Why Did Jesus Have to Die on the Cross?

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck11 Minutes

One of the most mysterious, but moving elements in C. S. Lewis’s classic children’s story, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is what he called the “Deep Magic.” In the story, the White Witch deceives Edmund Pevensie into betraying his siblings by revealing their location. By Narnian law, Edmund now belonged to the White Witch and in her hatred, she planned to kill him for his treachery.

She would have done so, except that Aslan, the ‘Son of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea,’ intervened – basing his right to object on the “Deep Magic” of ancient Narnia. These were laws placed into Narnia at the time of its creation by the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea.

Narnian law stated that the White Witch, Jadis, was entitled to kill every traitor. What Jadis didn’t know was that this deeper magic existed from before the dawn of time. This stated that if a willing victim, who had committed no treachery, was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Stone Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.

Jadis made a claim on Edmund Pevensie’s life based on the law, but Aslan called on this “Deeper Magic” to save him. Setting Edmund free, the White Witch and her henchmen bound Aslan and killed him atop the stone table.

But because Aslan was blameless, dying for the trespass of one who was guilty, he came back to life to the amazement of Edmund and his siblings – and at the same time brought a new spring to a Narnia that had been trapped in winter.

In this classic tale, Edmund represents fallen mankind. We are hopeless in our sin. Without a Savior, we will die and be forever separated from our Creator.

God provided that Savior in the person of Jesus Christ – and this is why he had to die on the cross.

Why Death for Life?

Like the “Deeper Magic” of Narnia, the Bible gives us answers to why we need a Savior.

To understand our sinful condition, we must first understand that God is holy – or perfect – and therefore, he cannot have anything imperfect in His presence. The moment that we do something contrary to His law, we become imperfect and cannot have fellowship with Him. This is called sin. The Bible gives only one remedy for our sinful nature, and that comes by the exchange of one life for another through the shedding of blood.

In giving the Law in the Old Testament, Moses wrote:

For the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. (Leviticus 17:11, NLT)

The writer of Hebrews gives further explanation to this passage from a New Testament perspective:

…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22, NASB)

Just as Aslan exchanged his innocent life – through the shedding of his blood – for the life of guilty Edmund, Jesus exchanged his innocent life by dying on the cross and shedding his blood for guilty mankind.

Fully Man – Fully God

There are two reasons why Jesus was the only person qualified to make such an exchange.

  1. Because He was fully God.
  2. Because He was fully human.

As God, Jesus was able to live a life without sin. No mere human being is able to do that.

As man, Jesus was qualified to take on the sins of his fellow human beings.

Jesus had to be both God and man at the same time in order to become the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. That is why, when speaking of himself, Jesus often used the title ‘Son of Man’ (see Mark 2:10-11, Luke 9:22, Mark 8:31, Matthew 26:64, Luke 22:69).

However, in an explosive instance, Jesus also identified Himself as God. In John 8:58, Jesus exclaimed to the Jewish religious leaders, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” This was especially powerful in that this is the name that God had given to Moses to identify Himself in Exodus 3:14: “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.”

It was clear to the Jewish religious leaders that by using the title ‘I AM,’ Jesus was calling Himself God – and they immediately tried to stone him for what they thought was blasphemy.

In another instance, Jesus claimed to be one with God and equal to Him. In John 10:30, Jesus declares: “I and the Father are one.”

It is a mystery to us, but the Bible reveals that God the Father loved the world in such a great degree that He sent His only Son – Jesus Christ – to bring salvation to mankind (John 3:16).

The Lamb of God

One of the symbols the Bible uses for Jesus’ sacrificial death is ‘the Lamb of God.’ This is the term used by John the Baptist when he first encountered Jesus: “…he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV) This reference hearkens back to the spotless lamb used in the Jewish Passover meal.

“Your lamb shall be without blemish…” (Exodus 12:5, ESV)

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.” (Exodus 12:7, ESV)

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt… And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you…” (Exodus 12:12 and 13, ESV)

The Jewish people would have immediately understood what John the Baptist meant when he declared that Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God’ – and his powerful explanation that Jesus would take away the sins of the world.

Just as the shed blood of the Passover Lamb protected the ancient Israelites from death, the shed blood of Jesus protects you and I from spiritual death and separation from God – if we receive this free gift by faith.

Not By Works

If you believe that you can be good enough to earn your salvation, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross? The fact of the matter is that no human being can ever be good enough to earn salvation. Just one sin – just one mistake – disqualifies you from entry into heaven. The Bible makes it clear.

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, NASB)

“As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous – not even one.” (Romans 3:10, NLT)

That is why Jesus had to die on the cross. No human being can be good enough to earn salvation. No human being could become the substitute for the sins of all mankind. Only Jesus – fully man and fully God – could qualify to die for the sins of the world.

If You Believe, You Will Be Saved

So how do you receive this free gift of salvation that Jesus purchased for you on the cross? It’s really quite simple. The Bible says that salvation is available if you will just believe, then receive.

If you openly declare that Jesus is your Savior and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NLT)

Do you want the gift of eternal life that Jesus purchased for you on the cross? Pray this prayer:

Heavenly Father, I thank you for sending your Son to die in my place. I ask you to forgive me for my sins. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that you raised Him from the dead. Come into my life and make me new. Help me to live for you. Thank you for your love, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Watch This Video to Learn More About Your Relationship with God