The Ultimate Sacrifice
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Jesus had an amazingly productive ministry, teaching and healing thousands. He attracted large crowds and had potential for much more. He could have healed thousands more by traveling to the Jews and Gentiles who lived in other areas.
The Old Testament tells us that God appeared as a human being on several occasions. If Jesus wanted only to heal and teach, he could have simply appeared. But he did more: he became a human. Why? So he could die. To understand Jesus, we need to understand his death. His death is part of the gospel message and something all Christians should know about.
But Jesus allowed this work to come to a sudden end. He could have avoided arrest, but he chose to die instead of expanding his ministry. Although his teachings were important, he had come not just to teach, but also to die.
Death was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. This is the way we remember him, through the cross as a symbol of Christianity or through the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. Our Savior is a Savior who died.
Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He came to give his life, to die, and his death would result in salvation for others. This was the reason he came to earth. His blood was poured out for others (Matthew 26:28).
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The disciples never forgot the shameful way that Jesus died. Indeed, sometimes that was the focus of the message: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Paul even called the gospel “the message of the cross” (verse 18). Paul reminded the Galatians that “before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1). That was how he summarized the way that he preached the gospel.
Why is the cross good news? Because the cross is the means by which Jesus rescued us from death. Paul focused on the cross because it is the key to Jesus being good news for us. We will not be raised into glory unless in Christ we are made “the righteousness of God.” Only then can we join Jesus in his glory. The crucifixion is part of the process by which we are transformed from the old creation to the new.