Rector's Reflections - 29 March

Rector’s Daily Reflections  

Friday 29th March 2024

Why was Jesus Crucfied?

We have now reached the end of the current series of reflections. We have tried to provide some answers to the question: why was Jesus crucified?  The simplest answer to the question is that Jesus was crucified because Pontius Pilate decided that he was a threat to the Roman Empire.  The Jewish religious leaders of the time also viewed Jesus as a threat, and the majority of the religious leaders seem to have been in favour of his crucifixion. And once the powers that be had reached the decision they had, there was nothing that Jesus’ followers could do about it They lacked the resources,  the courage, and perhaps the desire to challenge the decision which Pilate had taken.

These explanations are explanations which might be offered by any historian looking at the available evidence. They do not include consideration of any issues of theology. In short, these explanations intentionally leave God out of the picture. 

But what if we allow ourselves to consider a theological explanation of Jesus’ death? This invites to consider an area of theology called the Doctrine of the Atonement.  Hundreds, probably thousands, of books and articles have been written on the subject of the Atonement.  It is too large a subject to be dealt with in the current series of reflections, even in the most summary of ways. However,  I think it might helpful to finish the current series of reflections with some thoughts on the subject from John’s gospel.

For John,  Jesus was crucified because this was a necessary part of God’s plan to bring about the salvation of the world.  John saw Jesus’s death on the cross not as a defeat , but as a victory. Through Jesus’ death,  all who believe in him  can receive the gift of eternal life. 

This is what John writes in chapter 3 of his gospel: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Later, in chapter 10, Jesus speaks the following words: “ I am the Good Shepherd.  I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. I have received this command from the Father.”

 For John, the answer to the question, “Why was Jesus crucified?”, is straightforward. Jesus was crucified because this was the means by which God the Father planned to bring about the redemption of the world through the perfect obedience of his Son.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Chapter 3, verse 16).

In other words, Jesus was crucified so that all who believe in him might enjoy the blessings of eternal life. Jesus was crucified for our benefit, and the benefit of the whole world. 

As Christians, we have received the greatest of all gifts: the gift of eternal life. How do we show our thankfulness to God for this, the greatest of all gifts?  How might we show our thankfulness in the days and week ahead?


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