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Why Did Jesus Die?


Friday night we will host one of our most important yearly services, the Good Friday Meditation. During this service, we focus all of our attention upon the cross, remembering how Jesus died and why he died. 

Trying to summarize why Jesus died is a bit like summarizing world history in three sentences or less. Any attempt will be partial at best. As you prepare for the service, I thought I would give you a few of those attempts to explain Christ’s death.

The Satisfaction Theory: When a law is broken, satisfaction must be made before justice can be restored. If I steal a sum of money, that money must be paid back. If I wreck your car, I should be made to replace or fix it. However, as a whole, humanity’s sins went far beyond what any human could pay. In Christ, God took it on himself to pay this debt for us. He made satisfaction for our sin.

The Ransom to Satan Theory: We do not talk much about Satan in modern times, and we certainly do not like to think that we were his slaves. But Jesus did not shrink away from reminding us that we are slaves to sin, and Paul said we followed the Prince of the Power of the Air. If you have ever tried to quit an addictive sin, then you know this power and you have felt your slavery. Jesus’ death redeemed his people from the power and penalty of our sin. We are slaves no more, but free to follow him.

The Moral Influence Theory: It is so easy for us to forget how bad sin really is. We always find an excuse for our sins, even for those sins we find repugnant in others. Given enough time, my corrupted power of reason teams together with my self-pity to justify hatred, violence, and all kinds of evil. The cross tells another story. When I see the only innocent man to ever walk the earth crying out to God, I see the truth of my sin. I see how it destroyed the most perfect relationship in the universe.

The Substitution Theory: Christ stood in our place so that we could stand in his place. He stood in our place condemned and He received the just punishment we deserved. He did this so that we could stand in his place beloved and receive the adoration from God that only he deserves.

The Revelation of the Heart of God: This theory is the hardest for me to wrap my head around. God did not spare his own son, but freely offered him up for us all! Why would anyone love me that much? When we see the cross, we see not only the depth of our sin but the height of God’s love. God offered his son freely. He did not have to do it, but he wanted to be with us that badly. He wanted us so badly that he chose to suffer the pains of eternal death rather than be without us.

There are more theories, and of course much more to say about the ones I mentioned. I hope this brief summary will whet your appetite and prepare you for worship Friday. If you would like to read more, please pick up The Cross of Christ by John Stott or The Cross by Martin Lloyd-Jones.


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