Summary: Jesus was not just a good man with a good example to share. He was something much more. Jesus was the substitutionary sacrifice we all need because we sinned against God and cannot offer a sufficient payment to cover our debt.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
I can see why the good actions of Jesus may cause some people to emulate him. I can even see that it may lead to better lives, but I cannot see how His example can change their hearts!
Alan Scholes, a former agnostic testifies from his experience:
“I had often heard my religious friends say, ’Jesus died for our sins’ or ’Jesus died to save the world.’ I could see how the good example of Jesus’ actions might possibly influence some men and women to live better lives, but it was inconceivable to me that anything done by one man nearly 2,000 years ago could have a direct effect on how we live in the 20th century. And I certainly couldn’t see how Jesus’ death no matter how noble or unselfish, could possibly make up for all the evil in the world.”
My question this morning is: Why did Jesus have to die?
How can we know what Jesus meant when He said that we must be reborn spiritually, if all He has to offer us is His example?
Why did He have to die?
Why would following Him have any positive effect on our eternal welfare if His condition for entering eternity is faith in Him, not following His example?
No, there has to be something different.
We know why Jesus had to live, but why did Jesus have to die?
It is because Jesus’ death is of first importance (I Corinthians 15:3) to the Apostles that I highlight it today, Good Friday.
1. Firstly, Jesus had to die to fulfil all righteousness
When it was time for Jesus to begin His ministry, Matthew tells us: “…Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him.” (Matthew 3:13-15)
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by fulfilling all the prophecies in the OT about Him as Messiah.
He fulfilled over 300 prophecies made about Him.
Matthew again: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
Needing a righteousness not our own because of our sin, Jesus died to make the way to God open to us and gave each believer the right to live in God’s kingdom. It was as though He broke open a huge door that was stopping us from entering, then ushering us through into His kingdom.
Eternal life comes through trusting the One who taught: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
2. Secondly, Jesus had to die as a substitute.
Was Jesus’ substitution really necessary?
For Jesus to die on my behalf is necessary for me because I need someone who is perfect to supply the sacrifice demanded by God that I cannot perform. I am an unworthy sinner, so I am in debt to God.
“He paid I debt He did not owe,
I owed a debt I could not pay,
I needed someone to wash my sins away
And now I sing a brand new song, Amazing Grace!
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
Substitution by the Messiah is clearly taught in the Old Testament. That is why we need the Old Testament to tell us about God and what the Messiah, Jesus, was coming to do for us: to die in our place.
Speaking of the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah writes these words: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53: 4-6)
3. Thirdly, Jesus had to die as the perfect sacrifice.
How did He die? By crucifixion.
“Crucifixion was an ancient form of execution (borrowed from the Carthaginians) used by the Romans. The victim was nailed to a large cross, constructed from wood, and left to hang there for hours or days, until the victim died. Ancient records speak of thousands of people being crucified during ancient times, up until about 300 AD.”
According to OT prophecy and the words of Jesus Himself, a substitution had to be obtained: Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”