Why did Jesus have to die? I remember early on in my Christian walk this issue came up for me and I remember when I got the answer. It finally dawned on me that this momentous event which we observe every year on Good Friday was necessary for there to be forgiveness of sins. Jesus did not just meet an unfortunate end purely at the whim of evil men, but ended up on the cross because God needed to justly pay a cost for sins. It was a sacrifice for the sins of all those who ever believed in Him. John 3:16 says it succinctly, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Without this death, this sacrifice, then there would be no payment for sins. It was necessary and was God’s plan all along.
It can seem like a strange plan, Good Friday, if you look at it from certain isolated angles. I remember leading a Bible study once and during the discussion one person expressed how perplexed they were that God would send His own son to die. It just didn’t make sense – you love your son so why would you send him to his death? And if you isolate it from everything else the Bible says and just look at it as a Father who sends a son to his death then yes it does not make sense. But if you look at it in the whole historical context of the Bible then we begin to see it as a part of a wonderful age-old plan which is unfolding even still today. There are some clues in the Bible that this is the right way to look at it.
Firstly, Jesus did not die by accident at the hands of evil men. Contrarily, he gave up his life willingly. We see this clearly when we think about the power that Jesus had at his disposal to stop his own death but didn’t. The same Saviour that walked to his death carrying a cross was the same man who not long before that calmed the wind and the waves on the sea of Galilee such that it put fear in the hearts of his disciples when they saw his power. It is the same man who also healed many people of diseases and infirmities. And it is the same man who when defended by Peter with a sword in the garden of Gethsemane when they were arresting him said, “52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? …. (Matt. 26:52-54) . We see that Jesus could have saved himself but he didn’t. In another place Jesus says, “17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 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. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18) No, this is not happenstance, but a plan. The Scriptures testify to this also.
Scholars agree that the Old Testament was written well before the birth of Christ. Yet, it is recorded in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be slain for the sins of the people. This was the plan of God from the beginning.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,Isaiah 53:3-12
and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors
We can see by the words of Isaiah written hundreds of years before Christ and referring to the Messiah to come that he would be an offering, a sacrifice for the sins, iniquities and transgressions of the people. And that he would be pierced as Jesus was by the Roman soldier who put a sword into his side according to the Gospel of John (19:34) . And finally in verse 10 we see that it was God’s (the Lord’s) plan that he would suffer and die for us as an offering for sin. This is amazing that God is telling us through the prophet Isaiah what will happen to Jesus hundreds of years later. Now that’s what I call a plan – the Good Friday plan of God!
God’s plan was perfect because God knew just what we needed – the forgiveness of sins and to be reunited with God our Father. Yes, every one of us has strayed from God and God’s ways (verse 6 above). That is what the Bible calls sin. The sin that separated us from our loving Father has now been dealt with by Jesus so we can have our hearts transformed and enter into a loving relationship with our heavenly Father and willingly live according to His ways. What a plan!
You may also be interested in Lichfield Apologetics