Why did Jesus have to die?
The political, religious and social reasons for Jesus’ arrest, trial and condemnation are complex. But Jesus has said often that for this he is born. Jesus eternal mission of saving us is revealed and fulfilled in his passion and death...
Date: 9 Feb 2020
St Paul says ‘the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus and only about him as the crucified Christ’. This is another central part of our faith. Our reflection today is on how Jesus’ death saves us. Or to put it another way ‘why did Jesus have to die?’
Three ideas to help in understanding why Jesus had to die on the cross:
If someone commits a great crime, say a big robbery or a murder, the people they hurt may forgive them but the criminal must still pay the price. Justice demands that the money is returned, that they accept some punishment for the murder.
If a child was seriously ill, in pain, dying, if that child’s mother or father could take that child’s place, suffer instead of them, even die, but know that the child would live then they would do it willingly.
At the heart of the Jewish religion was the temple. The temple was where the people met God. There the priests would go to offer sacrifices to God, to give God the best they had as a sign of respect, obedience and gratitude to God, but also to ask God to forgive them for their sin and lack of faith.
In his teaching, his words and his actions, Jesus identifies himself with the temple, he is the place where the people meet God (because he is God), he identifies himself as both the priest and as the sacrifice the priest offers (he is truly God and truly man). Jesus teaches that in him is found true forgiveness, true reconciliation, true justice and finally that he has come to suffer and die for us and instead of us.
The political, religious and social reasons for Jesus’ arrest, trial and condemnation are complex. But Jesus has said often that for this he is born. Jesus eternal mission of saving us is revealed and fulfilled in his passion and death, in his perfect obedience to the Father and love of us.
He gives himself for us, anticipating this self giving at the Last Supper. ‘My body given for you’. Never underestimate the horror which this death holds for the sinless human nature of Christ. It isn’t just death, Jesus is not only going to repair the damage of original sin (of which we are not guilty) but he is going to take upon himself all the suffering and consequences caused by all sins of all people of all time (including yours and mine) and worst of all experience in his human nature the distance from His beloved Father that sin causes.
This new sacrifice, is a perfect sacrifice, it is the gift of God, it is the free offering of a priest who is a man like us but also God, it is an act of perfect loving obedience, it is a perfect loving act of atonement and satisfaction which repairs the communion between God and man, out of love for us he suffers for us, he suffers instead of us. Jesus pays the price, accepts the just punishment, but at the same time gives the perfect apology and perfect sacrifice – he gives himself; God is offered on our behalf, this is the parent dying for their beloved child but happening at the heart of God, the heart of divine love. And because by uniting a Human nature to himself the Son of God has united all humanity to himself, he has made it possible for us be part of this perfect sacrifice which brings redemption and salvation.
Jesus truly dies. Like us his human body is separated from his human soul and the body buried.
Next week we will look at the resurrection.