Why Did Jesus Die?

This question has been asked since Good Friday, and it continues to provoke discussion and debate.

One traditional answer is that Adam’s sin of disobedience was so bad that a huge price needed to be paid to buy humanity back from the consequences.  The only price that was adequate was the life of God, and God paid this price through Jesus, God’s only Son.  Many of the supporters of this belief tend to believe God had a plan from the time of Adam’s sin to achieve this, and that many parts of the Hebrew scriptures were written in part to point towards Jesus and his sacrifice.  Part of this belief is that Jesus led a perfect life so he could be the perfect sacrifice.  Supporters of this belief speak of redemption in the sense of Jesus paying off a debt for us.  In short, Jesus died for our sins.

A very different belief is that the life and teachings of Jesus were to be example and inspiration to show us the nature of God and to show us how to live properly as God’s children.  His death was the consequence of the nature of rulers and their supporters which readily kills those who threaten or question their rule.  Jesus was so confident about God and what God wanted of us, and he cared enough about us, that it was worth putting his life on the line.  Supporters of this belief or its variants speak of redemption in the sense that his sacrifice serves as an example that inspires us to overcome our fears and weaknesses on the way to better lives.  Because his courageous persistence in challenging the social morals of the day undermined the power of the authorities, they tried to silence him by killing him.  In short, Jesus died because we sin.

There are many other answers offered as to why Jesus died.  What matters most is that he loved God and people enough to pursue a course of action that was almost certain to lead to his death.  Today when we read about journalists putting their lives on the line for the people of their country, about activist women who risk their lives for the cause of advancing the well-being of other women, and about politicians and police officers dying because of their commitments to justice in the midst of wars such as the drug wars in Mexico, we realize that in one sense at least that the sacrifice Jesus made was not the last sacrifice needed on the way to establishing the empire of God in this world.  On Good Friday we saw courage, love, and confidence confronting cowardice, self-centredness and desperate grasping for control.  The one who was murdered sparked ongoing change in the world.  Those responsible for murdering him are either remembered because of their role, or are forgotten.

May we be aided by the Spirit in choosing for love, for creation, and for healing in all we do and say, letting Good Friday inspire us in building better lives.


  1. seeker says

    OP wrote:’

    A very different belief is that the life and teachings of Jesus were to be example and inspiration to show us the nature of God and to show us how to live properly as God’s children.  ‘

    actually, for some, that too is a great part of the truths of the opening introduction you made to the Gospels, the latter, the nonbelieving spin on the Gospels is just that. It doesnt need to be done at the expense of the truth.

    non belief is non belief spinning to resemble a belief is something, asking for help with unbelief is another.

    no doubt these believed they were talking to a person, which some may have considered a ‘rabbi’

    his social justice message was obe of the heart, not ‘lip service’.

    21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”(from John 4)

    23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”25 “Who are you?” they asked.“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied.26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.(from John 8)

    23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”(from John 12)

    • matthew says

      This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.(Matthew 26:28)

  2. sam flynn says

    repentance and forgiveness of sins is a aspect of the Messiahs message, Jesus speaks much about it. a example woild be his refernce to John 3:14-16. As well in John 6 verse 28-29, Jesus apeaks , as he does many places, in believing in hin.

    (Matthew 26:28)
    This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

    • Jim Kenney says

      Repentance and forgiveness of sins is something Jesus preached while he was alive. In the other Gospels, people did not need to ‘believe in’ Jesus to be forgiven. Are you willing to offer your answer to the question in your own words?

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