The Gospels tell us Jesus died in the spring at the time of the Passover. But why did He have to die? To understand, we need to realize why it was Jesus' destiny to enter this chaotic, sin-sick world.
Why did Jesus Christ have to die?
Scholars and theologians, ministers and teachers have long pondered the meaning of the life and death of the teacher from Nazareth. Jesus Christ was born and lived on earth for a little more than three decades. But why did He come? Few realize that ultimately there was no other option—Jesus had to be born!
God's great plan for mankind included the necessity of a savior, a redeemer of mankind. Here are seven reasons, leading up to the greatest of all, that Jesus the Messiah, the very Son of God, had to be born.
1. Jesus had to be born because of mankind's sin.
God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a beautiful environment that supplied their every need. In the Garden of Eden our original human parents found food plentiful, animals tame and a loving teacher—God Himself—accompanying them and teaching them everything they needed to know.
If Adam and Eve had obeyed God, they could have bridged the gap between mortality and immortality; they had access to the tree of life.
They had every advantage, so what went wrong? Adam and Eve did what every other human being has done: They sinned . They disobeyed God.
God gave our original human parents the gift of free choice. He gave them the ability to decide whether they would obey Him, and they missed the mark. God allowed Satan, in the form of a serpent, to attempt to subvert God's will for mankind (Genesis 3:1-4). The devil appealed to Eve's vanity, convincing her she could be as God Himself, "knowing good and evil" (verse 5).
Satan, in a blatant lie, told Eve she didn't have to depend on God for anything. Satan posed as the liberator, offering Eve instant gratification. Eve was willingly deceived by this appeal to her vanity, so she ate the forbidden fruit and presented the same fruit to her husband. Adam then also ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (verse 6).
Why did Satan's deception of Adam and Eve mean that Christ had to be born? The Savior had to be born because mankind, after the sin of Adam and Eve, would have been eternally lost—cut off from God—had not Jesus come to earth and allowed Himself to be sacrificed to save mankind from its sins, which began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
2. Jesus had to be born because God wanted to reveal His own character to humanity.
God wanted to reveal His righteous character to Adam and Eve and to all of mankind so they could become like Him in mind and spirit.
God created our two original parents in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7). Accordingly, God instructed them to exercise their free will by urging them to look to Him as the revealer of good and evil. God gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to embrace His divine wisdom.
Tragically, Adam and Eve followed the father of lies, Satan, and both ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This wrong choice, this rebellion against their Creator, severed their close relationship with Him. God cast them out of the Garden of Eden, cutting off their access to the tree of life, which was symbolic of God's Holy Spirit (Genesis 3:22-23).
Why did God's desire to reveal His character to mankind mean Jesus had to be born? Jesus had to be born because Adam and Eve failed to carry out God's mandate to glorify Him in their lives. It was left for the Son of God, thousands of years later, to ultimately fulfill the divine revelation of God's character and purpose for man.
3. Jesus had to be born to remove the sins of humankind through a perfect sacrifice.
Noah and the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—offered sacrifices to God. God asked Abraham, the father of the faithful, to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of faith and obedience. Though God intervened to stop Abraham from actually going through with it, Abraham's willingness to give up his son foreshadowed the role of God the Father, who "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" as a sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16). Isaac, in offering no resistance, was a forerunner of Jesus, who willingly and obediently offered His life's blood for the sins of the world.
Hundreds of years before Jesus' birth , God revealed through His faithful servant Moses a religious system that included animal sacrifices and offerings. ". . . Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle . . . so you shall make it" (Exodus 25:8-9).
God instructed His people during this time to set up in the wilderness the tabernacle, the tent that was the forerunner of the temple. God filled the tabernacle with His glory (Exodus 40:34-35). God's Spirit in this earthly tent pointed forward to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the minds and hearts of Christians.
Why did the need for a perfect sacrifice mean that Jesus had to be born? It was because the earlier, physical sacrifices were imperfect. They could not take away the penalty for sin (Hebrews 10:4).
God instructed the Israelites in the need for sacrifice, but they had access only to physical forerunners of the ultimate sacrifice, which would come later in the form of Christ Himself. God instructed His people to participate in the physical rituals of animal sacrifices not because they were sufficient to remove people's sins, but because of the lessons they taught—that sacrifices were necessary because of mankind's sins.
Jesus had to be born because, without the true sacrifice, humanity was doomed. All would die, with no hope beyond the grave.
4. Jesus had to be born for mankind to have a Mediator.
Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant, God replaced the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood with the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Himself. "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6).
But what were the terms of the New Covenant? God explained that "this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (verse 10, quoting Jeremiah 31:33).
The law written on the believer's heart under the terms of the New Covenant is the immutable spiritual law of God. Paul wrote that this law, summarized by the Ten Commandments, is "holy, and the commandment holy and just and good . . . For we know that the law is spiritual . . ." (Romans 7:12-14). This law serves as the basis for the covenant agreement. Psalm 19:7 tells us that "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul."
The understanding that Jesus is the mediator between God and mankind makes it easier for us to comprehend that the ministry of Christ is an administration superior to the Levitical priesthood.
This understanding lets the believer purge his conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). Upon acceptance of the terms of the New Covenant, the believer is imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit so God can write His laws on the believer's heart and mind (Hebrews 8:8).
Why does the need for a mediator mean Jesus had to be born? It is because the priesthood, staffed by the Levites, as revealed in the Old Testament, was imperfect. It was only a forerunner. Jesus had to be born because the salvation of mankind requires something better.
5. Jesus had to be born to provide the promised Seed of Abraham.
God promised Abraham that through his (Abraham's) "seed," or descendants, all nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:14-16).
Through faith in God and His name, people of all nations have access to God's mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation with God the Father. God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34). Indeed, His plan of redemption includes all people of all races, of all national and ethnic groups. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:28-29).
The key word here is heirs . Through Christ, believers become sons of God (Romans 8:14). "And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ . . ." (verse 17).
Under the Old Covenant, God chose a physical people, Israel, to set the example for other nations (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Israel, being unconverted and subject to the frailties of humanity, failed. But the Israelites were forerunners of a converted, spiritual Israel, which includes believers of every ethnicity and nationality (Galatians 3:27-29; 6:15-16; Romans 2:28-29).
Jesus had to be born to provide the promised spiritual fulfillment of the Seed of Israel. Jesus, quite appropriately, was a literal, physical descendant of Abraham. He was Abraham's Seed, through whom all nations of the world would be blessed.
6. Jesus had to be born for God to make His Spirit available to all humankind.
Not only did Jesus have to be born, but He had to pay the penalty for our sins through His own death, then be resurrected to ascend to the Father as our High Priest. Only then would humanity at large be able to receive and benefit from the incredible gift of God's Holy Spirit.
"This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear" (Acts 2:32-33).
On the Day of Pentecost, only a few weeks after Jesus died and was resurrected, God poured out His Spirit on the few assembled followers of Jesus. Peter, who was among that early gathering, summarized what we must do to receive the Spirit of God. He powerfully proclaimed, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (verse 38).
Why was Jesus' physical birth essential to His followers' receiving of the Holy Spirit? Because no one is worthy to receive the Holy Spirit, and we must be begotten of God through His Spirit to receive eternal life.
Jesus' death—His ultimate sacrifice—made possible the forgiveness of sins, which in turn enables us to look forward to living and reigning with Christ in the Kingdom of God. Without Jesus' birth, none of this would be possible.
Through Christ, God has restored that which was lost in the Garden of Eden: access to a right relationship with God and access to the tree of life. Through the sacrifice of Christ, God has made possible this right relationship with mankind. "As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people'" (2 Corinthians 6:16).
God has made it possible for all mankind—every person—to come voluntarily into an intimate relationship with Him. This could not have been possible, in God's great plan, without the birth and subsequent sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
7. Jesus had to be born for God to redeem mankind.
The salvation of mankind was dependent on Jesus coming to earth and living a perfect life, then dying as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world—for every disobedience, by every man and woman who has ever lived, to God's righteous laws.
All of this is another way of saying that Jesus had to be born because He is our Redeemer. God in His infinite mercy foreordained His plan of redemption for sinful mankind through Christ (1 Peter 1:20). Jesus was declared to be "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" to redeem humanity (Revelation 13:8).
But why does sin require a redeemer? The Bible shows us that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23), and "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all have earned the death penalty for sin. People speak of human "rights," yet the only real right anyone has earned is the right to eternal death.
But God has made allowance for sinners to be redeemed, or bought back, from the death penalty by a redeemer. Romans 5 calls Jesus "the second Adam," in contrast to the first, the original man. The first Adam brought sin into the world (verse 12). The second Adam—Jesus Christ—brought redemption, reconciliation and the hope of eternal life (verses 6-10).
Since the wages of sin is death, redemption requires the sacrificial death of the Redeemer.
God promised a redeemer
God promised a redeemer to Adam and Eve even before He cast them out of the Garden of Eden. After the Creator confronted our first parents with their sins, He spoke to Satan, who appeared in the form of the serpent. He told him, ". . . I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).
What is the meaning of this prophecy, and what does it have to do with the redemption of humanity?
As Walter Kaiser Jr. writes in his book The Messiah in the Old Testament : "Genesis 3:15 has commonly been called the protoevangelium (the 'first gospel') because it was the original proclamation of the promise of God's plan for the whole world . . . The 'seed/offering' mentioned in this verse became the root which the tree of the OT [Old Testament] promise of a Messiah grew. This, then, was the 'mother prophecy' that gave birth to all the rest of the [messianic] promises" (1995, p. 38).
In this great prophecy, "woman" can refer to Eve, the mother of all living, who was present in the garden. "Woman" in prophecy can also symbolize Israel—the physical nation or the spiritual Israel, the Church of God (Revelation 12:1, 6, 13; compare Genesis 37:9-10).
In this particular prophecy, then, we should consider that through the woman Eve, the mother of all living, will come the "woman" Israel. Revelation 12 pictures a child being born of the woman Israel. The nation gives birth to this child through an actual woman. Thus we have here also a picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus: ". . . A woman . . . being with child . . . cried out in labor and in pain to give birth . . . And the dragon [Satan] stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born" (Revelation 12:1-4).
With this background in mind, we can see the prophecy becoming clearer. The Seed of woman (Christ) bruises the head of Satan by eventually nullifying his influence (Romans 16:20). In the meantime, however, the devil wages war against Jesus.
Satan attempted to "devour" the woman's child by influencing Herod to order the murder of all male children age 2 and younger in Bethlehem, and Satan eventually instigated Jesus' crucifixion.
However, Satan's scheme backfired, for the death of the Son of God provided mankind with a redeemer.
History of redemption
Redemption is a prominent theme throughout the Bible. God, in His love and mercy, is long-suffering, not willing that any should ultimately perish (2 Peter 3:9). He wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of His truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
Because sin results in death—physical and eternal death—and the promised redeemer had not yet been born, God in days of old revealed to Moses a religious system based on animal sacrifices and offerings.
Israel came into God's presence through sacrifices the Levitical priesthood offered at the tabernacle and later the temple. However, these sacrifices could never provide redemption for sins to enable worshipers to receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:1-4). They could provide only a temporary ceremonial cleansing that represented the genuine cleansing to come through Christ's sacrifice.
Lacking the heart and mind for true obedience, Israel as a whole neglected its promise to obey God and keep His commandments. Instead, the Israelites gradually placed far more importance on the sacrificial laws and their oral traditions. Obedience from the heart became far less important than physical sacrifice and ritual.
By the time of Jesus' life on earth, the Israelites were placing more emphasis on their own oral tradition than on the law of God. Jesus asked the Pharisees, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:3-9).
God gave the ancient Israelites His great, immutable spiritual law. But at the same time He gave them a temporary physical system for worshiping Him. The spiritual law revealed to people the basis for conducting their affairs with God and their fellow man (Matthew 22:35-40). The physical system of rituals served mostly to remind them of their sinful nature and the need to be clean and without spot or blemish when they came into God's presence.
This physical dimension was temporary, however, until the promised Redeemer would come and pay the ultimate price for sin (Hebrews 9:9-12).
Jesus the Messiah is the promised Redeemer. He had to be born for humanity to be redeemed from sin.
As we noted earlier, Peter summarized what we must do to be redeemed: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Through Christ's blood God forgives our sins, and by Christ we receive the promise of eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:12-15).
Through Christ, God has restored that which was lost in Eden—access to the tree of life. Moreover, repentant people have become the temple of the living God.
"As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (2 Corinthians 6:16). Yes, God has made it possible for all people to enter an intimate relationship with Him—which is why Jesus had to be born.