cloud]
The opinions I just quoted above shows how widespread false ideas about the death of Christ are, even among people who call themselves Christians. There is no reason to wonder why Jesus had to die. We can look into God’s Word and see what He told us.
In the very first book of the Bible God records the choice humankind made that ruined our world. They chose to follow their own desires instead of obeying and loving Him. Right from the start, God told them that if they made that choice, the penalty would be death (Genesis 2:17 & 3:19). Jesus had to die because that penalty had to be paid. Think about it! There are only two different ways sin can be paid for. We can suffer the eternal death we deserve, or because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can embrace what He did for us by dying in our place. Jesus volunteered to die for our sins so we could have that second option.
Why is the cross good news? Because the cross is the means by which Jesus rescued us from death. Jesus “canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
The good news gets even better! When God forgives us, he doesn’t just wipe away sin and act as if it never existed. Jesus also spreads His perfect holiness over us so we can appear perfect in God’s sight. “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet [Jesus]has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:21–22). Also see the same truth in Ephesians 1:3–4.
That is why Christianity is not all about doing a list of religious things. Being a Christian means accepting that Christ has already done everything we need to be forgiven and to be made right with God. Christ’s death on the Cross accomplished all we need. Even though we were born sinners “… we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son… (Romans 5:10).
This is a perfect time of the year to turn from following your own way, trusting in your own works, no matter how good they might be, and to begin following Jesus. Trust His sacrifice for your sin and give your life over to Him.
The death of Christ is the perfect and only sacrifice we need. I like the way the New Living Translation words Hebrews 9:13–14: “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.”
That is what makes Good Friday GOOD!