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The Crucifixion (Jesus Christ Superstar)
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Why did Jesus have to die?

The crucifixion and death of Christ summarized in a few minutes and devoid of all the original crudity. Focusing instead on three of the things Jesus said on the cross before dying. The most impressive one? when he forgives those who are killing him.

Under the SongMeaning tab you can read an article about why Jesus had to die on the cross to save us.

This is part of the musical movie "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1973)

Father forgive them. They don't know what they're doing.

My God, my God, why have you forgotten me?

Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.

Why did Jesus have to die?

The Old Testament tells us that God appeared as a human being on several occasions. If Jesus wanted only to heal and teach, he could have simply appeared. But he did more: he became a human. Why? So he could suffer and die. To understand Jesus, we need to understand his death. His death is an essential part of the gospel.

In the death of Jesus, our sins are set aside. But this does not mean that a loving Jesus appeased or “paid off” an angry God. The Father is just as merciful as Jesus is, we don’t need to be saved or rescued from God because it is God the one saving us. God is angry at sin (not at people) because sin hurts the people he loves, not because He feels offended by what people do wrong (how can a mortal creature offend an eternal almighty God?).

We must understand that Jesus’ message is a historical message in the sense that it happened in a specific place, time and culture, so his words and deeds must be understood within that particular culture. The Jews of the 1st century and most people of the time thought that making an animal sacrifice (killing an animal as an offering for God) would make God forgive their sins and be again happy with them. So Jesus’ death is also described in the New Testament as the perfect and ultimate sacrifice through which Jesus paid off for all people’s sins (past, present and future generations) forever, so no more animal sacrifices were ever needed. This analogy is probably not a very good one for modern people (especially from non-Christian cultures), but it was an excellent analogy for those people who wrote and received the message at first, it helped them understand perfectly well what had happened: Jesus had bridged the separation between the perfect God and his sinning creatures.

I will now risk giving two modern interpretations of the meaning of Jesus’ death:

When John says that Jesus is going to die he says “He loved them to the end” (John 13:1), and in his first letter, when he reminded us Jesus’ commandment to love each other, even our enemies, John says “We love each other because he loved us first”. These and many other parts of the New Testament links Christian love with Jesus’ death. We can love God because he proved how much he loved us, we must love each other in imitation of Jesus’ love for us. So suffering torture and dying on the cross in such a cruel manner is God’s way of proving how much he loved us. He died for us, for love, so this demonstration of love can be our inspiration and save us. This is expressed perfectly by John when he wrote: “No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) ... and we all are God’s friends.

Jesus was preaching a message of justice and love and trying to bring a new society (that he called “the Kingdom of God”) which would be just, loving and peaceful. That was against the establishment, who wanted to kill him to stop his teachings. It was his death and later resurrection which inspired his disciples and gave them the strength to risk their lives to preach Jesus’ message everywhere. So death and resurrection were both necessary to spread the message.

Several terms are used to describe what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Different New Testament authors use different words or images to convey the idea. The exact terminology or mechanism is not essential. What is important is simply that we are saved through the death of Jesus. “By his wounds we are healed.” He died to set us free, to remove our sins, to suffer our punishment, to purchase our salvation. The conclusion is simple: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

(some fragments extracted from


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