Why did Jesus have to die according to the gospel?
Paul referred to the gospel as “the message of the cross”. It seems cruel that God the Father would allow his Son to be treated so badly and die on the cross. Some people struggle with this when they hear the gospel. This article will help you understand and explain, from many different angles, why Jesus died on the cross.
There are many answers to the question: Why did Jesus have to die? As we look at the accounts of Jesus’ death we see the following reasons that Jesus died.
Reasons Jesus died:
- Judas sent Jesus to die
Judas sold Jesus into the hands of the religious leaders because he was greedy—for a measly handful of silver he betrayed Jesus.
- The Jewish leaders sent Jesus to die.
The Jewish leaders arrested Jesus and turned him over to Pontius Pilate because they were jealous. He threatened their religious control over the people and exposed their hypocrisy. They would rather kill him than be exposed.
- Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to die
Pilate, the roman governor, sent Jesus to the cross because he was a coward. At first, Pilate stood up for Jesus’ innocence. But when the people threatened to accuse him of being disloyal to Caesar, he backed down and authorised Jesus’ crucifixion.
- The roman soldiers sent Jesus to die
They were the ones who gave him the terrible beating, who scourged him till his back was raw, who pressed the crown of thorns on his head, who lay him down on the cross and nailed him to it, who then raised the cross and dropped it in its hole in the ground, then guarded him until he was dead.
- Our sin sent Jesus to die
This is the truth of the gospel that is both beautiful and terrible. Our sin carried with it a terrible price that demanded to be paid and Jesus was the one who paid that price. In 1 Corinthians 15:3 when Paul describes the essence of the gospel he tells us, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins.” Only a man could represent mankind and die for our sins. The only man who qualified was Jesus, because he had no sins of his own to die for. There is a beautiful little song whose lyrics reflect this truth. It says,
“He paid a debt he did not owe—I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away;
But now I sing a brand new song: Amazing Grace;
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
- God the Father sent Jesus to die
When we look deeper still, we realise that we could have been left hopeless and lost in our sins. The fact that Jesus was qualified to die in our place didn’t mean he had to do it. In reality, it was the love of God the Father that made him act. God sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for all of mankind’s sin. The Bible reveals God’s loving heart that had to do something for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16
- Jesus chose to die
But although God the Father sent his Son to die for our sins, Jesus makes it very clear that he personally chose to die in place of you and me. Jesus told his disciples, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father”. John 10:17-18
Jesus’ death on the cross reflects both the ugliness of our sin and beauty of God’s grace. Evangelism is about sharing the whole message of the gospel which includes talking about why Jesus had to die. We cannot present the gospel without mentioning the need for Jesus to die for our sins. No wonder Paul would say to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2.