Maybe it’s a question you’ve never really thought about. But the answer to the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” is the actual reason Christians celebrate Easter.
For non-Christians, Easter is sometimes an excuse for a family dinner and extra chocolate, but even for Christians, it’s easy to miss the weight and joy of Easter Sunday.
Why did Jesus have to die? The Bible’s entire story of redemption answers this question. The Old Testament points to Jesus’s death, and the New Testament tells about it and rejoices in it.
1. The Old Testament Points to Why Jesus Died
We get a hint of the significance of why Jesus had to die in the very first book of the Bible. After sin makes an appearance in humankind and Adam and Eve are aware of their nakedness, God makes clothing for them.
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 2:21).
Do you know what was required to make those garments? The blood of an animal. In this case, death literally covered Adam and Eve’s sin. Bloodshed and death continue to play a significant role in the rest of the Old Testament through the Law of Moses.
One of the biggest pieces of the Law that God lays out for his people is a sacrificial system of worship. When God’s people sinned, they were required to bring a perfect, unblemished animal to the priest to sacrifice on their behalf.
“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish…” (Lev. 1:3).
The death of the animal—its blood—covered their sin and provided God’s forgiveness.
Do you see a pattern emerging?
2. The New Testament Tells about Jesus Dying...And Rejoices In It
Before the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell us about Jesus’s death, they tell us about who Jesus is—the Son of God, born to a woman named Mary.
As hard as it is to wrap our brains around it, Jesus was fully human but also fully God. He lived a perfect life, without sin of any kind. He’s the only sinless person who has ever existed.
The Old Testament system of sacrificing animals was pointing to Jesus all along. Animal sacrifices had covered sin to provide forgiveness, but Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice paid for sin. All of it—past, present, and future. Because he lived a perfect life, his death is the only death that could possibly cover the sin of the world. Jesus is the ultimate unblemished sacrifice!
The author of Hebrews describes it this way: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins...we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:4-10).
You and I could never cover our own sin, let alone anyone else’s. And because of our own sin, we certainly couldn’t pay the debt sin requires. But Jesus is a different story! Jesus had to die to rescue us from the penalty of sin.
Jesus Didn’t Just Die
The good news of the gospel doesn’t end with Jesus’s death. It marches on victoriously to his resurrection!
Because Jesus defeated death by coming back to life, he has secured eternal life for all who believe in him! You and I have hope for life beyond our earthly experience because Jesus died and was raised to life three days later.
So why did Jesus have to die? And what does Easter (and Jesus’s death and resurrection) mean for you and me in our day-to-day experience of the Christian faith?
- Easter is an incredible opportunity for evangelism. Because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the very center of the gospel message, Easter is a great time to share the gospel with other people. The resurrection sets Christianity apart from every other world religion—no other religious leader has risen from the dead. A living Savior, who paid for sin and now offers his Spirit as the ultimate Helper is an incredible gift to offer non-believing friends and family at Easter time!
- Easter is a joyous occasion for corporate worship. If you haven’t experienced worship with others at an Easter church service, get ready! The celebration of God’s love for us expressed in Jesus’s sacrifice is like no other Sunday in the year. Easter Sunday is an excellent opportunity to unite your heart with other believers in a local church.
- Easter is a great time to practice spiritual disciplines. There’s a long history of Christians observing Lent in the 40 days leading up to Easter. Historically, these 40 days have been used for preparation and reflection. Many people choose to spend dedicated time to prayer and fasting, as a way to remember Jesus’s sacrifice. If you’ve never fasted before, Lent is a good opportunity to try it.
Why did Jesus have to die? To be our sacrifice then raise from the dead--so that we can trust in him, be forgiven and rejoice in a relationship with God. May you experience the joy of Easter in its fullest expression, recognizing the uniqueness of Jesus’s death and resurrection!
Eve Stipes is married to the kindest man she's ever met and spends most of her days chasing after three littles (including twins!) and a fuzzy pup. She has a B.A. in Biology, an M.A. in Teaching, has worked in communications, and dabbles as a freelance writer and editor—basically, she's interested in too many things and never could nail down a "career path." Eve enjoys all things creative and administrative, coffee, deep conversation with friends, and being outside.