Why did Jesus have to die the way that he did? We know why Jesus died. He died for political reasons. He was thought to be a potentially threatening freedom fighter for the Jews and the Kingdom of God. Anyone who hints at challenging Rome ended up on a cross.
He died for theological reasons. Through his death he appeased the wrath of God towards sinners and the creation so that the relationship could be reconciled and restored (“propitiation”). With God’s wrath appeased, he could a once again take up residence with us.
Similarly, he died to wash away our sin guilt through his sacrifice (“expiation”). He took the guilt, shame, brokenness, and corruption of the world onto himself so that we could be free.
He died for spiritual reasons. He made a mockery of Satan and the principalities and powers of darkness by demonstrating that love is more powerful than fear and death.
He died for historical reasons. Through his death, he ushered in the new age in human history, the age of the Spirit, in which believers no longer have to live under the oppression of the sin nature. In this age, believers are free to love others sacrificially and look not only to their own interests.
He also died because the Jewish temple officials couldn’t have him walking around subtly claiming that he was equal to God; that was blasphemous.
We can go on and list further reasons why Jesus died, but why did he have to suffer the way that he did? Why did he have to die a public, shameful death on a Roman cross? Why couldn’t he have died from cancer? Why couldn’t he have died peacefully in his sleep one night?
While I think the reasons are probably many, one of the main reasons he had to die this way was to demonstrate his unwavering obedience and faithfulness to the Father. He was going to obey no matter what. I would have no problem obeying God if he asked me to die peacefully in my sleep. Roman cross? Now way, I’m too important for that.
No matter how painful or embarrassing it would be, Jesus would do what his Father instructed; no questions asked. Even in the midst of his pain, in the darkest hour of suffering, he trusted his Father. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t say, “You want me to do what? No way! I didn’t do anything wrong!” No, he went willingly, like a lamb led to the slaughter.
He didn’t need to vindicate himself or prove to anyone that he was who he said he was (the only begotten Son of God). He didn’t need to defend himself because he knew that the Father would do it for him. God would vindicate him, and he did, through the resurrection.
Jesus’s unwavering faithfulness in the darkest hour is what we remember on this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. No matter how confused, dismal, and dark things seem, we trust that God has a plan and is in control. In the hour of darkness, Jesus is faithful.
Are we ready to follow Jesus’s example? It’s easy to be faithful during the high times. It’s easy to be faithful when we’re around like-minded people who share our opinions and values. It’s much harder to be faithful when we are mocked for our beliefs, or shamed by the insults of others for obeying what our Father has instructed us to do. Faith is easy but faithfulness is hard. Jesus is our example. Because of what he did, we can draw on his strength to sustain us and encourage us to be faithful even in the darkest hour. In that time, we don’t have to defend ourselves; we simply wait for God to vindicate us through the resurrection.