The Good News for a Modern World | Part 4
Who is Jesus Christ?
Part 4 | Why Did Jesus Die?
According to the Apostle John, Jesus himself said:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”
– John 3:16
“Most truly I say to you, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.”
– John 5:24
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day.”
– John 6:40
“Most truly I say to you, He that believes has everlasting life.”
– John 6:47
“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
– John 17:3
So, we learn from Jesus’ words that his death was not the catalyst to our having everlasting life. While Jesus was yet alive, he granted believers the gift of everlasting life. (John 1:11-13) By this, we know the ‘good news of the kingdom’ was not that Christ died for us and was resurrected, for even before his death, Jesus himself was preaching the good news. And so were his apostles who, at the time, did not even comprehend that Jesus would die.
“Then he took the twelve aside and said to them: ‘Look! We are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things written by means of the prophets as to the Son of man will be completed. For instance, he will be delivered up to [men of] the nations and will be made fun of and be treated insolently and spit upon; and after scourging him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.’ However, they did not get the meaning of any of these things; but this utterance was hidden from them, and they were not knowing the things said.”
– Luke 18:31-34
Nevertheless, Jesus’ death is important and has profound meaning to all mankind. The most obvious reason why Jesus had to die is so that he could return to heaven and receive “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) so that every being would recognize his earned universal sovereignty. (Philippians 2:9-10) He could not tarry indefinitely on earth.
Another reason why Jesus had to die we have already considered: to fulfill and complete the Mosaic Law Covenant so that the Jewish mind could approach God with a clean conscience. And Jesus’ death has a similar benefit to mankind in general.
The Mosaic Law Covenant served as a tutor leading the Jews to recognize the Christ (Galatians 3:23-25), but it also serves as a tutor to other nations who, though not bound to the Law, can peer into the Jewish system to likewise recognize the Christ and his importance to man. By learning about Christ, all men are able to understand the ‘sacred secret’ of our true relationship with God and our true destiny. (Colossians 1:25-29)
It is important to know that even though the Jewish mind required a propitiatory sacrifice, it was still the life of Jesus, not his death, that had the saving power:
“For if, when we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have become reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only that, but we are also exulting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
– Romans 5:10-11
A further reason why Jesus died is to show us the way to our heavenly inheritance. Jesus told us:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me. In the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you. Also, if I go my way and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be. And where I am going you know the way.”
– John 14:1-2
And the Apostle Paul explained:
“However, this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:50
Thus, in order to inherit the Kingdom of the Heavens, we must abandon the flesh through our death. Jesus set a courageous example by being the first one from earth to enter the Kingdom of the Heavens:
“Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things.”
– Colossians 1:17-18
Those who follow Jesus must also undergo a ‘death like his’ through baptism:
“Therefore we were buried with him through our baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection; because we know that our old personality was impaled with him, that our sinful body might be made inactive, that we should no longer go on being slaves to sin. For he who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”
– Romans 6:4-7
Jesus’ courageous example no doubt empowered his immediate followers to lay down their lives for the good news of the kingdom, and it likewise empowers those of us today who must also suffer for our faith, as well as those who suffer in order to protect the faith and lives of others. As Jesus said:
“No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”
– John 15:13
We pray incessantly for the faith and courage of our brothers and sisters around the world who, even now, are suffering and dying for the sake of the good news. Know that all such ones are blessed as first-hand sharers with our Lord.
As we contemplate the sufferings of Jesus as he offered up his life, we are strengthened when we face even the severest hardships of our lives, much less at the petty harassments and our many purely fictitious grievances. Jesus’ life was so glorious and his death so triumphant that we are all enticed to a willingness to share both. There is true drawing power in the whole life ministry of Jesus, from the days of his youth to the overwhelming spectacle of his death.
We pray that we do not look with the eyes of our spiritual ancestors who regarded God as a relentless Sovereign of stern justice and rigid law-enforcement. Rather, make sure that you see in Jesus’ death the final manifestation of the love and devotion to his life mission to mankind. See in the death of the Son of Man the climax of the unfolding of the Father's divine love for his earthly sons, and as a portrayal of the devotion of willing affection and voluntary salvation upon those who are willing to receive such gifts and devotion. There was nothing about Jesus’ humiliating and ignominious death that the Father required. The grotesque way in which Jesus was killed was strictly of man’s doing. But it was the love of our Creator/Brother who so willingly submitted to it, and which he refused to avoid. (Luke 22:42)
If one cannot otherwise appreciate Jesus and the meaning of his earthly ministry, one can at least comprehend the fellowship of his mortal sufferings. No man can ever fear that our Creator does not know the nature or extent of our temporal afflictions. (Hebrews 4:15)
Overall, we know that Jesus’ death was not to effect man's reconciliation to God. Our reconciliation occurs as a result of our following Jesus’ life and ministry. Instead, Jesus’ death served to free the Jews from mental, psychological and spiritual bondage, to set an example for us in courageously facing life’s trials while undergoing the baptism into death, to stimulate man's realization of the Father's eternal love and his Son's unending mercy, and to broadcast these universal truths to a whole universe. (Philippians 2:9-10)
So, while it is not appropriate to think of Christ Jesus as an actual ransomer and redeemer of mankind, it is quite appropriate to view him as our Savior.