Matthew 26:2, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
To this day opinions on why Jesus had to die vary wildly. Through the prism of individual understanding you can put a group of people in a room, ask them the same question and get a dozen different answers. I’m sure you’ve seen the interviews of people on the street asked a variation of this question, and some of the answers made you smile, others made you cringe, and others made you shed a tear. I’ve heard it all, from ‘Jesus had to die so I could prosper’, to ‘Jesus had to die so I could be blessed’, and everyone’s answer to this question seems to be a little different, a little nuanced and unique.
Today I want to look at this most important of questions, why Jesus had to go to the cross, why He had to be delivered up to be crucified, and why He had to die through the prism of some of His contemporaries, those that were there, men who either had a hand in, or witnessed the death of the Son of God, as well as Christ’s own answer.
We begin with the reasoning of the accusers, those who plotted against Christ, those who set the wheels that led to His crucifixion in motion. Their reasoning was steeped in self-interest, but lest the Romans get a clue of their plotting and scheming, the public reasons why Jesus had to be crucified was that He called Himself a King, that He called Himself the Son of God, that He spoke against the temple, that He forbade His followers from paying taxes, and that He did not respect the Law.
Luke 23:2, “And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘we found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”
Mark 14:58, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.”
It was not for something as noble as defending the temple or the law or Caesar himself that these scribes and Pharisees plotted against Jesus and accused Him, it was because He was cutting into their profits, He was causing a stir, people were beginning to follow after Him, and they didn’t want the competition. They neither investigated nor cared to investigate the truth of who Jesus was; they simply accused Him to protect their power, to protect their wealth, and to protect their standing among the people.
The reasoning of Pilate of why Jesus had to go to the cross has always fascinated me, because here was a man who found no fault in Christ. As much as His accusers railed against Him, as much as they tried to stir up Pilate’s patriotic zeal by saying that Christ was forbidding Jews to pay taxes to Caesar, when it was all said and done, Pilate still found no fault in Christ.
So why did He acquiesce? Why did he consent to sending an innocent man to the cross? Because the voices of the accusers scared him, as they threated to take the matter to Caesar himself, and inform him that Pilate did nothing to silence the troublemaker known as Jesus. Another reason I believe Pilate consented to the crucifixion of Christ is because His plan to follow Jewish tradition and present two men, one of whom would be let go backfired as the crowd chose Barabbas. Before he gave the people a choice as to who they would like to see obtain their freedom Pilate had Jesus scourged hoping to satisfy the bloodlust of the Pharisees and those who supported them, but to no end. They chose a murderer over the Son of God, and no matter how Pilate tried he couldn’t change their mind.
He went on to wash his hands, thinking this would absolve him of the responsibility, he tried to stifle his guilt by saying it was a Jewish problem but to no avail. The guilt that plagued him through the years finally became too much, and in the end Pilate took his own life.
As far as the Disciples of Christ are concerned, those who ought to have known the truth of why Jesus had to go to the cross and die because He had told them time and time again, they were discombobulated, disoriented, running to and fro absent of purpose or direction. In an instant they had forgotten all that Jesus had taught them, men without a leader, uncertain of tomorrow.
Although the thief hung on a cross next to Jesus, in agony and the fearful expectation of death, it seems he had a better understanding of why this was happening to Christ, than His disciples did at the time. It was the thief on the cross who rebuked the other by telling him that they were receiving the due reward of their deeds, but that Christ had done nothing wrong. A criminal, a thief, realized what the scribes and Pharisees would not, that Christ had done nothing wrong, yet He hung on a cross beside him.
Finally we come to Christ’s reasons why He had to go to the cross and why He had to die, and in His words we find hope and rest in this present world. By Christ’s own words, He had to carry the cross of our shame, He had to carry the cross of our sins, He had to hang upon the wood, because He came to do the will of the Father, He came to be the sacrificial Lamb, He came to fulfill the Scriptures, and He came to give eternal life.
John 14:30-31, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment so I do. Arise, let us go from here.”
John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
It had to be, there was no other way, and knowing this, He went like a lamb to the slaughter, that you and I may be reconciled unto God, that you and I may obtain salvation, that you and I may know the depth of His love, and the height of His grace.
So now, let us turn our gaze from those who were there, and their reasoning for why Jesus had to die, and look within our own hearts and answer the question for ourselves. Who is Jesus to you today? Is He your Lord and your King, is He the price of your redemption, is He your all in all, or is He just a nice guy, a good teacher, perhaps even a prophet but nothing more than that?
If He is anything less than Lord, King and Savior, if He is anything less than your all in all, then like so many before you, you have the wrong perception of why Jesus had to die.
Consider this: Jesus had to die, that you might have life in Him!
With Love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.