Why did Jesus have to die? Well, here’s the short answer: By dying on the Cross, He paid our sin-debt in full. Through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, God offers us forgiveness and when we accept this gift based on faith, our sins – past, present and future – are forgiven and we are given the gift of eternal life.
It’s crucial to consider what it means to forgive. When somebody seriously wrongs us, when we experience the ravages of tremendous evil, we have two options: we can either seek revenge and make the perpetrator suffer for his transgression – or we can forgive him. Either way, a debt has been incurred and someone has to pay the price. It doesn’t just go away.
Forgiveness, the second option, requires us to absorb the debt; we pay the price, we refuse to make the person pay for the evil he perpetrated against us. If the offense is heinous enough, this is an extraordinarily painful process. But, ultimately, the process leads to renewal and rebirth – for both us and the perpetrator. As Timothy Keller notes, “everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection, and experiences blood, sweat, and tears (emphasis added).”
Jesus Christ experienced blood, sweat, tears, and unfathomable pain and suffering- both physically and spiritually – on the Cross. He absorbed our sin-debt; He paid it in full, He died in our place. Again, Timothy Keller says it well:
“On the Cross we see God doing visibly and cosmically what every human being must do to forgive someone, though on an infinitely greater scale.”
Through the person of Jesus Christ, God cloaked himself in human flesh and took the punishment we deserve. He absorbed humanity’s sin debt and it cost Him dearly. As it is written in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, emphasis added).
Due to our sinful nature – everyone either lies, covets, steals, lusts, blasphemes or idolizes on a daily basis – there is a huge gulf that separates us from God, who is perfectly holy. Indeed, a debt has been incurred and someone has to pay the price. Christ paid the price for us; He bridged the gap and has restored our broken relationship with the Lord.
You see, there is no greater symbol of life than blood. That’s why the Bible says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22) The Jews in Old Testament times offered unblemished animal sacrifices repeatedly in order to temporarily atone for their sins. Clearly, these blood sacrifices anticipated and foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice – the sacrifice of Christ, the only unblemished person who ever lived.
In an act of unparalleled mercy and love, Jesus shed his precious blood so that we wouldn’t have to experience eternal separation from God.
That’s why He had to die.