by Tim Tinsley, former Associate Minister of Park Cities Presbyterian Church, Dallas, TX
Why did Jesus have to die?
During the Second World War Winston Churchill said, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” As we approach The Passion of Christ we say, “Never have so many owed so much to one man, Jesus who is the Christ,” for the weight from all the sins of His people throughout the world were upon Him.
Many people are asking the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?”
There are many answers to this question, but the one basic answer is that Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of His people. God the Father is a just God who will judge each person for his or her sin. The love of Christ for His people led Him to die in our place. Jesus took the punishment that we all justly deserve.
Jesus is our substitute, our replacement. God the Father gave Jesus up to be sacrificed for our sins so that we could be forgiven. He paid the great debt of our sin so that we could be judged as righteous before our just God. Jesus became the Passover Lamb for His people. Remember the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed in the Old Testament book of Exodus? In chapter 12 we learn of the slaughter of the lamb, the spreading of its blood on the doorposts, the roasting of the lamb, the eating of the lamb and the “passing over” of the angel of death, thus sparing the lives of God’s people. The great apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us.”
So we learn that the passover lamb was a foreshadow of the coming Christ, who would actually die for the sins of His people. The author of Hebrews says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for the salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
We know that the Bible teaches that Jesus died as the bearer of our sins, so that we eagerly await His second return to gather His people to heaven.
What does the term “Christ’s passion” mean?
Some take this phrase to refer simply to the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life, and while this is certainly one understanding of the term, there is more to think about when considering the passion of Christ. In the Greek language the word pathein (aorist infinitive) is actually translated suffering. It is derived from the word pascho which is means “to experience or to suffer.” (Yes, Bible students, that does tie into the Paschal Lamb!)
The term “Christ’s passion” was actually coined by Jesus Himself when He spoke to His disciples of His suffering to come. In Luke 9:22 He says, “The Son of Man must suffer many things .and be killed, and be raised the third day.”_After His death and resurrection He explained his suffering to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Dr. Luke also uses this phrase in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 1, verse 3 _”.to whom Jesus also presented Himself alive after His passion, or His suffering.”
But the “passion of Christ” was born well before the New Testament writings were penned in and about the first century after Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The Apostle Peter says in Acts 2:22 *, “Men of Israel, listen to these words, Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know; Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death.”* — before the dawn of time. We are finite men and these musings are lofty, but Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was surely established before the world was created.
Who killed Jesus?
Some say the Romans, for indeed it was the soldiers of Rome who nailed Him to the cross. Some say that the Jews killed Jesus, and the biblical record states that the chief priest (and other Jews) was a participant in the prosecution that led to the death of Christ. Some say Pontius Pilate; others say the sins of every man. Others espouse that the devil took Jesus’ life. Jesus Himself said, “No one has authority to take my life, I lay it down willingly.”
To be sure all of these statements require due diligence as we consider them. But the ultimate responsibility of Christ’s suffering and death belongs to God the Father. God the Father offered the life of Jesus, His Son, so that those who believe in Him “will not perish but will have everlasting life”(John 3:16). Look back thousands of years to the creation of earth and of mankind. In Genesis 3:15 after Adam and Eve’s sin, the promise was made by God that Christ would have His heel bruised as He stepped on the head of Evil. So only three chapters into the Bible we have the prophecy of Christ’s passion foretold. We see it repeated in the book of Isaiah when God says in 53:10, “For it pleased the LORD to crush Him, putting Him to grief, when He made Himself an offering for sin.”
Romans 8:32 says, “God who did not spare His own son, But delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
How are we to react to Mel Gibson’s movie?
Or better stated, “How will you respond to what Jesus Christ did for you?
Cry out to Him and thank Him for dying for your sins. Tell Jesus that you know that you have committed sins in word, in thought, and in deed. Thank Jesus for loving you in such a way that He gave His life as a sacrifice to pay the debt owed God the Father. Give Him honor and glory by telling Him of your immense thanksgiving for His life and death. Read the entire story of Jesus’ life by reading one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) in your Bible. Call a pastor and tell him of your newfound understanding and belief of what Jesus did for you. Go to a church that teaches God’s holy Word and worship Jesus for who He is and for what He has done for you.
Seeing Christ die in this brutal manner can be excruciating for each of us. Having read this portion of the Scriptures many times over, it is a difficult event to behold.
Be happy and be sad—happy that Jesus has taken your sins away and given you a new life both now and forever. But be sad, sad for your sin that nailed Him to that cross.
Many are torn between not wanting to see this movie and wanting to see it. Or maybe it would be better said, “We do not want to see Jesus suffer, but we also need to see it.”
It is like coming to the communion table and not knowing whether to be happy or sad, and the answer of course is, be both happy and sad.
Jesus’ death and its efficacy
When Jesus died, His death effectively removed the guilt of our sin from us. God the Father now sees us as righteous (in right standing) before His throne. The psalmist says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far have your sins been removed from you.” The phrase “east from the west” was the Hebrew way of expressing infinity. Our sins have been infinitely removed from us by the work of Jesus on the cross.
Instead of ” What is Jesus’ passion?” a better question is, ” Who is Jesus’ passion?” The answer would be-you! You are Jesus’ passion, as He loves you so. He loves His Father and He loves you. The cross in some ways symbolizes these loves of Jesus’ life. The vertical post that comes up out of the ground and points to heaven represents Jesus’ love for His heavenly Father. And the horizontal cross beam on which His hands were nailed represents His love for His people.