It is one of the most basic questions of Christian theology – why did Jesus Christ have to die? From the moment Adam sinned, the story of Scripture becomes a story of God’s attempt to redeem His people. Paul assures us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and the book of Hebrews tells us that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22).
Under the Old Testament system, rivers of blood were shed to cover the sins of the people. Levitical law required that a male animal without blemish must be slain upon the altar and burned for the forgiveness of sins. Animals were slaughtered by the tens, hundreds, and thousands, to atone for the sins of the people. Year after year, the slaughter went on.
Then one day, John the Baptist saw his cousin walking down the bank of the Jordan River and said thirteen words that would change the world forever: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). And when Jesus died on the cross, His perfect sacrifice once and for all provided redemption for all who would receive it. Once His blood had been shed, there would be no need for further blood – the cost of sin was paid, and no further sacrifice was needed.
Jesus died to redeem us – to forgive us for the sins we committed. But His death means so much more. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” It would be a shame if Christian believers were content to live under the grace of sins forgiven, but neglect the life abundant that Jesus died for us to have.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that just as the high priest carried the blood of animals into the Holy of Holies as a sin offering, but burned the bodies outside the camp, “so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:11-12). We are also told in Hebrews that “if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (9:13-14).
Why did Christ die? Paul tells us that Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14). Don’t be intimidated by what God wants to do in and through you. Instead of kicking back and resting on the assurance of His forgiving grace – an assurance that we certainly can have – let’s allow God to work His best in our lives and embrace the abundant life, fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus came to give us.
~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chairman