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Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of the chief priests and the officers of the temple police and the elders? They were the ones who came out with swords into the dark of the garden. They were the ones who provided the thirty pieces of silver, who plotted day by day as Jesus spoke in the temple. They were full of fear: fear of a revolt by the people, fear of losing their own privileged positions in the Jerusalem hierarchy, fear of God’s kingdom of righteousness and justice and peace breaking in. Did Jesus die because of their fear and jealousy and ambition?

Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of Judas, the keeper of the money, who had followed Jesus almost from the beginning? Judas had heard him teach, seen him bring healing and hope, and watched forgiveness flow from his fingertips. Judas had been full of hopes for Jesus, keyed up on the walk to Jerusalem, waiting for the revolution to come. Was he disappointed that Jesus did not start gathering an army? Was he disappointed that this great leader was ignoring the only sure path to power? Is that why he slipped away in the night to whisper Jesus’ whereabouts to the officers of the temple for 30 pieces of silver? Is that why he betrayed his master with a kiss? Did Jesus die because of Judas’s disappointed hopes?

Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of the soldiers who were in charge of him overnight? They blindfolded him and beat him, saying, “Prophesy! Tell us who hit you!” Was it their glee in having someone new to torture that carried Jesus through the night? When he arrived before the assembly of elders in the morning, he was no longer the Jewish teacher from Nazareth but a prisoner—bruised and bloody, beaten up and tortured. Did Jesus die because of the soldiers’ joy in violence?

Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of Herod? Herod had wanted to meet Jesus for a long time. Herod had hoped to see a miracle or two, perhaps even be forgiven. Herod, whose father had murdered all the boys Jesus’s age in Bethlehem, now hoped that the one who got away would entertain him. Herod, who had beheaded John the Baptist for the sake of a dance, now wished for John’s cousin to perform for him. But Jesus did nothing. Said nothing. Is that why Herod’s soldiers put the robe on him, punched him a few more times, shouted their insults in his face? Did they hope to provoke him to some sign, some wonder? Did Jesus die because he would not do signs and wonders for the king?

Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of Pilate? Pilate had ruled the Jews for a few years. He knew that at the feast of Passover, rebellious feelings ran high as Jerusalem filled with Jews from far and wide hoping for a new exodus and a new Moses.

Though Pilate could find no grounds for Jesus’ death, he became increasingly afraid of the violent crowd. Pilate had all the power and control—and no power and control. And so he had Jesus beaten and handed him over. Did Jesus die because Pilate was afraid of a revolt?

Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of the assembly of elders, both chief priest and scribes, who tried him that morning? Was it because they didn’t believe he was the Son of Man? Was it because they didn’t believe he was the Son of God? Did they think that when he said he was the Son of God that he was claiming to be the king? Or the Messiah? Or both?

They were the ones who brought him before Pilate and accused him of treason, of refusing to pay taxes to Rome. They were the ones who said that Jesus had called himself a king and who insisted that they had no king but Caesar. They were the ones who demanded that Jesus be crucified, no matter how many times Pilate tried to release him. Did Jesus die because of the hatred of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes?

Why did Jesus die?

Did Jesus die because we shouted "Crucify him, crucify him!"? Did Jesus die because of us?

Was it because of the crowds? The people he had healed, the people he had forgiven? The people he had freed from demons, the people he had fed? The ones who had listened to his stories, the ones with whom he had eaten? The people who wanted to make Jesus king waved palms as he approached Jerusalem. Had they drawn too much attention to him at the start?

Later, when they saw him, beaten up and tortured, it was the crowd who shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him!” It was the crowd who called for the release of Barabbas. Who cared if he had murdered someone? At least he knew how to resist the Romans! Did Jesus die because the crowd wanted him to be a different kind of king?

Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of us? Was it because of the way we share in this story? Was it because we share the fear and jealousy and ambition of the chief priests and the officers of the temple police? Was it because we share the disappointed hopes of Judas when it comes to the plan of God? Was it because we take joy in the violence the soldiers demonstrated? Did Jesus die because, like Herod, we favor entertainment over justice? Or did he die because, like Pilate, we prefer to keep the peace rather than do what we know to be right? Did Jesus die because of our hatred? Because we too want a different kind of king to rule over this world? Did Jesus die because we shouted “Crucify him, crucify him!”? Did Jesus die because of us?

Why did Jesus die?

Was it because of God? God, who made a covenant with a sinful and broken world. God, who promised that someday blessing would come to all people through the offspring of Abraham. God, who refused to give up on people, coming in love again and again to woo them back to himself. God, whose heart had broken over the sin and brokenness and despair that filled the creation.

God knew there was no way his wayward people could ever bring about healing and wholeness on their own. He knew there was no way they could get rid of the evil in their midst; he knew there was just one way: to offer himself up in love. Did Jesus die because of the love of God?

Why did Jesus die?

Maybe Jesus died because of it all: the hatred, the jealousy, the disappointment, the fear, the love of violence and entertainment. Because of us all: soldiers, rulers, elders, disciples, followers, mothers, fathers, children—sinners all.

But most of all, Jesus died because of God’s deep, deep love for the world—a love so deep that he gave his life to bring peace to us and to all creation.

Why did Jesus die?

Because of love. Because of love.

About the Author

Sylvia C. Keesmaat teaches biblical studies at the Toronto School of Theology. She is a member of Lindsay (Ontario) Christian Reformed Church.

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Comments

Amen.

Thanks Sylvia.
Great question! Great reflection! Great answer!
Virgil

Thank you Silvia. I preached on the question "Why did Jesus die?" this past Sunday. Being a different person I developed the sermon in a different way. But my answer came out the same. Because of love. I hope all my people read your article. then they might remember.

Jesus died for you, for me , for our sins. He died that we might be forgiven. But we keep on sinning. when is the people of this world( you , me included)going to wake up and realize that until we put God first, things will not change. Jesus' love for us is the reason he died

The one and the only thing that Jesus thought us while He was in this world is LOVE (to love one another). Jesus died for the love of God to His own creation that is us and He also gave the great command 'to love one another' by making it (love) practical while He was in this world. Those who 'love' do really have the Spirit of God that is capable to raise our soul from death.