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Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. . .
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
- Matthew 26:27-28, 38-39, ESV
For centuries, the cross has been the standard symbol of Christianity. We have grown accustomed to crosses and they seem normal and even beautiful to us. But in Jesus' day, the cross was an instrument of terror, oppression and humiliation. Crucifixion was a very public and incredibly painful way to be executed. By killing people in such a public and painful way, the Romans put fear into the hearts of their subjects.
But why did Jesus die in this way? Did He have to die? Well, in today's passage, we have very clear evidence that Jesus had to die and that without His death, we would be without hope.
At the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus explained why He had to die, as he instituted the Lord's Supper. He told His disciples to drink of the cup, which represents the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is telling His disciples that He has to die, to shed His blood to secure forgiveness for His people. By shedding His blood, Jesus seals and ratifies the new covenant, which purchases our redemption from the sins we have committed under God's Law.
But could there be some other way to get forgiveness? Couldn't we do some good works or earn forgiveness in some other way, maybe through acts of penance? Seriously committed religious people will go on long pilgrimages, beat themselves with a flail, walk up a mountain on their knees or fast for weeks, all in attempts to earn forgiveness. Do these other activities work? No.
We know nothing else works to secure forgiveness because Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane and pleaded with His Father, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Surely, if it was possible for us to secure forgiveness some other way, God the Father would not have forced His Son to go to the cross!
So Jesus had to die in order for us to be forgiven. Our sin really is that bad. It deserves death, the very kind of painful and humiliating death that Jesus died for us, in our place. Thankfully, because He was the innocent Son of God, His death was of infinite worth and could secure forgiveness for all of God's people for all time - even for you and for me, living 2,000 years later on the other side of the world.
Prayer Based on Psalm 60:
God, when we consider the sad state of the church -
worldly, compromised, weak, divided -
it does seem like You have rejected us, broken our defenses;
It seems like You have been angry for our unfaithfulness
and have given us over to our sin;
Oh, Father, please restore us!
That your beloved ones may be delivered, Father
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!
God has spoken in his holiness:
“With exultation, I will divide up all of the nations and portion them out to my Son as His inheritance.”
But who will take the Gospel to the nations,
that the tribes may hear the good news and bow their knees before King Jesus.
We should be taking the Gospel Light to the darkness.
Oh, grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.
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