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Why Jesus Died

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Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ took the world by storm, big time. I did not see it, preferring not to want a gory Hollywoodized spectacular to get imprinted on my mind. The response wherever shown, however, may have exceeded even Gibson’s expectations—the gripping focus on suffering, brutality, and human madness.

The pity is that Gibson had no idea of what was happening that day on Golgotha. He did not add to anyone’s understanding of “Christ in the Crucible.” He never gave the slightest suggestion that the two others being crucified suffered more physically that awful day than Jesus had. Nor did he tell his audience that many thousands had been crucified by the Romans, before and after Jesus was crucified, many lingering for days on that horrid timber. But Jesus died in six hours!

So what was going on during those six hours? In simple terms, when Jesus died on that Roman cross, He had my name and my face on his mind!

The Scriptures are unambiguous. Jesus died to give us “redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7 NKJV). Paul nailed it when he said, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22 NKJV). In Gethsemane and on Calvary, Jesus opened the door back to Eden for you and me.

We include Gethsemane, for in the garden Jesus, in the most intense human struggle beyond anyone’s imagination, faced Satan down, once and for all. A human intelligence, with no special advantages except that he chose his own mother, proved to the universe that God had been fair in all his dealings with all His created intelligences. His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matt. 26:38 NKJV).

What was causing his suffering? Not Roman spikes! Not a bleeding, lacerated body! He was suffering what all sinners will experience in what we call, “the second death (Rev. 20:6 NKJV). He was experiencing, “God-forsakenness” (Matt. 27:46 NKJV). “The fate of humanity trembled in the balance.…It was not yet too late.…Let the transgressor receive the penalty of his sin.…He fell dying to the ground.…God suffered with His Son.…The angel came not to take the cup from Christ’s hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it.…Christ’s agony did not cease, but His depression and discouragement left Him.…He had borne that which no human being could ever bear; for He had tasted the sufferings of death for every man.”1

Read the Gospels and try to role-play with Jesus and realize that you are over your head in a few minutes. Why? Because anyone who looks at Gethsemane and the Cross can dimly experience what it will be like dying the “second death!” No mulligans! No replays! In Three-D, HD, for the entire world to see and understand, regardless of language or schooling!

He could have died in Gethsemane as far as the angels and unfallen worlds were concerned—but how would anyone living on Planet Earth after 33 A.D. ever get the Big Picture? No wonder Paul, the brilliant, highly credentialed graduate of Tarsus and Jerusalem schools, had one defining message, “we preach Christ crucified…the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23, 24)!

O, there was much more! He died to prove Satan wrong in his diabolical promise to Eve, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:3 NKJV). Earth’s greatest philosophers and theologians have yet to see all this clearly. He died to prove to us all that sin leads to entropy—the dissolution of all things affected by sin and sinner. Contradicting the laws of the universe leads to death. No wonder God appealed to Israel: “Get yourself a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies” (Isa. 18:31, 32 NKJV).

In view of all this, how can anyone say that Jesus died to satisfy an angry God? Of course, God was offended, but by sin—this contradiction to his love and wisdom. The offense was measured by his anguish for the sinner! His anguish is measured by his parental love for his straying, stumbling, children. He hates sin, but not the sinner! That’s why, knowing all the risks of failure, love found and made the way through this otherwise insoluble nightmare.2

When Jesus died, he had your face on his mind. He died for you! In the great hereafter, what will Jesus see—your grateful smile or your memory as he looks at the scar in his hand? Ah, the “crucible” was worth it!

Notes and References

1. Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, 690–92.
2. Ibid., 49; Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 196; and Herbert E. Douglass, Love Makes a Way (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2007).

Herbert E. Douglass is a theologian, retired college administrator, and author of twenty-two books who currently lives in Lincoln, California.

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