Why did Jesus have to die?

by William J. Stewart

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die? Why did God not just wave His hand over our sins and command them to be gone? I have no doubt He is able. Why did He require the death of His Son for our redemption? And how does Jesus’ death affect our sin?

The Bible says the penalty for sin is death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12; 6:23; James 1:15). Physical death is a result of sin, but worse than that, sin brings spiritual death (separation from God). The Bible reveals the life of all flesh is in its blood (Leviticus 17:14; cf. Genesis 9:4; Deuteronomy 12:23). Physical life depends upon blood, but blood is also necessary to restore spiritual life. The process by which one who is subject to spiritual death can be granted life again is called atonement. Leviticus 17:11 reads,

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.

Atonement substitutes the life of one who is innocent for the life of one who is guilty by the shedding of blood. Hebrews 9:22 tells us “…without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” This is more than a pinprick or minor cut. The text requires death; and not just any death—it is a sacrifice. Many bulls and goats were offered under the Old Covenant, but they were not sufficient. Again, Hebrews states, “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Why not? Blood is blood, right? The life of an animal is not equal to the life of a human. A greater sacrifice was needed, and so God gave us His Son (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 9:14; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5; etc.).

By why blood? Why death? Why not something easier, something less grisly? We understand the need for a justice system to have penalties that fit the crime. The offense itself is not the only determining factor, but also whom the infraction was committed against. In many jurisdictions, crimes (and in particular violent crimes) committed against police officers or high ranking government officials may carry additional charges and greater penalties. The seriousness of the offense is determined, not just by what is done, but also by whom it is done to.

All sin is committed against God (Genesis 39:9; Leviticus 6:2; Psalm 51:4; etc.). Sin is rebellion against the Lord and His will. Our purpose in life is to fear God, to love Him and serve Him (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Deuteronomy 10:12; Matthew 22:37; etc.), but when we sin, we are guilty of spiritual treason against our Creator, Sustainer and King. Shall we do so and expect that it is no big deal? Throughout history, treason has typically been punishable by death. Shall we be indignant because the Lord, who is the eternal Judge of all, holds us accountable for transgressing His law?

If the Lord simply shrugged off our sin, what would we learn? It would depreciate our focus on holiness. It would nullify any need for commitment. It would encourage us to pursue the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. It would set aside righteousness and justice and install a mindset of mediocrity and lawlessness.

God takes sin seriously, we should too. Fortunately, He has not left us to deal with the wages of sin on our own. If He had, we would all be condemned and have no hope. There is nothing we could do, nothing we could offer to redeem ourselves. God be thanked, He was willing to give His sinless Son to be the propitiation for our sin.

…it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:10)

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