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The Blue Letter Bible

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

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Don Stewart

Scripture testifies to the fact that Jesus 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.

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?' For he knew because of envy they had delivered him (Matthew 27:15-18).

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

There Are More Reasons

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

Jesus' Death Was Necessary

The Bible makes it clear that the death of Christ was necessary.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up (John 3:14).

Scripture says Christ's death was part of God's eternal purpose.

Then I said, 'Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, O God." First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:7-10).

Jesus Was The Lamb Of God

At His baptism, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, He said.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).

Jesus had come into the world for the purpose of dying on the cross. His death accomplished several things.

Jesus Paid The Penalty For Sin

The death of Christ was the payment for sin-the ransom paid to God to satisfy His holy demands. The Bible pictures humans as sinners who had 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.

[Jesus Christ] was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification (Romans 4:25).

The writer to the Hebrews declared.

So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28).

Paul wrote.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

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

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.

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).

The demands of a holy God were satisfied by Jesus' death on the cross.

His Death Brought About Redemption For Humanity

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

Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18,19).

The Bible also speaks of Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law.

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).

What does this mean?

Two Important New Testament Terms Are Used

The New Testament uses two terms that shed light upon the full meaning of redemption, agorazo and lutro.

Jesus Bought Humanity Out Of The Slave Market

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.

Jesus Provided Freedom From Sin

The word lutro means "to buy and give freedom." When 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, part of His eternal family.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:16,17).

Redemption properly understood, means:

  1. Jesus Christ bought humanity out of the slave market of the world.
  2. The price He paid was His own blood.
  3. When He bought us, He gave us our freedom.
  4. We cannot be sold again as slaves.
  5. 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 He made on our behalf.

Jesus' Death Showed The Love Of God

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

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Paul wrote.

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

It was love that motivated Jesus to come to earth and die on the cross and take the punishment as our substitute.

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.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34,35).


Although the immediate reason for the death of Christ was the envy of the Jews, the Bible lists a number of other reasons as to why Christ died. First, it was in the eternal plan of God - it was not an afterthought. Jesus' death was necessary to complete the plan of redemption for the sinful world. He had to die so that others could live. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. He was the sacrifice that was acceptable to God. The death of Christ was also a visible demonstration of the love of God for sinful humanity. His death should serve as an example for the believers. Believers are to love one another in the same manner as Jesus has loved us.

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