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The Blue Letter Bible
Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Betrayal, Trial, and Death of Jesus

Don Stewart :: Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

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Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

The Betrayal, Trial, and Death of Jesus – Question 6

Scripture testifies to the fact that Jesus Christ died on a cross after being betrayed to the religious rulers by one of His own disciples, Judas Iscariot. But the immediate reason Jesus died was because of the envy of the Jews. Pontius Pilate recognized this when the Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus to him. We read,

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. (Matthew 27:15-18 NRSV)

Their envy toward Jesus was due to the fact that He had drawn a large following by claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah. His miracles verified His claims. Jesus also criticized their corrupt religious system. Because of this they decided to kill Him.

Why Jesus Died

There are more significant reasons, however, why Jesus died on Calvary’s cross. They include the following.

1. Jesus’ Death Was Necessary in God’s Plan

The Bible makes it clear that the death of Jesus Christ was necessary in the eternal plan of God. Jesus Himself said,

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. (John 3:14 HCSB)

Jesus spoke of the necessity of Himself being lifted up, or crucified.

The Scripture says Christ’s death was part of God’s eternal purpose. We read the following in Hebrews:

Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:7-10 NRSV)

Jesus had come into the world for the purpose of dying on the cross. His death was in the will of God the Father.

Indeed, Jesus explicitly said that His purpose for coming into the world was to die. Matthew records Him saying,

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28 HCSB)

His purpose was to die for the sins of the world.

2. Jesus Was the Lamb of God

At His baptism, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he declared Jesus to be the “Lamb of God”:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NRSV)

Jesus’ coming into the world was as the “Lamb of God.” Indeed, His appearance in our world was for the purpose to take away the sins of everyone.

3. Jesus Paid the Penalty for Sin

The death of Jesus Christ was the payment for sin. It was the ransom, or price, paid to God to satisfy His holy demands. The Bible pictures humans as sinners who have rebelled against God. Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for the sin of humankind. Jesus died in our place as our substitute, receiving the punishment that was due us.

The Bible says that Jesus Himself paid the penalty for our sins. Paul wrote to the Romans:

He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God. (Romans 4:25 NLT)

Jesus died for our sins, not His. Indeed, He had no sin.

The writer to the Hebrews also declared that Jesus Christ died to take away sins. We read,

So Christ died only once to take away the sins of many people. But when he comes again, it will not be to take away sin. He will come to save everyone who is waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28 CEV)

His death took away the sins of the world.

The Apostle Paul also wrote to the Corinthians about how Jesus Christ died for our sins:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3 NRSV)

Because of Christ’s death, believers will not have to suffer eternally for their sins.

There is something else. The penalty that Jesus paid for sin was not only for the human race; it was also for everything in the universe that had been marred by sin. Paul wrote,

Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:21 NKJV)

Everything in the universe which has been marred by sin will now be set free. The demands of a holy God were satisfied by Jesus’ death on the cross.

4. Jesus’ Death Bought Our Freedom

As we study the life of Christ we often come into contact with the term, “redemption.” The word, “redeem” means “to purchase.” When Jesus Christ died for our sins He paid the price for them with His own blood. Peter wrote,

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (1 Peter 1:18, 19 NLT).

It was His death which bought our freedom from sin.

The Bible also speaks of Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law. Paul wrote the following to the Galatians:

But Christ rescued us from the Law’s curse, when he became a curse in our place. This is because the Scriptures say that anyone who is nailed to a tree is under a curse. (Galatians 3:13 CEV)

Jesus became a curse for us so that we might be saved from our sins.

We Were Bought Out of the Slave Market

We find that the New Testament uses two terms that shed light upon the full meaning of redemption, agorazo and lutro. The word agorazo, along with its variation, exagorazo, has the idea of buying a slave out of the market and then taking him home.

This term speaks of Christ buying us out of the slave market of the world. The price Jesus paid, with His own blood, was sufficient to buy every slave out of the market. His purchase also means that slave would never be sold again. We have all been slaves to sin, and if we allow Him to be our Master, then we need never be sold again, for He becomes our eternal Master. This is certainly great news!

The word lutro has the idea of, “to buy and give freedom.” When Jesus Christ bought us from the marketplace of the world, he not only gave us our freedom, He made us part of His family. Those who receive by faith the benefits of the sacrifice Christ has provided become children of God. We are now part of His eternal family. Paul wrote,

It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ— if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16, 17 NRSV)

When redemption is properly understood it means that Jesus Christ bought humanity out of the slave market of the world. The price He paid was His own blood. When He bought us, He gave us our freedom. We cannot be sold again as slaves. We have become part of His family and participants in His rightful inheritance. All this is obtainable if we choose to place our faith in the sacrifice that He made on our behalf. This is indeed “good news.”

5. Jesus’ Death Showed the Love of God

The death of Jesus Christ upon the cross also demonstrated that God loves sinful humanity. The Scripture speaks of His death as an act of love toward humankind. John wrote,

God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. (John 3:16 CEV)

It was the love of God the Father for this world that caused Him to send God the Son to die for our sins.

Paul wrote about the love God demonstrated for us in Jesus Christ. He put it this way,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NKJV)

It was love that motivated God the Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth and to die on the cross for our sins.

6. He Was an Example to the Believer

The Bible tells us the love of God that was demonstrated by Jesus should serve as an example for how we should treat one another:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:34, 35 NLT)

We are to show our love for God by loving each other.

In sum, there were a number of reasons as to why God the Son came into our world to die upon a cross. It is important that we understand these reasons.

Summary – Question 6
Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

Although the immediate reason for the death of Jesus Christ was the envy of the Jewish religious rulers, the Bible lists a number of other reasons as to why Christ died. They include the following.

First, it was in the eternal plan of God—it was not an afterthought. Scripture emphasizes the necessity of Jesus’ death. Indeed, Jesus Himself spoke of the need for His own death.

We find that Jesus’ death was necessary to complete the plan of redemption for the sinful world. He had to die so that others could live.

Therefore, Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. He was the perfect sacrifice for sin that was acceptable to God.

The death of Jesus Christ was also a visible demonstration of the love of God for sinful humanity. It was that love which led God the Father to send God the Son into our world.

Jesus’ death should serve as an example for the believers. In fact, we are told to pattern our lives after His life. Consequently, believers are to love one another in the same manner as Jesus has loved us.

This is a brief summation as to why the death of Jesus Christ was necessary from a biblical point of view.

Did Jesus Receive a Fair Trial? ← Prior Section
Why Was Jesus Crucified Rather than Stoned to Death? Next Section →
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