Why did Jesus have to die?
That's why Jesus 'had' to die. Because until the moment of his death, there was the possibility of him changing his mind. In fact, even when he was on the cross, he was tempted him to do just that. "Come down from the cross, save yourself, then we'll believe you".
So the question quickly morphs into this one:
What choice was so important that it had to be validated by death?
Now at the heart of love is the freedom to choose. Paul writes that 'love does not insist on it's own way'. And we see that built into the heart of creation - God puts us in a garden in which there are two trees; one leads to life, the other to death. Like any loving Father, he gives boundaries, clearly stating the consequence of each choice, but then, out of love, gives the power to choose.
First Adam (the Bible's description for mankind) is tempted by Satan to become like God in attributes as well as character. Always impressed by power, reach and knowledge, the enemy thinks we will be too and tempts mankind to be like God in areas of His knowledge. He was right. In a garden, First Adam grasped at what wasn't his, at what he didn't need and in so doing, broke relationship with God. Previously everything we needed came from God, he gladly supplied it, not to control, but to bless. Now, we have all the needs that we had before, but we can't receive what we need from God. We will have to work for them, making do with paltry substitutes; security instead of peace, entertainment instead of joy, pleasure instead of fulfilment, living instead of life.
And because we have handed over the power we received to the enemy, he has authority to act directly against us, enslaving us, blinding us to the real situation, creating a worldview that thinks these substitutes are the real thing, that our dissatisfaction can be overcome by acquiring more of them. So we live in a world where death is all around, creating pain, suffering, disease and every evil thing.
God knew at the outset that this was a possibility, that mankind, against all reason, might choose the way of death. Of course, one of the lies the enemy has sown is that it was inevitable. That it was impossible for mankind to always live in perfect relationship with God. that somehow the fall was built into the fabric of creation and that rather than being our choice, our responsibility, it is in some way God's fault. First Adam took the same view "The woman you gave me, she did it"
Talk about tough choices. Knowing in principle the pain and awful suffering it would cause, God's considered view was that the joy of us living in perfect relationship with him and each other was worth the potential pain. Even when the rescue plan included coming in person and bearing the consequences himself. More than that, He believed that in the end, when all things were concluded, we would freely agree.
In Genesis 1:2 it talks about the 'spirit of God brooding' John puts it like this in his gospel 'In the beginning was the conversation'. From the outset, God counted the cost, evaluated the options and chose to commit to creation. It's the equivalent of making the call to the dentist. The plan is in place should it be needed.
The plan is for a new Adam to come and reverse the effects of First Adam's choices. But how does that work?
Not like God in attributes
Like God in character
Falls to temptation
Grasps at equality with God
Looks like they keep living
But the consequence isdeath
Like God in attributes
Like God in character
Does not grasp
Empties himself of all the attributes
Looks like death won
But the consequence is life
And in that garden, the commitment made in Genesis must be turned into reality. That which seemed worth it in theory must now be re-evaluated in the face of it's actuality. Jesus sweats blood over the choice. No temptation ever greater. No question harder to answer.
Are these people worth it? Worth the unbearable agony, the crushing pain of sickness, disease, hatred and death? Worth the outrage, the wrath of God, poured out on glib humanity through this representative? Are we worth it? Are you worth it?
In the midst of that agony, the mob arrives and Judas kisses him. Jesus looks beyond the crowd, beyond the cross and looks into your eyes. Your fallen, broken, sinful, hopeful, downtrodden, exalted eyes and decides. Holding out his arms, almighty God chooses. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross. The joy of breaking open a way for you and him to be in eternal loving relationship, starting now.
And in dying, the choice is forever sealed. It cannot be revoked, that's why he had to die. Even in the face of death, Last Adam persisted in identifying with humanity,being like God intended, demonstrating that it was possible. And by that, simultaneously judging the sinful choice of First Adam and at the same time, undoing it.
Wow! What does that mean for me?
And when we finally die, those choices are sealed, irrevocable and God gives us what we have chosen. Unfettered relationship with him and all who love him; life for ever, in all it's glory and wonder. life without death or any of the symptoms of death.
Just as it was for Jesus, this is not a casual choice, nor a one off choice. It is a deliberate, blood-sweating choice that needs to be made day by, day, moment by moment, until you die.
Is he worth it? Is Jesus worth the abandoning of everything the world says is valuable?
Now you've heard it too....