A central doctrine of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ has been crucified. Although his death was violent, he did not flinch from it. The Bible says that “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). So, Jesus himself was ready to accept this cruel and shameful death penalty as part of his mission. He chose to be “obedient”. This leaves us with the question whom Jesus obeyed, and why He had to be crucified.
Jesus obeyed God
Let me quote a couple of Bible verses where Jesus expresses his desire to obey God, His heavenly Father.
- On one occasion Jesus healed a man on Sabbath, which the Jews considered sinful. In response, Jesus called God his own Father, making himself equal with God, and then added: “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). This clearly refers to God the Father.
- One chapter later, Jesus says the same: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)
- Shortly before being arrested and crucified, Jesus was very sorrowful because He knew what was going to happen. He prayed: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And a little later, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39; 26:42)
There are more Bible verses like these. Clearly Jesus was very determined to fulfill the will of his Father, and this Father was God himself. Moreover, Jesus was perfectly aware what the Father’s will for him was. Read for example in Mark 8:31: “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man [=Jesus himself] must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
God the Father loves his Son, Jesus
Given the fact that Jesus’ death was according to the Father’s will and He did not prevent it, is God a cruel and loveless Father? No, He is not. Several Bible verses describe his love for his Son:
- When Jesus started his public ministry on earth, He was baptized. Then, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
- Later, when Jesus was on a mountain with three of his disciples, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5, compare 2 Peter 1:16-18).
- In John 5:20, Jesus testifies: “The Father loves the Son and shows him all that He himself is doing.”
So, it is not because of indifference or even hatred that God the Father allowed Jesus to be crucified. Rather, it was out of … love!
God the Father gave his only Son out of love for us humans
Jesus has spoken a lot about the aim of his earthly life and death. Let me quote some more verses:
- John 3:14-17 – “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [on a stake!], so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
- John 6:40 – “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.”
The point is clear: God the Father sent Jesus to earth and arranged for his cruel death because it was the only way by which sin would be broken and enable people to enjoy eternal life.
Why was Jesus’ death necessary?
God is holy and cannot look upon sin. However, it was through the sinless death of Jesus that our sin was paid for. His death was a sacrifice for our sins. He had to die in our place, in order to make atonement and reconciliation to Godreconciliation to God possible. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” A couple verses later, we read about Jesus. “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). He was the only one who could do this, since He was without sin himself and could thus pay the price for sin on behalf of others. If Jesus Christ had not been crucified, there would be no possibility for us humans to get right with God again and we would all perish.
Once Jesus had fulfilled his mission, He was glorified by God the Father
In the introduction to this article, I quoted the verse from Philippians 2 that Jesus was obedient to the point of death on a cross. However, this passage continues: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
These verses, among others, show that God’s plan went much further than Jesus’ crucifixion. He raised him from the dead and restored him to the glorious position in heaven which He had before coming to earth, exactly as Jesus had asked him beforehand, when He prayed, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).
It is thus out of justice and costly love – love for us humans – that God purposed that his dear Son go through this. Can you imagine what it must have cost him to see his own Son suffer so badly and, indeed, that their connection was cut off because Jesus took on sin for us? How great must his love for humans be to bear all this for our sake!