March 29, 2015
Why Did Jesus Die? by Pastor Fred Kinsey
The passion narrative is not so much a doctrine to be dissected, as it is a drama to be experienced. So I don’t want to add more drama with a full blown sermon today, but only to comment, and compliment, the power of the Passion.
So let me just ask one question, of the Passion, this morning. Why? Why did Jesus have to die? Church History and the Doctrine of the Church can tell us that Jesus died as a divine transaction calculated to fix what is wrong with us (the Son was sent by the God-head as a Sacrifice for our sins). But in the text of Mark’s Passion, the death of Jesus is much more complex, broad, and full of tensions.
One reason Jesus died, in the Passion According to Mark, was because of the betrayal, the denial, and the falling away of his closest supporters, his 12 Disciples. Judas, perhaps angry at the non-violent approach of this unique Messiah, hands him over to the authorities, in a tawdry human transaction, for 30 pieces of silver. Peter, always eager to please Jesus, fails his own promise, even as Jesus is on trial, denying that he knows him, three times. In the Garden of Gethsemane, his closest disciples can’t even stay awake with Jesus, in his most agonizing moments. And there is a mysterious, almost comical un-named follower, who is so afraid when soldiers grab him, that as he struggles to get away, his cloak is ripped off and he runs away naked, perhaps a reflection of how Jesus and the 12 Disciples all feel, as the end crashes in on them.
But Jesus also died because he spoke truth to power, and, both religious and secular authorities saw him and his movement as a threat. Both the High Priest and Pilate, colluded in some way, in the darkness of night, to condemn Jesus, and have him publically executed.
But there is still another reason. Jesus died because of his own Self-Giving Love. Mark makes it clear that Jesus chose, and understood, that he was voluntarily giving up his life for a purpose. It was not taken from him, but he is the one who gives it. He predicts three times that he will die and rise again, to his disciples; at the Last Supper he lifts up the bread as a symbol of his body, and the wine as a symbol of his blood, commanding us to remember his Passion; and even the silence of Jesus at his trial actually speaks loudly of his intention and knowledge of what he is doing.
But there is still at least one more reason Jesus died. Jesus died because of the inscrutable and unknowable will of God. As Jesus wrestles in the Garden of Gethsemane, with accepting the final steps on his journey, we see the Son giving his will and his life, over to the will and purpose of his Abba, the one he has called father throughout his ministry. Just as Jesus said in the three Passion predictions mid-way on his journey to the cross, that it must happen, the will of Jesus and the Father are lined up, together. Though, until we experience it, we can’t fully understand all the reasons why.
Why did Jesus die? Mark’s Passion is a rich and rewarding journey, not a doctrine to be dissected, but the Passion is a drama to be experienced and explored, again and again, by those of us who dare to conform our lives, to the courageous, winsome, and faithful life of Jesus. A life that never broke with his calling from God, and one, who endured everything we do: as when we are betrayed or we betray others, when others deny they know us, or we them, when friends fall away from each other; and when we, like Jesus, endure pressures and threats from the rich and powerful, who tax our lives, with little care for us.
Let us walk this final week, this Holy Week, with the one who is our model of faithfulness and Self-Giving Love – until on the 3rd day, we are raised again, together.