Who is Jesus Christ? | Part 4

Why Jesus Had to Die

If Jesus did not die as a ransom, what did he die for?  According to the Apostle John, Jesus himself said:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
– John 3:16

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
– John 5:24

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
– John 6:40

“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”
– John 6:47

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
– John 17:3

So, we learn from Jesus’ words that his death was not the catalyst to our having everlasting life.  While Jesus was yet alive, he granted believers the gift of everlasting life. (John 1:11-13)  By this, we know the ‘good news of the kingdom’ was not that Christ died for us and was resurrected, for even before his death, Jesus himself was preaching the good news.  And so were his apostles who, at the time, did not even comprehend that Jesus would die. 

“Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”
– Luke 18:31-34

Nevertheless, Jesus’ death is important and has profound meaning to all mankind. The most obvious reason why Jesus had to die is so that he could return to heaven and receive “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) so that every being would recognize his earned universal sovereignty. (Philippians 2:9-10)  He could not tarry indefinitely on earth.

Another reason why Jesus had to die we have already considered: to fulfill and complete the Mosaic Law Covenant so that the Jewish mind could approach God with a clean conscience.  And Jesus’ death has a similar benefit to mankind in general.  

The Mosaic Law Covenant served as a tutor leading the Jews to recognize the Christ (Galatians 3:23-25), but it also serves as a tutor to other nations who, though not bound to the Law, can peer into the Jewish system to likewise recognize the Christ and his importance to man.  By learning about Christ, all men are able to understand the ‘sacred secret’ of our true relationship with God and our true destiny. (Colossians 1:25-29)  

It is important to know that even though the Jewish mind required a propitiatory sacrifice, it was still the life of Jesus, not his death, that had the saving power:  

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
– Romans 5:10-11

A further reason why Jesus died is to show us the way to our heavenly inheritance.  Jesus told us:

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”
– John 14:1-2

And the Apostle Paul explained:

“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:50

Thus, in order to inherit the Kingdom of the Heavens, we must abandon the flesh through our death.  Jesus set a courageous example by being the first one from earth to enter the Kingdom of the Heavens:

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
– Colossians 1:17-18

Those who follow Jesus must also undergo a ‘death like his’ through baptism:

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—  because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
– Romans 6:4-7

Jesus’ courageous example no doubt empowered his immediate followers to lay down their lives for the good news of the kingdom, and it likewise empowers those of us today who must also suffer for our faith, as well as those who suffer in order to protect the faith and lives of others.  As Jesus said:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
– John 15:13

 As we contemplate the sufferings of Jesus as he offered up his life, we are strengthened when we face even the severest hardships of our lives, much less at the petty harassments and our many purely fictitious grievances.  Jesus’ life was so glorious and his death so triumphant that we are all enticed to a willingness to share both. There is true drawing power in the whole life ministry of Jesus, from the days of his youth to the overwhelming spectacle of his death.

We pray that we do not look with the eyes of our spiritual ancestors who regarded God as a relentless Sovereign of stern justice and rigid law-enforcement. Rather, make sure that you see in Jesus’ death the final manifestation of the love and devotion to his life mission to mankind. See in the death of the Son of Man the climax of the unfolding of the Father's divine love for his earthly sons, and as a portrayal of the devotion of willing affection and voluntary salvation upon those who are willing to receive such gifts and devotion. There was nothing about Jesus’ humiliating and ignominious death that the Father required.  The grotesque way in which Jesus was killed was strictly of man’s doing. But it was the love of our Creator/Brother who so willingly submitted to it, and which he refused to avoid. (Luke 22:42)

If one cannot otherwise appreciate Jesus and the meaning of his earthly ministry, one can at least comprehend the fellowship of his mortal sufferings. No man can ever fear that our Creator does not know the nature or extent of our temporal afflictions. (Hebrews 4:15)

Overall, we know that Jesus’ death was not to effect man's reconciliation to God.  Our reconciliation occurs as a result of our following Jesus’ life and ministry.  Instead, Jesus’ death served to free the Jews from mental, psychological and spiritual bondage, to set an example for us in courageously facing life’s trials while undergoing the baptism into death, to stimulate man's realization of the Father's eternal love and his Son's unending mercy, and to broadcast these universal truths to a whole universe.  (Philippians 2:9-10)

So, while it is not appropriate to think of Christ Jesus as an actual ransomer or redeemer of mankind, it is quite appropriate to view him as our Savior.


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