Why Did Jesus Die? Human Sin and Divine Love in Romans by Cliff Wall

It’s Good Friday, and tonight many Christians are reflecting on the death of Jesus. Why did Jesus die? Did he have to die? What does it all mean? Here’s a thought based on some profound truths from the book of Romans.

Romans 10:4 says that “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (NRSV). “End” here shouldn’t be understood as abolishment but as fulfillment, aim, or goal. Jesus the Messiah, in other words, completed the purpose of the law. Romans 7:13 makes it clear that the good law of God was given to expose sin in all its hideousness.

Romans 7:13 “Did what is good (here referring to the law), then bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure” (NRSV)

Here Paul tells us that one of the purposes of the law was to expose sin, to lure it from the blind spots in the human heart that keep us in the dark as to our true nature, desperately wicked and rebellious against our Creator. Indeed then, the purpose of much of scripture would not be to reveal the heart and character of God so much as to reveal the heart and character of humanity, including you and me. Christ being the aim or fulfillment of the law then would be to expose sin in the clearest terms possible.

Jesus death on the cross was where the forces of sin and death working in the hearts of Jews and Gentiles together, representing all of sinful humanity, conspired together to snuff out the light of love and truth that had come into the world (John 3:19). The cross of Christ reveals the wickedness of a world that loves darkness more than light, lies rather than truth, and would rather murderously push God out of this world on a cross than submit to God’s law.

The cross reveals most clearly the hostility that we have for God and our refusal to submit to God’s law in our own nature (see Rom 8:7). The law, especially “the end of the law” nailed to the cross, shows us who we truly are when left to our own devices, and it ain’t pretty.

Cana Nazareth Btahny Jerusalem etc 087

However the cross also reveals something even more astonishing than that. It also reveals the amazing love of God in Christ who would die for the forgiveness of the very ones who snuffed him out. Christ life wasn’t really taken from him. Instead he freely offered it as an atoning sacrifice to satisfy the very righteous wrath of God that a wicked and rebellious humanity had provoked. The cross reveals the desperate wickedness of a world that would rather murder God than live with Him, but it also reveals the love of a God Who would rather die than live without us.

Romans 5:6-11 (NRSV)
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:20 tells us that the giving of the law resulted in the increase of sin. Nevertheless because of the amazing love and grace of God “where sin increased (and it increased to its strongest point on the cross), grace abounded all the more (right there in the very same spot, the cross of Calvary). It is on the cross that we see the full extent of human wickedness, and it’s on the very same cross that we see the fullest expression of God’s love. In one and the same place, there on the cross, we have the greatest opportunity to repent of our sin and by faith receive the forgiveness and salvation of God.


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