Why did Jesus have to die?
I promised the Youth Fellowship last month that I will bring them through the Passion in the Gospel of Mark next. And now that I am to do it, I am not sure if I am up to it. I did not know where to start. The cross of Christ is such a profound event that we have nothing in our capability to fully express it, or to fully understand it.
I was at a loss: atonement and justification, reconciliation and propitiation, expiation and redemption, historicity and authenticity. What else?
In the end, I had to resort to simplicity. Simple but profound, that is. The session was broken into three:
Yesterday, I managed to hunt down a copy of Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ, and thought that it would be a good thing to engage these young energetic minds on a probable graphic portrayal of what Christ have done for them. I showed them about 25 minutes of the last section of the movie. They were totally in it.
After that, words seem so insignificant. I began reading Mark 4:32-15:47 with a running commentary as I went along. They were immersed in it.
Next, I asked them a simple fundamental question, a question I have found to be in every real and serious believer in the Lord: why did Jesus have to die? Aren’t there many other ways God can save us? No? But why?
The cross was a most violent death. To Rome at that time, crucifixion was political, it was Rome's way to destroy those whom the empire despised in the most shameful way possible (Frederick Niedner). The Son of God did not die a mundane death. He died a remarkable and spectacular and yet most violent and painful death. Why?
Because God is just. Because God is love. There is no other way.
We have separated ourselves from God, we need to reconcile ourselves back to Him but how can an unholy and sinful people be reconciled with a holy God without any amend? And what on earth can weak human do at a scale that can unite the unholy with the holy? Absolutely definitely nothing! The unholy cannot be united with the holy until the unholy become holy. There is nothing we can do that will make us holy. It can only be done through Christ’s vicarious atonement – an atonement that is suffered or done by Christ as a substitute for us. There is no other way.
And through our faith in that act of Christ, only are we justified as holy and righteous. And only then, reconciliation is possible. We are reconciled to God through His Son’s violent death on the cross. There is no other way.
Picture from The Passion of Christ, 2004