Sunday, September 21, 2008

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


  1. I think that your take on the cross is the way that most evangelicals frame the picture of the cross Pearlie.. as a legal transaction that deals with our debt to God.

    Another way to look at the cross is one that paints God as a Father that had always been forgiving.. even when Israel rejected Him He forgave.. as Jesus was being crucified He forgave. The cross was not just His way to satisfy His justice.. by itself that picture paints a stange picture of God.

    I think that the main message of the cross that trumps all others is that Jesus died to prove and show the extent of God's love and forgiveness.. and to give an example to us and the world of true love and forgiveness. Without the cross we really can't understand sacrificial love.

    Just another perspective.. not that I disagree with the heart of what you posted :)

  2. The one, the only way. Joh 3:16 "For God so love....he gave."