|Volume 24 Number 1 January 2022
Someone recently posed the question, “Why did Jesus die?” Usually with every other human being, death is an end point, and it is often devastating to the success and to the continuation of whatever movement the deceased was leading. Dead men do not begin organizations, but that wasn’t the case regarding Jesus of Nazareth. The death of Jesus Christ spawned Christianity with the beginning of the church a little less than two months after His crucifixion outside Jerusalem upon Calvary Hill’s center cross (Acts 2).
First, let’s establish that the death of Jesus Christ was anticipated in prophetic Old Testament passages. Not discoverable without consideration of related Scripture, the death of Jesus Christ was intimated as early in the Bible as Genesis 3:15. The death of Christ was comparably a bruise when contrasted to the crushing blow to Satan – namely, by the resurrection of the Son of God and subsequently the proclamation of the Gospel and the establishment of His church. Additional biblical citations relative to the death of Christ are discernible when compared to circumstances at the time of His death (Psalm 22:1, 13, 16, 18; 34:20; 69:21; Zechariah 12:10). Isaiah 53:3-12 has Messianic application and prophesied the death of the Messiah or the Christ.
He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 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. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked – But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. (NKJV)
Daniel 9:26 prophesied that the “Messiah shall be cut off.”
Jesus Christ Himself prophesied concerning His impending death. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40; cf. 16:4). Later, our Lord plainly declared His impending death – and His resurrection. “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 26:2). The death of Jesus Christ should have been no surprise, though His followers initially were confused (Luke 24:19-21) and scattered (John 16:32; Matthew 26:56). The apostle Paul summarized the message of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come – that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23).
Secondly, the death of the Messiah – Jesus Christ – was necessary as a perfect sacrifice for the remission or forgiveness of sins. The thrust of the Gospel message appears in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which reads, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Animal sacrifices offered under Patriarchy and Judaism were types of the perfect sacrifice for sins that was offered in the death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1-4). The animal sacrifices were unable to remit sins, but sins can be forgiven or remitted through the proper application of the blood of Jesus Christ, which He shed on Calvary’s cross (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Revelation 1:5). A person contacts the blood of Christ through the imitation of His death, burial and resurrection through immersion in the waters of baptism (Romans 6:3-5). This corresponds to other passages pertaining to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
Third, Jesus laid down His life voluntarily for the benefit of anyone and everyone who will come to Him on His terms for the forgiveness of sins. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18). Our Lord further said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Mankind is not left to his own devices as though God is obligated to redeem man on his terms. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
In conclusion, the death of Jesus Christ – the Messiah – on Calvary’s cross transpired according to the divine plan for mankind’s redemption or the forgiveness of sins. The Perfect Sacrifice – Jesus Christ – was necessary, resulting in the death of Jesus and the shedding of His blood. Jesus voluntarily left the glory and magnificence of Heaven, took on the form of created man though He was the Creator and humbled Himself to the death of the cross to save sinners. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).