“Why did Jesus have to die?”

33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10:33-34 (NIV) 

In a recent conversation with a young man who is interested in spiritual matters, he asked a simple yet profound question:  “Why did Jesus have to die?”

Fortunately, my enthusiasm for sharing answers to questions like this didn’t lead to a quick answer.  His question was much deeper than I anticipated.  Our follow up conversation led to a much more thorough response to his specific needs.  In short, here’s what we concluded:

“Why” — Jesus died in order to make us right with God.  That was the purpose of Jesus’ death.  Our fundamental problem is sin which shattered God’s intended purpose of a love relationship with each of us.  It created a gulf separating us from God.  So, Jesus died to bridge the gap between us and God…to reconcile us to a right relationship with God.

Why “Jesus” — Jesus is God as a human being, and he came himself to make right what we had messed up.  Jesus… fully human…lived in perfect relationship with the Father untainted by sin.    As such, Jesus is the one-and-only individual who can rescue us from our sin and put us right with God.  He’s the perfect bridge between us and God–the perfect expression of God’s love and the perfect expression of sinless humanity.

Why Jesus “died” — Jesus took on himself the consequences of sin.  What we deserved — death — he received in our place.  Our rebellious life separated from God required the just punishment of death.  But God in his mercy and grace, placed on Jesus our sin and death so that we do not have to suffer them anymore.

Why Jesus “resurrected” — Jesus removed our sin and its consequence of death through his crucifixion.  With that he cleared the way for us to enter into a new life free from sin.  That new life is available to us through his resurrection.  Jesus came back to life in the resurrection.  In the same way that Jesus’ death is available to us — to take care of our sin problem, his resurrection is available to us so that we might have a new life with God — the Christ life within!

In summary, Jesus death and resurrection becomes our death and resurrection.  Through Jesus we die to our old life of sin and are resurrected to a new life in Christ.  And that’s what baptism is all about…death and resurrection…Jesus’ and ours.

When God does his work of justification — his initial work of salvation in our lives — we are immersed (“baptized”) into Christ and Christ in us.  As an expression of that Spirit baptism, we are immersed (“baptized”) into water — a picture of our death, burial, and resurrection in Christ.

Have you been baptized?  In God’s Spirit?  In water?  Want to find out more?  Want to follow the Lord in under-water baptism?  If so, let me know!

(To see an online explanation of “The Bridge to Life” along with other tools to assist your disciple “being” and “making” click on this link to The Navigators” illustrations/items page)


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