Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

My first memories of religious education were in the first grade. I was raised Roman Catholic and every Monday I had to leave school early to attend CCD classes. At that age, the message is made very simple: God loves you, Jesus is your friend, pray to Him when you are afraid, etc. I happily attended those CCD classes. They were so comforting and fun.

By the time I was eight, these classes started getting complicated. I was bogged down with having to memorize prayers, learn the names of what seemed like a million saints, and obey all sorts of rules. One thing that always brought me comfort was whenever we talked about Jesus. There was just one thing that puzzled me, though. I kept hearing this phrase, "Jesus died to pay for your sins," but I didn't have a clue what that meant. Because we were often encouraged to be good little girls and boys, I had always assumed that a person enters heaven on the basis of their good works. If I was a good girl, God would then allow me into heaven when I died. So it left the Jesus question unanswered. Why did Jesus have to die?

That year my mother and I watched Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth on television during Easter Week. The evening the crucifixion scene aired, the question surfaced again, this time, from an actor in the film. An observer in the crowd muses, "He saved others, why can't He save Himself now?"

I turned to my mother after watching this and asked her, "Why did Jesus have to die?" She responded by rote, "To pay for our sins." Frustrated, I said, "But what does that mean? I don't understand! It's like that man said. He helped others, so why couldn't He help Himself? Why didn't He jump off the cross and show everyone How powerful He was? Why did He just stay there and say nothing?" My mother looked at me and simply said, "I don't know."

I was so disappointed. I was the type of child that needed a reason for everything, and at that moment I could find no reason for Jesus to have remained on the cross when He could have just escaped. Dissatisfied, I decided to come up with my own theory: the reason Jesus remained on the cross was because He wanted to "show off" just how powerful He was by raising Himself from the dead. Yes, that would certainly have much more of an impact than merely escaping the crucifixion! I was so pleased with myself, I went to school the next day and shared my theory with all my little friends. Thus, at the tender age of eight, I became the youngest false teacher I know.

Looking back on my childhood, I can see God was faithful to me. He did not leave me empty-handed. It may have taken ten years after I first asked this question of my mother, but I eventually got the answer I was looking for. The reason why Jesus remained on the cross is simple: He chose to stay there:
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. (John 10:17-18a)

Reader, no amount of good deeds will grant us entrance to heaven. If we claim we can get there based on our good works, we nullify God's grace and make the cross of Christ null and void (Galatians 2:21). Jesus had to die, because apart from His death, there is no other way for men to be saved. Think about it. If it were possible for you or me to get to heaven on our own simply by "being good," then Jesus died for nothing!

Imagine you were in a court of law, and you committed several heinous crimes, and you were found guilty, what would be your defense? If the judge posted bail at $50,000 dollars or sentenced you to life in prison, and you couldn't pay the fine, you'd go to jail for life. But let's say that at that moment, someone stood up in the courtroom and offered to post bail for you. Then, and only then, could you go free, because justice has been served.

This is what Jesus did on the cross. You see, all men are criminals in God's courtroom. All have sinned against God by breaking His law (the Ten Commandments). Only there is no sum of money will get us out of prison. Our bail has been posted at death. Jesus died to pay the fine, so we don't have to go to God's jail (hell). For further information, please click here.


Geraldine said…
Jen, i totally relate to this testimony only those questions, 'but why did he have die?' were asked when i was going to church. I went on for a couple of years not knowing 'why' until God opened my eyes!
I'm really glad you shared this Jen!

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