“Couldn’t God just grant us salvation and forgive us of our sins without a barbaric crucifixion?”
These are very deep and thought provoking questions that are often hard to wrap our heads around. They are typical questions one may encounter when in a discussion or debate with an atheist, agnostic, or someone who adheres to a different religion. We must acknowledge that these are legitimate and necessary to approach questions when it comes to learning why Jesus ‘s sacrifice was necessary as payment for our sins.
The first question we meet is: “Why did Jesus have to die?”. After all, Jesus is God manifest in the flesh and representative of the Holy Spirit. He had divine powers that enabled Him to perform miracles and even walk on water. Surely He could have prevented His own death, right?
Well, that is something He could have done, but He chose not to. In fact, He was destined to die for our sins from the very beginning. We have to recognize the state of mankind during this time period. Man had proven time and time again how incapable of following God’s commands they truly were. Man was very deep in sin, and still is.
Isaiah 64:6 states: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
Man’s sin is the ultimate barrier between us and God. From the time Eve ate the apple in Eden up until the Death of Jesus, the Jews knew what sin was, but had no idea just how dark and serious a corruption it had caused in their lives.
Jesus had to die to show mankind how serious a matter sin truly is. He lived a sinless life and taught man about love, respect, and putting God before everything else. Of all the accounts of people in The Bible who witnessed the miracles of Jesus and all of the people who accepted His teachings, there were still those who thought Jesus was a fraud, especially when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as a sign of peace opposed to a horse which would represent a war general.
It is important to look at the days leading to Jesus’s death.
Mark 11 and 12 speak specifically to the high priests who questioned Jesus’s divinity. They posed questions to get Jesus off guard in an effort to “expose” Him as a fraud. Jesus’s popularity was a threat to the chief priests and the government authority at the time. Even though Jesus answered their questions and won over crowds who formed, the chief priests were less than satisfied.
Their solution was to kill Jesus.
Mark 14:10-11 talks about Judas’s deal to betray Jesus: “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”
At the Last Supper Jesus not only predicted His betrayal by Judas, but He allowed it to occur. Evidence of this is found in John 13:21-27 which states: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
Even though Jesus could have stopped Judas, He did not. He went on to be arrested in Gethsemane where He prayed for Himself, for His Disciples, and for all believers in John 17. He knows His time as a man is coming to an end and prays that His death brings glory to God alone in John 17:1-5. He is soon arrested and finds Himself before Pontius Pilate. It was here that the chief priests and officials convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus even though Pilate saw no grounds on which to crucify Him (John 19:1-16).
It was here we find Jesus had been beaten and tortured and mocked. When Pilate released Him to be crucified, Jesus was forced to drag His own Cross up to Calvary while being beat and mocked by Roman soldiers. He was never resistant, but reached a point of exhaustion before even reaching the mountain.
Jesus was dragged up to the Cross that Simon was forced to carry and an innocent man was crucified at Calvary. In John 19:20, He exclaims “It Is Finished” and bows His head to death. At no point during the crucifixion did He make an attempt to get down even though He could have.
The political climate and the culture at the time played factors for sure. However, Jesus was crucified because man denied God and His revelation. We like to say “Well, Pilate would be seen as weak if he didn’t crucify Jesus” or “The Pharisees saw His teachings as a threat.” and those are valid points. But consider the deeper meaning that God Himself KNEW that He would have to kill His son. How telling of society is that?
I often ponder how we would react if God had chosen this time and age to reveal Himself through Christ in the flesh. History, in relation to sin, shows time and time again that our reaction to Him would be no different. After all, who likes to hear they are living wrong? The clubs, the parties, the promiscuity are all rampant and here would come Jesus to speak against it. Man still wouldn’t listen today just as much as they wouldn’t listen in the past.
Jesus’s message was one that SHATTERED social harmony. And it still is. How hard it truly is to witness to people who don’t want to hear that the way they are living is sinful. (Given the conversation is respectful and Christian minded of course).
Think about this for a moment. Here we are in the year 2013. We have read the Old Testament, but there has been no Jesus yet. The world is falling apart and societies are being laid to ruin. Here comes a man who claims to be of a virgin birth and the Son of God. Would we believe? Or would we dismiss His teachings as bigotry and His miracles as simple “tricks”?
We know the answer of the majority because we live it every day. We are called to lead people to Christ and let Him shine through us. Yet people ignore our message and dismiss His teachings because they go against social harmony and political correctness. Let us not get discouraged in our mission of evangelism, because history shows us that Christ was rejected as well.
This leads into the second question which will also answer the first: “Couldn’t God just grant us salvation and forgive us of our sins without a barbaric crucifixion?”
Understand that eternal salvation is a very big gift, it trumps the gift of life and free will. God had watched as man continued to sin and reject Him. He watched as man took the grace they were given and give praise to false idols. He watched the chief priests corrupt the Jewish faith. Sin’s grip was (and still is) very deep into the world.
Romans 6:23 states: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin separates us from God and drives us closer to death rather than closer to salvation. The Jews at the time could not see just how much God loved them even in their sinful state. The only way to get through to them was to manifest in the flesh and ultimately sacrifice Himself to prove His love for man. He did not have to prove anything. If God would have just snapped His fingers and granted salvation, He would have been ignored because the people would not have believed.
The crucifixion was necessary because it was completely barbaric and dark. The manner in which one died while being crucified can draw a parallel to the damage sin can do to our lives over time. Jesus took this death as an innocent man to absorb sin and God’s wrath for it. The crucifixion truly showed the Jews just how harmful their sin really is.
When Jesus arose from the tomb, He solidified who He is. Doing such a thing would have convinced even the chief priests that God was truly in Him. There could be no more doubt about who Jesus was and the fact that His death paid the ransom of our sins.
Yet today, the debate rages on.
Why did Jesus have to die? Because in our stubbornness and impatience we lose sight of God and our trust in Him with it. Why the crucifixion? Because it showed just how barbaric and disgusting our sin truly is. To this day, people are still debating whether Jesus even existed and the reason for that is solely because man’s natural instinct is a “see to believe” approach. But rest assured, faith gives eyes to the heart and opens the mind to grasp beyond what we can see to the things we cannot.
Romans 3:25 sums up everything perfectly: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”