Why Jesus Had to Die
John 19:16b-42 The Crucifixion So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. The Death of Jesus 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Jesus’ Side Is Pierced 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” Jesus Is Buried 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. Pray Just a short time before all of this took place, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to his Father. The request he laid before the Father was this: If there is any other way of accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, let that happen. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew the anguish he would face. He knew the physical agony he would feel. He knew the weight he would bear. And knowing made him cry out, “Any other way Father.” After he had prayed, Jesus got up knowing what he had to do. And he began walking toward the cross. Obviously there was no other way. So the question I hope to answer this morning is why? Why is there no other way for men and women to be saved? Why was the cross the only way God could accomplish his purpose? This is going to be quite a bit different from the way I normally approach preaching. We’re not going to go through this text verse-by-verse. It’s a long text so you can all be very thankful to the Lord for that this morning. Since this text is about Jesus’ death, we are going to look at other parts of Scripture that will help answer the why question. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” If you have any familiarity at all with Christian teaching you know that we believe that Christ died for our sins. His death enables forgiveness. His death fulfills the legal requirements for sin. So this tells us the purpose for which Jesus died, but it doesn’t help us understand why his death was necessary to deal with sin. So let’s go back to the beginning. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, lived in perfect fellowship with God. They trusted him for everything. They walked with him and talked with him. One day, God gave Adam and Eve a warning. Do not eat the fruit from the tree in the center of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because if you do, you will die. God made this very clear. There is one tree, only one, out of all the trees in the garden that you cannot eat from. Eat from every other tree you see. Just not this one. And if you do, you will die. No ambiguity here. No room for misunderstanding. I don’t know if you noticed this, but God didn’t say, “If you eat of this tree I will punish you with death.” This doesn’t look like a threat to me. It looks much more like a warning. There are consequences for actions. If you do this, this will happen. If you eat from this tree, the result will be death. All consequences for disobedience to God are the expression of his wrath. If you think about it, death is a logical consequence of failure to heed God’s warning and command. God is life and the source of all created life. To contradict God is to contradict life. And death is the contradiction of life. Death is really the only logical consequence to contradicting God. Adam tried to blame Eve for his sin. Eve tried to blame the serpent for her sin. But the Bible makes it very clear who is responsible for sin. Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sins shall die.” Adam’s sin wasn’t Eve’s fault. Adam was responsible for Adam’s sin. Eve was responsible for Eve’s sin. The soul that sins shall die. That is really bad news, because the Bible also says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every mere human who has ever and will ever draw breath on this planet is guilty of sin. And the soul that sins shall die. Or, as the New Testament says it, “The wages of sin is death.” Everyone who has ever sinned, which is everyone, has earned death. But, while God is absolutely just, he is also gracious and loving. In his grace, God allowed for a substitute. He laid out a sacrificial system in which the one who sinned could have his guilt, in a sense, transferred to an innocent substitute. In the old covenant, the burnt offering was the sacrifice for sin. A bull, without blemish, was killed in the place of the sinner. There was a problem with these sacrifices though. Hebrews 10:1-4 10 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. While these sacrifices were a great gift of God’s grace, they weren’t a permanent solution. They had to be offered every year. These substitutes didn’t have the value to pay for the sins of one person’s life, let alone the sins of the world. Every year the people of Israel had to deal with their guilt before God. The blood of bulls and goats could not truly do away with people’s sins. Sin requires the death of the sinner. God has graciously allowed for an innocent substitute to die in the place of the sinner. The substitute must be without blemish. But what in all the earth had enough glory and value to pay the sin debt of even one sinner, let alone sinners in all time and places throughout the earth? What in all the earth could absorb all of God’s wrath for sin? Romans 3:23-25 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. There is nothing on earth that could meet the demands that sin requires. So God sent a substitute. In the Old Covenant, the sinner brought the sacrifice to offer to God. In the New Covenant, God brings the sacrifice and offers it for us. He sent Jesus, God the Son. Jesus lived his life without sin, without blemish. As God the Son, Jesus had the glory and the value to pay the sin debt of all who would come to him, and all who came before. This was the only way. God can’t just sweep sin under the rug. That would make him an unjust judge. Imagine a judge that hears case after case of violent offenders and thieves, and in every case he says, “I think I’ll just let this one slide.” That judge would rightfully be impeached. Justice matters. And justice says that sin requires bloodshed. It’s the only way. Jesus is the only one who could permanently fulfill this requirement. Jesus is the propitiation, which means that Jesus took the full wrath of God for sin. But this doesn’t mean that everyone’s sin is gone. Remember in the old covenant the sinner had to, by faith, trust that his sins were counted to the substitute, the sacrifice. In the same way, we must trust, believe, have faith that Jesus is our substitute, that our sins are fully dealt with in the cross of Christ. For all have sinned, every single one of us. That sin earns us death. But we can be justified by his grace as a gift. Justified is a legal term. It means that the judge declares the defendant innocent. Not just not guilty, but innocent. And this justification is a gift of God’s grace. It can’t be earned. It is not deserved. It is sheer gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, because he took the wrath of God on himself and shed his blood on our behalf. The only way to get in on this is receiving it by faith. Romans 10:9-11 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Jesus had to die. It is the only way we can be saved from the wrath of God for our sins. And it can only be received as a gift by faith. If you try to get it any other way; by cleaning up your act, or trying to be good enough to get it, you belittle his gift. It’s grace. And grace by definition cannot be earned. It can only be received by faith. Why do these verses say that it is belief in his resurrection that is essential? For one, resurrection obviously includes the death. It’s all a package deal. When we refer to Jesus’ work on the cross, we refer to his death, burial and resurrection. Aside from this, we have more than one issue to be dealt with. We have our sinful deeds in the body. Our sins. Sinful deeds are what were dealt with in the Old Covenant sacrifices. But our biggest problem is our sin. Our sinful nature. The reason the Old Covenant sacrifices couldn’t be permanent is that they could not deal with our sinful nature. The sacrifices couldn’t make us new, couldn’t rewire us. They could only deal with the results of our sinful nature. Jesus’ death dealt fully with our sinful deeds and his resurrection gives of newness of life. His life. Because of the resurrection we are not better versions of our old selves, but the Bible says we are new creatures. The old has gone and the new has come. The resulting deeds are dealt with and the cause, our sinful nature is dealt with. Do you believe in your heart that Jesus has died the death you have earned? Do you believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead? Are you banking everything on this? Has this belief in your heart welled up and flowed out of your mouth? Have you told anyone what Jesus has done for you? Christian, his death didn’t just secure your justification. Hebrews 13:12 - So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Jesus died to make you holy, to set you apart to live for his purposes and his glory. His death is not just relevant for your past decision to trust him as Savior. His blood was shed that we would walk as followers of Him. Is the cross relevant for you today? Will it be tomorrow? Is the cross the daily determining factor for your life? There is no other way to God than through Jesus.