Why did Jesus have to die?


Question: Why was it necessary for Jesus to die?

Response: This is a tremendously large and important question. I don’t think anyone can answer it fully, but here are some thoughts to consider. I don’t know if “necessary” is the best word, for Jesus made it clear that he CHOSE to lay his life down. He wanted to die for you and to reveal his love to you. Have you ever loved someone so much that you wanted to suffer for them, just so they’d know? I think I’ve felt this with my wife and children. I believe that God is Love and Love wants to offer itself for others.

But what Jesus did is not only a sentiment. It is the revelation and substance of how God creates. Jesus is the Word (in flesh) that God speaks into chaos and the void creating all things. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the revelation of how God creates. He creates in Love. And most certainly with us, he is how God creates love within us and makes us in his own image. Scripture says that “we love because he first loved us.” When I see the depths of God’s love for me – that he freely chose to love me – then I begin to freely choose to love others. Love in this world is profoundly painful, but when all love in the kingdom, all that pain is transformed into an endless and ecstatic party.

Yet, this isn’t simply a psychological process. On the Cross Jesus delivers up his Spirit – this is the Spirit that descends on the church at Pentecost, when everyone begins to share everything in common, and praise God together in ecstatic joy. It’s a picture of everyone loving like Jesus. I should probably say, it IS Jesus. You see, through his death and resurrection, he makes us his very own body. When one loves in a world that doesn’t love, it looks like a man hanging on a cross. When two love, it looks like a great marriage or honeymoon. When all love, it looks like a great party, a kingdom, and a living body for that’s exactly what it is – the Body of Christ rising from the dead.

There is a popular answer to your question that is a twisted version of “Substitutionary Atonement Theory.” It’s the idea that God HAD TO beat up on Jesus to feel better about us. This is wrong, God was in Jesus reconciling the world to himself, according to Scripture. It was the Fathers heart – Jesus “from the bosom of the Father” – that was nailed to the tree. God did not NEED to kill Jesus to be able to love us. God offered himself in Christ Jesus because he does love us. God did not NEED the cross in order to love us, but we did need the cross in order to love God.

God, in Christ Jesus, DOES give himself to us to complete in us what is lacking in ourselves (faith, hope, and love). God is Love and he finishes us in his own image, by giving us himself in Christ Jesus. We become his body and bride. In the Revelation, we find that Jesus stands as a slaughtered Lamb on the throne of God, ruling all things as all creation worships. You see, Jesus really is the judgment of God, the judgment of Love. He is the manifestation of the decision of God. He is Love and he constantly decides to Love. When we crucified Love, it revealed our lack of Love. When Love died for us, he gave himself to us and filled up what is lacking in us. Jesus wanted to die because he wanted you to know his love, receive his love, be transformed into love, and enjoy love endlessly and forevermore.

So, what does Jesus’ death appease? It appeases God’s desire to make us in his own image for he is not satisfied that Adam (humanity) does not know Him – the Good, the Life, and our Helper (Savior), who is Love. In Genesis two, which is a depiction of creation on the 6th day, God says “it’s not good that the Adam (humanity) is alone.” Adam is alone in the presence of God who is Love. Adam is not yet capable of Love. God then divides the Adam into Male and Female and sets a story in motion with two trees in the middle of the garden in one spot. I believe that both trees are a picture of the cross. The fruit on the tree is “the Good (God)” in flesh and “the Life;” the fruit on the tree is Jesus. It’s through the story of our relation to that tree and its relation to us that we crucify Love, receive Love, and are made into the image of Love: Jesus.

There is a consequence to eating of the tree and a consequence to crucifying the Messiah – we must die…with him. But now the Gospel: God raises us with him. “Where sin increased, Grace abounds all the more.” (Romans 8) And: “God consigned all to disobedience (taking the fruit, crucifying the Christ, every sin we commit) that he may have Mercy (Grace that creates Faith) on all.” (Romans 11:32). The Crucifixion of his own heart on the tree in the garden (which Scripture reveals is in the depths of the temple – and we are that temple) is how God makes humanity in his image and likeness and brings us into the 7th day, his eternal rest, our home. At the cross we witness our own creation. God is appeased, for he’s not satisfied with children that aren’t capable of loving and being loved.

It’s a tragedy that the Evangelical church has broadcast the idea the Jesus died so you don’t have to. No, Jesus came to help you die – die to yourself, this body of death, hades (which we are already experiencing to some extent), and your sin so that you may be raised to eternal life with Him.
It really is the ultimate Love Story. Jesus is the Word of God, and he means “I love you” and it all comes into brilliant white hot burning focus at the cross.

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