Famed nineteenth-century minister Alexander Maclaren once said, “The cross is the center of the world’s history; the incarnation of Christ and the crucifixion of our Lord are the pivot round which all the events of the ages revolve.”
It’s obvious that Christ’s death is essential to the gospel. After all, the symbol of Christianity is the cross. But why was it so important?
As the hour of Christ’s death approached, the Gospels tell us that He even asked God for an alternative. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39b). But the Father knew that death was required to enact His plan. So why exactly did Jesus have to die?
We’ve put together a list of five reasons why Jesus had to die. This isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it should help you understand the importance of the cross.
1. Christ died to cancel our debts
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14).
Humans come into the world under an obligation to obey God. Having failed to do so (as we all do), we are under a debt for our disobedience that we cannot pay. God demonstrated His love for us by allowing Jesus to pay that debt on our behalf.
Jesus lived a sinless life, and through His sacrifice, our account can be cleared of the debt against us.
2. Christ died to rescue humanity
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16–17).
The whole Old Testament looks forward to a Messiah who will come to the nation of Israel. But Jesus didn’t just come to rescue the Israelites from captivity—He came to save the whole earth. Through Christ’s sacrifice, people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation could be reconciled to God.
3. Christ died to demonstrate God’s love
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8).
The Bible teaches that humankind is in rebellion against God. Despite the fact that the creation has been in revolt against the Creator, God has always been at work patiently reconciling the world to Himself. And He demonstrates His incredible love for us in the sacrifice He was willing to make.
As Paul tells us in this passage from Romans, while we were in a mutiny against God, He still sent Christ to die for our redemption.
4. Christ died to conquer death
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him” (Romans 6:8–9).
Ever since Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden of Eden, death has hung over humanity’s head. Because Jesus died, He could demonstrate His power over death. We no longer have to fear death because—in Christ—death has no mastery over us.
5. Christ’s death destroyed Satan’s works
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8b).
Satan’s goal is to keep human beings held in bondage to sin and under its penalty, tormenting us with the ultimate sentence—eternal death. This bondage keeps people stuck in the cycle of spiritual, mental, and emotional defeat. But Jesus’ death and resurrection redeems us from that sin and guilt, triumphing over the enemy’s schemes.
Paul communicates this well, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
Jesus died for you
The cross demonstrates God’s love for humanity—and that includes you. Jesus doesn’t just love you in some abstract fashion. He is passionate about your welfare and desperate to be reconciled to you. If you’re interested in taking the next step, check out the post: What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?
All Scripture references quote the New International Version unless otherwise noted.