Jesus’ death was not a tragic accident. Jesus’ death was not like the suicide bomber whose vest accidentally explodes. It was not the case, as many think, “If only Jesus had lived longer, imagine how much more good he could have done.” It was not the case that Jesus found himself caught up in circumstances beyond his control that unfortunately lead to his premature death.
The New Testament says that Jesus died at exactly the right time (Galatians 4:4) according to the definite plan of God (Acts 2:23).
Why did Jesus die?
Hebrews 2: 17 says,
“Therefore Jesus had to be made like his brothers in every respect (become a human being), so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
This verse tells us that Jesus died “to make propitiation for the sins of the people”.
Sin and death entered the world in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sought to run their own lives independent of God. Every human has imitated their rebellion. As a result, we all deserve to die and face the wrath and anger of a holy God who hates sin.
But Jesus dies and experiences God’s judgement in our place.
Because the Son of God became a human, he could pay the price for human sin.
The word “propitiation” means to placate or pacify.
You may anger you wife by saying something silly like, “You missed a spot with the vacuum cleaner”, “you’re not that old”, “let me tell you how my mom used to do that”, “stop being so sensitive” or, “just relax!”. You may have been really silly and said, “Happy birthday, I bought you a gym membership!”
If you said something silly like that, you would have to placate your wife’s anger. You would have to buy her flowers or chocolates, or take her out for a romantic date.
God’s anger at sin is infinitely more serious and dangerous. Sin against an infinitely holy God is an infinite offense that deserves infinite judgement. Each human being is guilty of sin and must bear the wrath of God. Elsewhere, the Bible refers to this as the second death.
Jesus’ death, however, placates the wrath of God “for the sins of the people”, so we need not bear it. Through faith in Jesus as Lord, we may be forgiven of our sins and declared holy or righteous in God’s sight.
Why would God do this for us?
Love divine, all love excelling.
Article 2 of the 39 Articles of Religion says,
…There is therefore one Christ who is truly God and truly man, and who truly suffered, was crucified, died and was buried. By Christ’s sacrifice of himself, not only for original guilt but also for all actual sins of men, God was reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5.19).
Jesus died to propitiate the wrath of God, so that you need not bear it.
Jesus did not die to make you rich, or healthy, or to give you a problem free life, or to reform society. Poverty and problems are realities in our world and, we as Christians, should and must be concerned about them. But that’s not why Jesus died.
Jesus died for sins.