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And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
— Mark 14:32-42

As Lent draws near, the resurrection is on my mind. But you can’t have the resurrection without a death. So this question must be answered. Why did Jesus die?

We know from scripture that Jewish leaders plotted against him, Judas betrayed him, Herod and Pilate tried him, and the Roman soldiers executed him. But that’s not the real reason. As Acts 2:23 says, Jesus was “handed over by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.”

Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Pet. 3:18) The purpose of bringing us to God implies that, prior to Jesus dying, we were far away. “You who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

Friends, our sin needed to be dealt with to bring us near: “Christ died for sins” (1 Pet. 3:18). The Bible does not mince words when it comes to human disobedience and its consequences. Hear that again. The Bible does not mince words when it comes to human disobedience and its consequences. Paul says in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” All humans stand condemned before God; our sins separate us from him whose character is pristine holiness and perfect justice. We are not in line with God when sin is left unaccounted.

To bring us near to God, “Christ died for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet. 3:18). If “the unrighteous” is all of us, “the righteous” is Jesus himself. The one who “knew no sin, became sin” (2 Cor. 5:21)—our sin—so that we might receive mercy. There is simply no way to be a Christian without this understanding.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus died in our place. He paid the price for our redemption when he “gave his life as a ransom in the place of many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus reconciled us to God by bearing our sins himself (1 Pet. 2:24). “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood” (Rom. 3:25), exhausting God’s wrath against our unrighteousness. It is the only way we are redeemed.

Jesus’s death in our place is in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures. His death fulfills the old covenant sacrifices, such as the sin offering, the Passover lamb, and the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement. He’s the Suffering Servant who was “pierced for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5).

God’s love is all over that Holy Week. From the time Jesus entered the city to a chorus of hallelujahs to moment he took his final breath, God’s eternal love is profoundly evident. At the cross, we see the climax of God’s covenants with Israel, and we witness the final and dramatic proof of his love and justice.

Christ’s death puts beyond all doubt the fact that God loves us. It assures us that no matter what life throws at us, we can trust that “he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all . . . will also graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32).

At the cross we see not only God’s love, but the seriousness with which he takes our sin. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement . . . to demonstrate his justice” (Rom. 3:25–26).

God doesn’t forgive us by turning a blind eye to our sin or by overlooking it. Forgiveness is costly to the one against whom the wrong has been done.

Honestly, where would we be if God had not sent his Son to die for us? Without the cross, we’d be “darkened in our understanding of God and alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18).

The death of Jesus is for life, not just for Easter. The death of Jesus changes everything. As you prepare to take the final few steps of Lent, join Paul in saying, “I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). Praise God!!