Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Why did Jesus have to die?

Did his death on the cross really satisfy God's lust for justice?

Jesus certainly died for our sins, but how did his death accomplish this?

What the majority of Christians believe about Jesus' death is based on a perversion of the truth.


To be fair, most Christians just trust in God for their salvation and believe that it is through Christ's sacrifice that we are saved and they don't delve any deeper than that. If they try to understand it they very soon find out that it's as difficult to get your head round as the Trinity and they leave it to the theologians.

But the trouble is, there are those songs that we sing that say that as Jesus died on the cross the wrath of God was satisfied. What is that all about?

Well the theory is called the "Penal substitution theory of the atonement".It argues that Christ,by his own choice, was punished in the place of sinners, thereby satisfying the demands of divine justice so God can justly forgive our sins.


What is wrong with penal substitution?

What kind of a God would act this way?

Let me ask you, is it right to forgive those who sin against you? Of course it is. And when should we forgive them, immediately or only once they are sorry for what they have done? Did Jesus forgive those who crucified him before they repented? Of course he did! And we are to forgive people who sin against us. Even if they don't repent. Even if they never repent. Even if they have died not repenting. If we harbour unforgiveness in our heart it is like spiritual poison inside us.

Does God harbour unforgiveness in his heart towards anyone? How foolish to even think it. It is God's nature to forgive. He is the great forgiver! So why would God expect us to simply forgive those who sin against us, if he doesn't do it himself?

The doctrine of penal substitution pictures either a nasty, vindictive God who demands his pound of flesh for sins committed, or worse, a kindly God who is bound by some overarching "law of the universe" that says that blood must be spilled for sins committed and is powerless to stop it from exacting its gory punishment.

What is the Penalty for Sin?

The wages of sin are death. But what kind of death? Is it just temporary death or eternal death? Well, the problem with penal substitution is that Jesus didn't die for ever. He died and was brought back to life after three days. Now, even if we allow that by some divine method of reckoning that Jesus' physical life was worth more on the divine scales than all of ours put together – was his physical (and temporary) death sufficient to pay for every sin that ever was committed? Surely the punishment was eternal death! If the punishment was just physical death, what person hasn't paid it herself (or will very soon when they die)? "As in Adam, all die…" It just doesn't add up.

What legal system accepts the death penalty for an innocent person?

It's one thing to have someone step in and pay a fine for someone, but we wouldn't allow an innocent person to go to prison for a convicted criminal would we? Let alone face the death penalty for them!!! It would be a crime against that person, wouldn't it? Come on, be honest now. It would be a horrible miscarriage of justice and we could quite rightly find that whoever allowed it would be liable to being tried at the International Criminal Court of Justice at the Hague. We have heard stories of courageous persons giving their lives in exchange for others (e.g. in Nazi prisoner of war camps) but, once again, this raises questions about the ultimate nature of the universe. Are we living in some cosmic prisoner of war camp where brutal justice reigns?


So How Did Jesus' Death Save Us?

All of us have sinned and ever since the Garden of Eden, sin has cut mankind off from the glory of God.  When Adam and Eve sinned their hearts became darkened with guilt and shame and all the consequences of sin.  We have all subsequently been born into a fallen world.

Now God's forgiveness was planned from the foundation of the world when Jesus' sacrifice was determined.  The problem was never getting God to forgive us but rather getting us to believe.

When we sin, our foolish hearts become hardened and darkened and we are in unbelief.  The whole world was in unbelief!  Jesus said that he came to bring light into a dark world.  The sin that cuts us off from God now is unbelief.  All sin has been forgiven but men won't come to the Father in faith to receive that forgiveness because of unbelief.
"By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,"  The forgiveness is there, all we need to do is receive it by faith. NOTHING MORE!  God isn't waiting for you to repent before he forgives you.  He loves you more than you could imagine, and has done all your life.  He knows your frailty, your weaknesses and your strengths.  His heart towards you is one of infinite compassion.

Jesus came to live a life of total submission to God's will. He lay down every blessing and glory from his life in heaven with the Father and lived as a man and then daily laid down his life to do the Father's will.  By faith (working by love) alone, he lay down his family, friends, ministry, health, life and even his communion with the Father to die on the cross as the ultimate expression of this sinless life that he had lived for 33½ years.  He became (according to human measures) a total failure and died an ignominious death as a young man.  Therefore God has highly exalted him so that his name is above every name in heaven or earth, because he showed that one can blindly trust God and WIN!  Single-handedly he beat sin and death and the power of sin and death was broken.

Now if we just put our trust in him we will be saved.  By God's grace many are given that saving faith, they don't work it up, it is the gift of God which they then exercise by the power he gives them.

Without Jesus giving his life for us we would still be in the darkness of sin and cut off from God, living under the fear of death.  Jesus demonstrated that love is stronger than death.  Praise his name! By his sacrifice we were reconciled to God.

He is the way, the truth and the light

He didn't come just to show us how to love God and our fellow man.  He came to give us the power to believe and to live for God.  The gift of God is eternal life.  As Christians we walk by faith.  We need to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit daily.  Without him we can nothing.  We receive that power the very same way that Jesus received it as he walked the earth as a man.  He drew close to the Father in prayer and received the love of God in its fullness.  He walked and ministered in the power of that love.  It is as we draw close to God in prayer, just as Jesus did that we receive what we need.

It was not God's wrath that was being satisfied as Jesus died on the cross.  It was our unbelief that he came to set us free from.  It was we who were in the darkness of unbelief that he came to shine his light upon so.  In this way we were being reconciled to the Father through him.  His "stripe" healed us.  By becoming the curse of sin for us, he demonstrated the power of love over sin and death and enabled us to believe and receive eternal life in him.

The parable of the prodigal son is a wonderful illustration of God's heart of love toward us, his wayward children.  The father in the parable saw his son while he was still a long way off, (before the son was able to say his words of penitence) but the father rushed out to meet him, flung his arms around him and threw a party.  It's worth reading again to focus on the father's heart towards his son.  (Also from the point of view of the older brother, who was less than thrilled by the prodigal's return.)


Jesus came to reveal the Father to us.
His whole life was a revelation of divine love in human flesh. Finally when Jesus hung on the cross, totally submitting his all to the Father in blind faith, having sacrificed everything for our sakes ... that is when we truly see what love the Father (and the Son) have for us.

This is what breaks the powers that have held us in bondage to unbelief, fear and death.

The greatest work of creation was not when he created the universe by speaking his words and it was not even when he created mankind in his own image and breathed into her the breath of life. No, the greatest act of God's creation is when he makes sons and daughters in his own image. When he changes sinners into saints and changes human hearts.

This is what Jesus accomplished on the cross and it is why he lived and died for us. This has always been God's purpose. We are still on Plan A!