Why did Jesus have to die? Part 4
Updated: Mar 22
What if you can’t pay back your debt? The Bible teaches that “the wages of sin is death”. This means you get your one attempt at life and that is all. It would be too costly to the Universe to allow you to exist forever in your current form. Unless the debt is paid to rebalance the books for everyone else’s benefit, sin and evil will keep gaining traction; and the Law of Decay left unchecked will destroy all that is good in this world. Who is able to pay their debt and reverse the decline? It seems hopeless.
Those of you who are familiar with the Bible may question my argument in Part 3 that God hates child sacrifice because of the story in Genesis where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in order to test his faith and loyalty. God did ultimately stop the sacrifice just in time and provided a ram for Abraham to offer instead; but for many of us, the damage to God’s reputation is done. Who would want to worship a God that asks his followers to engage in such a twisted test?
When modern people hear this story, we are surprised/horrified by what God asked Abraham to do. The original audience – consisting of those from ancient civilisations who practised child sacrifice – what would they have been surprised/horrified by when hearing the Genesis account? When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, they would have nodded along at that part: “yes of course God would ask someone to do that, it’s expected of us all. Why are you bothering to tell me this story?”. Then the story reaches a crescendo. Abraham is about to kill Isaac with a knife when God says “do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him”. Imagine how the early listeners would have reacted to that part. Maybe some head-scratching, asking why; asking who is this God that doesn’t demand the ultimate sacrifice from humans in order to gain His favour? Then, even more incredulously, this God provides the sacrifice for Abraham to offer! Sacrifice is meant to cost US something so God is cajoled into blessing us in return. God doesn’t receive the ultimate sacrifice from Abraham, He gives it Himself – forty-one generations after Abraham, God sent His own Son Jesus to die on a cross as the ultimate sacrifice for humanity’s sins.
Why did I strive to prove in an earlier post that Jesus was God? Because He is the only one who is debt-free – this infinite God of Love. He alone can step into the void that separates us from God the Father and pay the price on humanity’s behalf. He paid it with His own blood, that blood which is of ultimate value to the Father. However, even though our past debts are cleared, what is to stop us from accruing new ones from the continuous effects of our life choices on others? Won’t I keep messing up the account again as I am still the same old me? Well, that is the really good part -- Jesus taught that you are “born-again” the moment you accept His sacrifice on your behalf. This isn’t a physical second-birth, but a spiritual one. In Christ you are a new creation getting ready for the New Creation; being transformed into the likeness of the Son. Your debt isn’t just written off – limitless credit is added to your account from Jesus’ own infinite store. No wonder He said on the cross “It is finished!”
Imagine being a guilty criminal in court. You are being hounded by the prosecutor who is demanding you be sentenced to death. Someone walks in and declares they will take your place in the Dock and you can walk free. You can’t believe your luck and agree to the swap. In that moment, you find the stranger is wearing your prison garments and shackles, while you are wearing his clothes with a pass to freedom attached to your chest. You realise that this innocent stranger wasn’t just offering to take your punishment, he was offering to be reckoned as the guilty one in the eyes of all the onlookers in court. They now glare at him as if he were the criminal and they look upon you as an innocent civilian, free to go about your day. You walk out the court, while he is dragged away to face the death sentence.
Unfair? Highly! Insane act of love? Absolutely! Would never happen in the real world? That is for you to decide from weighing up the evidence on this website.
Our very lives exact a price upon our limited universe – we accrue a debt as we live. If you want to qualify for the next round, the books have to be balanced:
only an infinite God has the resources to subsume that level of debt and pay it Himself;
only a loving God would want to;
only a just God would see the need for it;
only a merciful God would do it with no-strings attached;
only a powerful God would set the stage of the Universe just right to achieve it (see 'My Purpose?' posts);
only Jesus was fully human and fully God to physically do it.
How do we know it worked? How do we know the sacrifice was “finished” and settled? God raised Jesus from the dead (death was defeated) and the curtain of the temple was torn in two (opening the Holy place so ordinary people could enter). The accounts of the universe have been balanced forever.
This doesn’t mean that we can now bypass physical death in this Universe. The Bible teaches that those who die believing in the Lord Jesus will be resurrected to life in the New Creation. This body made of atoms will perish so it can be raised imperishable (see 'Afterlife: Objection 1'). However, a death does take place: Jesus’ sacrifice means that we die to our old sinful nature this side of Heaven and begin the process of transformation that gets us ready for Eternity. Jesus told us to “store up for [ourselves] treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal”. Not everything has to be left when you leave this Earthly existence behind.
You can spend the rest of this lifetime, in Christ, building for Eternity things that will last: “[your] work will be shown for what it is, because the [Judgment] Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work...If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burnt up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” The "treasures of Heaven" are not referring to physical riches and assets but those things which will be the currency of the New Creation. The activity of the Holy Spirit in transformed lives is likened to a fruit harvest: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Maybe this will be the currency we have to spend -- the fruits of the Spirit that invested in the journey of others towards salvation. You may be saved, but will you have anything to show for your time on Earth? Will your personality have been moulded, ready to embrace the new Eternal reality and weaned off Earthly thinking? Who will be the people that stand alongside you, verifying that your life touched and aided them on their path to the Heavenly Jerusalem? Or will you stand before Jesus’ throne alone?
References  Romans 6:23  Genesis 22:1-19  John 3:3-7, 1 Peter 1:3  2 Cor 5:17  1 Peter 1:23, Eph 5:1-2, 2 Cor 5:17, Romans 12:1-2, 6:11, Eph 4:22-24  Romans 4:24, 4:5, 9:30, Phil 3:9  Phil 3:9  John 19:30  Romans 8:11, Eph 1:20, 1 Cor 6:14, 2 Cor 4:14, Acts 2:24, Acts 4:10, Acts 13:34, 1 Thess 1:10  Hebrews 10:19-20, Matt 27:51  Romans 6:5, John 5:25, 6:39, 2 Cor 5:1, Phil 3:21, 1 Cor 15:12-21  Gal 5:24, Romans 6:6  Matt 6:19-21  1 Cor 3:12-15  Gal 5:22-23  Romans 12:2  Matt 4:19, Matthew 28:18-20, Proverbs 27:17, 22:6, Deut 11:19, Eph 6:4, 1 John 2:15-17, 2 Cor 9:6, Proverbs 23:4, Matt 6:33, 1 Tim 4:8