With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I have been overwhelming reminded of the need to be more thankful. I’m sure if we were completely honest with ourselves that we all need to be more thankful. There are many things for which to be thankful- a well-paying job (or any job, for that matter), a wonderful family, a church home, or any limitless number of things we can be thankful for. As is many times brought to our attention through the preaching of God’s Word or personal Bible study, Christians sometimes take our salvation for granted. The fact that Jesus Christ died for us, sometimes,can get overlooked. This Thanksgiving, let us be truly thankful for Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.
This sacrificial death of Jesus was a topic that was brought up between me and a coworker of mine a few days ago. He asked me this question; “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Couldn’t somebody else have done it?” What a wonderful question! Why was Jesus the only Person who could die for our sins? Why didn’t someone else die for us? Though there are many more, let us consider these four reasons why Jesus had to die.
- Jesus’ sacrificial death was planned before the creation of the world.
1 Peter 1:18-20 records this, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who was verily foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you”.
While I understand that Peter had a specific point in mind, in the midst of his lecture he mentions something of utmost importance. He notes that Jesus was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” Peter here says that before God created the world in Genesis chapter one, it was already planned that Jesus would be crucified as the payment for our redemption. Can you imagine that? Before God created Adam and Eve, He knew that they would sin. He knew that someone would have to pay for that sin. Most importantly, He knew that Jesus would have to be that Person. He knew that Jesus would have to redeem us from sin. Peter shows us that It had to be Jesus who died because that was God’s eternal plan.
- Jesus’ sacrificial death was the perfect example of what God instituted in the Garden of Eden and fulfilled what was prescribed in the Law.
When Adam and Eve were created, they were perfect. Everything, in fact, was perfect. However, through the subtlety of Satan in the form of a serpent, and the consequential deception and Eve then Adam, sin entered into the world. God then instituted an action that would temporarily cover the sin that was committed. God took a perfect lamb, and shed its blood. This shedding of blood covered their sin.
Though this blood was not sufficient (see Hebrews 10:4), it was a temporary covering until someone could come to pay fully for that sin. When we fast forward to the Book of John, we meet John the Baptist. Chapter one records for us that John notices Jesus coming towards him. It is the occasion that causes John the Baptist to cry out, as a voice in the wilderness, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” When we couple Genesis chapter 3 with the narrative in John 1, we find that while the blood that God shed with the unblemished lamb was temporary, it set an example that could only be fulfilled by the blood of the perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ. We see then that Jesus’ death is the only acceptable sacrifice because it is the only perfect fulfillment of the example God set forth in the Garden of Eden.
Hundreds of years later, after the children of Israel left the country of Egypt, God gave Moses His law. This law was the rule for the nation of Israel. The law, or the Talmud, was the rule by which God would govern and judge His people. In this lengthy set of laws, God gives directions concerning how an animal, whether a bull, goat, sheep, dove or pigeon, should be sacrificed. This sacrifice, much like the example God set up in the Garden of Eden, was a payment for sin. This payment could never fully atone, or compensate, for sin. However, it would pacify the need for atonement until an acceptable, sacrificial payment would be offered. John called Jesus the Lamb of God. This perfect Lamb would be sacrificed on a cross via the cruelest form of death known to mankind-crucifixion. This death on the cross would shed the blood of Christ. Hebrews chapter nine says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission [of sin].” Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled the demands of the law because Jesus’s perfect and sinless blood was shed for you and me. Jesus’ death is the only acceptable sacrifice because His perfect blood fulfilled the demands of the law.
- Jesus’ sacrificial death was necessary because of God’s love and His unwillingness that man should perish.
The Book of Second Peter shows this verse (3:9)- “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
We also find in Romans 5:7-8 this truth. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Keeping this in mind, we find a third reason it had to be Jesus who died for us: God loves us and is unwilling that any person should perish.
The verses in Romans give us great encouragement. Here is the picture that Paul writes in Romans. If you and I were righteous people, it would be hard to find someone willing to die for us. If we were good people, we would be hard pressed to find someone to pay for our sins through death. Yet, the Bible says, we were not good people before our salvation. We were not righteous. We were sinners and trespassers of God’s commandments. We broke God’s law. In spite of our terrible condition, God sent His Son to die for us because of His great love and longsuffering. Because God is unwilling that any should perish and because of His inexplicable love for us, it had to be Jesus that died for us. No one else wanted to, after all. No person else cares for you and I the way God does. Thus we learn that Jesus’ death was necessary because of God’s love and His unwillingness that any should perish.
- Jesus’ sacrificial death is the only acceptable substitution for our death.
Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is no secret that we are sinners. We break God’s law daily- and more! Before we were saved, there was only one way we could pay for that sin- spending eternity in hell. Because of our sin, we deserved death. I am not talking about physical death, but rather spiritual death. However, as you can guess, this death was paid for by someone else’s death. This was not just any person’s death-it was Jesus’ death. Jesus died physically so that we did not have to die spiritually. The sinless was condemned so that the guilty could go free. The Living died so that the dead might live. It was our death He died on the cross. We deserved to go to hell. However, Jesus died so that we didn’t have to. He substituted Himself in our place. He gave His life for mine and yours. Jesus’ sacrificial death is the only acceptable substitution for our death.
These four reasons, as well as others that time and space do not permit me to expound on, show us that it had to be Jesus. It couldn’t be anyone else who died. No one else even wanted to die for us! Hence, as we come in to the Thanksgiving season and the following Christmas season, let us not forget the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Let us never forget or take for granted the fact that Jesus died for you and me.