Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

April 3, 2012

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

The question “Why did Jesus have to die?” is often asked, especially during this Holy Week. The answer can be looked at from three perspectives with three different questions. Share these with your students in a brief presentation.

First, “Why did Jesus’ accept his death?” The answer can be found in several places in Scripture (e.g., Jn 8:21–30; 12:23–24; 16:7–11). Jesus does what is pleasing to the Father. He is like the grain of wheat that must die in order to bring new life. Jesus desires to return to the Father. At Gethsemane on the night before he died, Jesus voices his fears about pain and death. He does not want to die, but he will accept pain and death if it is the Father’s will (Lk 22:41–42).

The second question is “Why did some people wish to put Jesus to death?” These reasons vary from greed (Judas), to political expediency (Pilate), to false obedience to superiors (the soldiers who arrested Jesus and carried out his crucifixion).

Finally, the third perspective is “Why did God the Father permit Jesus to die?” This question is best answered in Hebrews 5:7–10:

"In the days when [Jesus] was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek."

In other words, God’s motivation for allowing Jesus to die was Salvation for all humankind. All three of these plans and motivations (Jesus’, his opponent’s, and God the Father’s) worked together to form one plan of salvation. Salvation is the permanent union between God and all who love God.

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