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Why a Bloody Death for Jesus?

In a few weeks time, on Good Friday, Christians around the world will remember the horrible and bloody death of Jesus for the sins of the world. Still, others will express their disdain for the Bible's depiction of Christ’s bloody sacrifice on the cross. They see it as barbaric, horrific and totally unnecessary. Christians would agree that it was barbaric and horrific, but they see it as totally necessary.

The early church faced this same repulsion over Christ's death from non believers as some express today. The Apostle Paul pointed out that “The message of the cross was foolishness to those who are headed for destruction! But to others who were being saved by its message – they knew it to be the very power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18.).

But, some will still object, “Christ shedding his blood for us seems totally unnecessary and very gruesome. Why doesn’t God just simply forgive us? Why did God have to let his Son die on a cross?

At the heart of the biblical narrative is God’s love for the world. And that love necessitated Jesus’s death on a cross. There is no easier way to explain that necessity than to state what the Scriptures have to say about Jesus’ death on that cross.

Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary because we are all sinners. Paul wrote, “for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).” Paul was pointing out that no one could ever be good enough to merit God’s salvation because of their sin. So, this is why Paul went on to say, “God sent him [Jesus] to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith in the blood of Jesus’ death” (Rom. 3:25).

God is a loving God, but because God is also a holy and righteous judge, he cannot let sin (our lawless and ungodly deeds and behaviour) go unpunished. At the cross, God poured out His judgment on His Son, satisfying His wrath and making it possible for Him to forgive us. That’s why Jesus shed His blood for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world.

But let me explain further. The Apostle Peter reminds all who have received God’s forgiveness for their sins that the blood of Jesus shed on the cross was the means for accomplishing that forgiveness. He said in 1 Pet. 1:18-19, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

The Israelites also knew all about sacrifices for sin. Throughout the Old Testament the Jewish people had to have animals sacrificed for their sins. It wasn’t just a sacrifice here and there it was a constant occurrence. It wasn’t a pretty picture. But their animal sacrifices were a constant reminder of the appalling nature of their sins before a holy God. The writer of Hebrews though reminds us of the limitations of such sacrifices, “But, those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.[1] So, the world needed something more, and someone else, to make up what the Old Testament sacrifices could never accomplish – the eternal forgiveness of our sins.

In the New Testament, Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth to reunite us with God through the ultimate sacrifice of his own life. He voluntarily went to the cross. He was not coerced by anyone. He said, “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again” (Jn. 10:17–18).

On the cross, Jesus voluntarily took the punishment we deserved for our sin. He did not deserve to die, but He willingly took our place and experienced death for us. Jesus’ death was a substitution, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18), the innocent for the guilty, the perfect for the corrupt.

The orthodox Christian doctrine of the substitutionary atonement teaches that Christ suffered vicariously, being substituted for the sinner, and that His sufferings were expiatory (that is, His sufferings made amends to God for our sins).

Jesus took our place in that He was made sin for us. The Bible says, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Cor. 5:21). As Jesus was hanging on the cross, suspended between earth and heaven, the sins of the world were placed on Him. The Apostle Peter said, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right’ (1Pet. 2:24).

God’s Law was saying, “You are guilty of sin against a holy God. Justice demands your life.” Jesus answers, “Take My life instead.” The fact that Jesus took our place shows God’s great love: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

The scope of Christ’s death is outlined by the Apostle John in 1 John 2:2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Your sins and mine were included in that ultimate sacrifice. The Apostle Peter says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

One way to understand the meaning of Christ's death is to imagine a courtroom scene in which we are on trial for our sins and God is the judge. Our sins against God are capital crimes. God Himself is our judge, and according to divine law our crimes deserve the death penalty. Death here means not just a physical death, but also a spiritual death, one that eternally separates us from God and places us in unending torment.

But Christ took our punishment allowing God to forgive us. By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus took the punishment we deserve and offered us His righteousness. When we trust Christ for our salvation, essentially, we are making a trade. By faith, we trade our sin and its accompanying death penalty for His righteousness and eternal life.

The picture of Christ shedding his blood and suffering in our place may seem barbaric, but the eternal salvation of all who would desire to go to heaven is dependent upon it.

Let me share with you a story about the late world evangelist, Dr. Billy Graham, and the power of the cross:

In 1955 Billy Graham was invited to speak at Cambridge University to the students in Great St Mary’s Hall for a week of evening meetings. When it came out to the public that he was going to be doing that, letters appeared in The Times of London. These letters were very upset that this fundamentalist Baptist American preacher was going to come and speak to Britain’s best and brightest about a primitive kind of religion based on blood, atonement and hell.
Graham admitted that this got to him. He smarted under the characterization of being an uneducated evangelist. He was extremely nervous preparing his messages for the Cambridge crowd, comprised of university professors and doctors, theologians, and numerous other intellectual elites from the community. So, the first three nights he was there, he quoted intellectuals and scholars and sought to speak in more of an academic tone – but he could sense that his message was falling flat. The halls were packed but the response was tepid. His preaching did not elicit any significant response.
So, on the last night, Graham decided to ditch the intellectual quotes. He decided he was just going to preach on the blood of Jesus Christ. He decided that instead of trying to boast in his intellectual prowess, he was going to forget everything else and simply boast in the cross.
Anglican pastor and founder of The Proclamation Trust, Dick Lucas, later recounted:
I’ll never forget that night. I was in a totally packed chancel sitting on the floor with the Regius Professor of Divinity sitting on one leg, the chaplain of a college who was a future bishop on the other. Now, both were good men in many ways, but they were completely against the idea that you needed salvation from sin by the blood of Christ. And that night dear Billy got up and started at Genesis and went right through the whole Bible and he talked about every single blood sacrifice you can imagine. The blood was just flowing all through Great St. Mary’s everywhere for three-quarters of an hour. And both my neighbors were terribly embarrassed by this crude proclamation of the blood of Christ. It was everything they disliked and dreaded. But at the end of the sermon, to everybody’s shock, about four hundred young men and women stayed to commit their lives to Christ.
Lucas recalled, I remembered meeting a young pastor some years later, a Cambridge graduate, at Birmingham Cathedral. Over a cup of tea I said, “Where did Christian things begin for you?”
Oh, at Cambridge in fifty-five,” he said. “When?” “Billy Graham.” “What night?” “It was Wednesday night.” “How did that happen?” “Well,” he said, “all I remember is that I walked out of Great St Mary’s for the first time in my life thinking ‘Christ really died for me.” This man experienced the reality of God’s forgiveness for the first time, and he was never the same.
I do not think the college faculty would have ever believed such a simple message about the cross and the blood of Christ forgiving sin could have changed the life of this young man, but it did, and it can for anyone who receives it.[2]

I am not surprised that the Apostle Paul also arrived at the same conclusion as Billy Graham. Paul said in Galatians 6:10, “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22).

Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ as the substitute for your sin? Do you believe that Jesus died for you in order to give you eternal life and that He rose from the dead victorious over sin? If not, I want to encourage you to receive Jesus as your Savior right now. You can express your desire in a prayer like this:

Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe you died for my sins and rose again. I trust in you as my Savior now. Forgive me of my sins and make me into the kind of person you would have me to be. Thank you for your gift of eternal life. Amen.

Paul told the Romans 10:9-10, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

If you've prayed this prayer above and you wish to find out more about knowing God and His plan for you in the Bible, please contact us, we would love to talk with you.

And don't forget that Easter tells the other side of the story. After his death and burial, Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death. Because of his resurrection, we have the hope of eternal life with him.


[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Heb 10:3–4. [2] Jared C. Wilson, “Narratives of Surprising Conversions”,, August 2, 2019.

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