Why He died

Sometimes when I think about Jesus dying on the cross, I get overwhelmed. What did I do to deserve that great sacrifice? Why could such a horrible thing happen to such a wonderful person?

For the last two years, my family and I have been part of an Anglican church. We remember Jesus’ death on the cross every Sunday by sharing communion, a symbolic meal of bread and wine. Some Sundays I am really moved by remembering Jesus’ sacrifice – even to the point of tears. Other Sundays, I can’t seem to connect. (We all have cycles of distraction and focus.)

The account of Jesus’ death and coming back to life is so important that it’s in four books of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each telling highlights some of the ways Jesus suffered: people mocked him, they gave him sour wine when Jesus said he was thirsty, and the soldiers gambled to win his clothes. Also, crucifixion was an extremely brutal way to die. (Today, the states that support capital punishment try to end a criminal’s life in as short a time span as possible. Not then – it took hours.)

One part of Jesus’ death that brings me back to the whole reason for His taking such abuse and torture is what Jesus said while he was hanging on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus lived and died so that I can be forgiven. No matter what I did or will do, Jesus sacrificed so I can be whole, restored and complete. Jesus has the power to cover all the wrongs I do. A criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus appealed to him, and Jesus readily accepted him.

May we ask him too. He wants to hear us.


Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.