Greg Laurie: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Greg Laurie: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

I admit it: I am the guy who starts projects and often doesn’t finish them. I don’t know why. There’s something in me that will get right to the edge of completion, and I’ll say, “Well, I’ll get to it later.”

I’m so glad God isn’t like that. Aren’t you glad that God finishes what He begins? The Bible says He’s the author and finisher of our faith. Can you imagine the Lord saying, “I’m going to change this person. I’m going to do a work in them. I’m going to—eh, I’m tired of them. I’m moving on.” 

No, He finishes what He starts. I bring this up because one of the statements that Jesus made on the cross at Calvary was, “It is finished!” God completed the work He had sent His Son to do. 

Death by crucifixion is effectively death by suffocation. There was a base at the feet so the person could push himself up to get air into his lungs. And don’t forget that Jesus had already been whipped—scourged most likely with a Roman “cat of nine tails” whip—39 times. His back was shredded. His vital organs were probably exposed. A tremendous loss of blood. So it would have been very difficult to talk. He could barely breathe. But Jesus made seven significant statements as He hung on the cross. 

His first words were a prayer to the Father: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). 

His second words were a pardon to a sinner, a criminal who was crucified next to Him who had said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

Third, seeing His mother standing at the foot of the cross, Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son!” And, no doubt nodding toward the Apostle John who stood beside Mary, He said, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:26-27).

His fourth words were a plea to the Father, most likely when the sin of the world was poured upon Him: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). There on the cross, Jesus bore our sin. On the cross, God the Father treated Jesus as if He had lived your sinful life. And He did this so He could treat you and me as though we had lived His perfect life. That is the good news of the Gospel.

His fifth words were of a personal nature: “I thirst!” (John 19:28). Imagine, this is the Creator of the universe saying, “I thirst.” He could have called in an angel, who would have flown from Heaven with a chilled bottle of water for Him. He could have spoken and a river would have appeared. 

But though He was God, He never did miracles for His personal benefit. He only did miracles for the benefit of others. Jesus was fully God and He was fully human. He gave up the privileges of Deity and came to us as a servant. And so He said, “I thirst.” 

Now we come to the sixth statement. Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). In the original language, it’s the word tetelestai. It means it is completed; it is accomplished; it is done; it is finished. He didn’t say, “I’m finished.” He said, “It is finished.” 

What was finished? The work that the Father had given Him to do. Finished were the sufferings of Christ. Never again would He bear the sins of the world. Never again would He even for a moment be forsaken by God. Finished was Satan’s stronghold on humanity. The Bible says, “Through death, Christ destroyed him who had the power of death, who is the devil” (Cf. Hebrews 2:14). Death was defeated at the cross of Calvary and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Death died when Christ arose. 

Because the power of sin is broken, you don’t have to be under the power of any sin, any vice, any lifestyle. You don’t have to be under the power of alcohol. You don’t have to be under the power of drugs. You don’t have to be under the power of pornography. You don’t have to be under the power of your out-of-control temper. You don’t have to be under the power of anything or anyone, because Jesus has purchased your freedom at Calvary.

And He finished our salvation. It’s done. It’s paid for. It’s bought. You don’t need to add anything to it. It’s a gift to you. If you put your faith in Jesus, you can say with confidence, “I know that my sin is forgiven.”

Finally, He gave His seventh and final statement, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’” (Luke 23:46). 

In His seven statements from the cross, Jesus shows us how to die. When you’re on your deathbed, here are seven things you should consider as you get ready to pass from this world to the next.

First, He says, “Father, forgive them.” Is there someone you need to forgive? Can you let them know? Is reconciliation possible? Forgive them. The Bible says, “Be … tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). If Jesus could forgive the people who nailed Him to the cross even before they repented of their sin, surely you or I can forgive someone who has mistreated us.

Second, He says to the thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” The question is, do you have anyone you need to share the Gospel with? Let’s say this was your last day on earth. Is there someone you need to share the Gospel with? Get on the phone and start making some calls. Start texting them. Talk with them in person. Have that conversation you need to have.

Third, Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son!” Is there anyone you need to provide for before you leave this life? Someone who needs to be taken care of? Jesus thought about His own mother. 

Fourth, He says, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Because Jesus suffered separation from the Father for you, you will never suffer separation from God. So, when you come to the end of this life and you’re at death’s door, you don’t have to be afraid. 

Fifth, Jesus says, “I thirst.” When you’re passing from this life to the next, accept the help that is offered to you.

Sixth, He says, “It is finished!” You can rest in the finished work of Christ for you on the cross. You can anticipate the glory of Heaven. You can be certain you’re OK.

And finally, Jesus says, “Into Your hands I commit my spirit.” It reminds me of Stephen, the first martyr of the church. When he was being stoned, he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). And the Lord opened up Heaven and gave Stephen a glimpse of things to come. He saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. And I find that interesting because whenever you hear of Jesus in Heaven, He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father. But Stephen says, “I see Jesus, and He’s standing at the right hand of the Father” (Cf. Acts 7:56). Why was He standing? My opinion is that He was standing in honor of the first martyr: “Come home, son, I’m waiting for you. You’re welcome; don’t be afraid.”

That day will come for all of us. We don’t know when it will come, but we want to be prepared for that day. 

The title of this message is, “Why did Jesus have to die?” So let me answer that briefly.

First, Jesus suffered and died to show His love for us. Don’t ever doubt that God loves you; He proved it at the cross. It wasn’t nails that held Jesus to that cross. It was love. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Ephesians 5:25 says that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. The Apostle Paul personalized it and said that Christ “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Second, Jesus suffered and died to absorb the wrath of God. We offended God. We sinned against Him. We’ve crossed the line over and over again, sinning against Him. Jesus died in your place and took the judgment upon Himself that you should have taken upon yourself.

Third, Jesus suffered and died to cancel the legal demands against us. There’s no salvation by balancing records; there’s only salvation by canceling records. You had a lot of unpaid debts that you could have never paid, but Jesus took care of it for you. Colossians 2:13-14 says He forgave our sin, “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (ESV).

And fourth, Jesus suffered and died to provide your forgiveness and justification. You’re forgiven by God. And that’s more than enough, but then He’s also justified you, which means to not only remove your debt and forgive you of your sin, but He’s put His righteousness into your account. 

That’s what Jesus did for you at the cross. It is finished. It is completed. It’s all done. 

What’s going to happen to you when you die? Does death freak you out? If you’re not a Christian, death should freak you out. You should be scared to death of death. But if you know Jesus, you don’t have to be afraid. You do not have to be afraid, because God has you covered. Death is just leaving this world for the next one, and trust me, the next world is a whole lot better than this one. ©2020 Greg Laurie


Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. The Scripture quotation marked ESV is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

Greg Laurie is senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, one of the largest churches in the United States, with campuses in California and Hawaii. He is the author of more than 70 books and serves on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

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