But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)
We can obviously blame the death of Jesus on some fallible people in New Testament times, but there is another reason that Jesus went to the cross. It was my sins and your sins that caused him to die! Behind all the maneuvering and the faulty motives of the people who sent Jesus to the cross, there’s an even greater explanation for why Jesus died.
The above passage tells us that God the Father sent his Son because of his great love. When Jesus went to the cross, it wasn’t like God decided, “Oh well, since they’re going to kill him anyway, and I can’t do anything about, I might as well turn it into something good. I might as well declare that his death has redeeming value.”
No, the Bible says that long before Christ came, even before the foundation of the world, God had a plan in mind to send his Son to be the savior of the world. It was not an afterthought or a plan B—it was part of his foreordained purpose to reveal his love and grace to the human race and that the angelic hosts would witness his redemptive initiative.
If you remember, Jesus even predicted that he would suffer and die and on the third day come back to life. He made it very clear that ultimately, no one had the power to take his life from him. Instead, Jesus willingly laid it down, bearing the punishment that we deserve and providing a way of forgiveness for everyone who believes. First Peter 3:18 says: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
So why did Jesus die? It’s popular to blame Judas, or the religious leaders or the Romans or the crowd, but behind all those interpersonal dynamics and all the political maneuvering, God had an eternal plan in mind that he was bringing to pass through the life and death of his Son.
Since Jesus was fully God and fully man when he gave his life, it was an eternal sacrifice that included people like you and me. So, when we come to Christ and behold his death on the cross, we’re able to see the worst of our own human nature, but we’re also able to see the clearest picture of God’s love. The cross is a beautiful revelation of how far God was willing to go to unite people to himself.
Strictly speaking, Jesus didn’t lose his life on the cross, he freely gave it away for you and me. In John 10, our Lord proclaimed: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:11,18).
John Stott notes: “Although Jesus was brought to death by human sins, he did not die as a martyr. On the contrary, he went to the cross voluntarily, even deliberately. From the beginning of his public ministry he consecrated himself to this destiny” (Stott, page 60).
The New Testament writers regularly point out that the people involved with Jesus’ death were actually fulfilling prophecy: gambling for Jesus’ clothing (Psalm 22:18), mocking him (Psalm 22:6-8), and offering him vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21). We can confidently say that the death of Jesus came about because of the plan of God and the wickedness of men.
Stott sums it up this way: “As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both ‘I did it, my sins sent him there.’ And ‘he did it, his love took him there’” (Stott, page 61).
In fact, the events surrounding the crucifixion clearly reveal the frailty and the sinfulness of human beings. We can clearly see the envy, self-interest, fear, fickleness, and greed of the people who nailed Jesus to the cross. But can we see those same traits in ourselves? It wasn’t just their sins that brought about Jesus’ death; it was our sins too!
It was love, amazing love that sent Jesus to the cross. He embraced it willingly. The Father and the Son were both involved in bringing a solution to the sin problem and life to all who believe. Let us respond with grateful hearts!
Jesus, thank you that you willingly gave your life for us. You fulfilled the messianic prophecies and lived a sinless life. It was the Father’s love and your love that took the initiative to bring salvation to the world. We worship you today out of a joyful heart of gratitude!
What will you thank God for today?