To Please the Father
One way of the answering the question "Why did Jesus die?" is to ask another related question and that question is "How did Jesus live?" What was it that drove Jesus as to what he chose to do and what not to do? The questions are related because Jesus' death is simply the last thing he did in his life.
So let us ask this second question "How did Jesus live?"
The Driving Force in Jesus Life
When we think about the way in which Jesus led his life we are forced to consider what it was that motivated him, what it was that drove him to act as he did in each and every situation. This the Bible tells us is very clear terms.
All of us have a choice to make. We each have a decision to take. We all have to decide who we are going to try to please by the way we live.
The same was true for Jesus – what do we know about his choices?
Jesus himself spoke about what his choices were in this regard and the apostle Paul summarised it for us too.
Listen to what Jesus said:
Jn.4:34 "Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work."
Jn.5:30 "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me."
Jn.6:38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me."
Jn.8:29 "And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him."
This is how Paul summed up Jesus' life and attitude:
Rom.15:3 "For Christ did not please himself,"
Jesus was motivated throughout his life by the firm desire and intention of doing what his Father wanted him to do. And in carrying out the will of the Father Jesus always pleased him even when it might have appeared that this was done to the detriment of his own immediate interests.
This is confirmed too by what the Father declared concerning his Son. Do you remember those occasions when a voice spoke clearly from heaven expressing divine approval of the Son?
Mt.3:17 (at his baptism) "and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.""
Mt.17:5 (at his Transfiguration) "He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.""
And sandwiched between these two declarations Matthew, in describing Jesus' ministry, includes an explanatory remark drawn from the Prophet Isaiah which made clear the Father's approval of the Son:
Mt.12:18 (quoting Is.42:1) "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles."
So, according to the unanimous testimony, Jesus did what he did, acted as he acted, in order to please his Heavenly Father and his Heavenly Father was very pleased with all that the Son did.
The Will of the Father and the Death of his Son
Throughout his earthly life Jesus had successfully carried our his desire of pleasing his Father – he did not need, therefore, to do anything to try to secure his Father's good pleasure because he already had it.
When we've let someone down we may well try to do something special for them in order to "make it up to them" and to try to put us back in their favour. But Jesus did not need to do anything of the sort.
So when Jesus died as a voluntary sacrifice for our sins he was not desperately trying to curry favour with the Father. If Jesus were to die the death of such a willing substitutionary sacrifice then it must be because the Father wanted this to happen. Jesus would offer his life freely as this sacrifice for our sins because the Father wanted him to. So Jesus laid down his life in order to carry on pleasing his Father as he had always hitherto done.
Is.53:10 "Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."
We are not to imagine that the Father is somehow some kind of sadist eager to inflict pain upon an unwilling victim. What the Father wanted of the Son was his willing submission. The Son in offering his life freely as a sacrifice would serve to demonstrate both the Father's love for the men and women boys and girls for whom Jesus would give his life and the Son's love for the Father. The importance of the voluntary nature of the obedient submission of the Son is made clear when Jesus referred to the readiness of the Father to help him should he not be ready to undergo such a sacrifice:
Mt.26:53 "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?"
Jesus knew that the Father was not about to force the issue by obliging him to do what he wasn't ready to do – happily for us and for all Christians everywhere Jesus was ready to offer even this submission to his Father's will!
And yet the sufferings were very real and the natural desires of the human frame for self-
You'll remember the pressure and the strain that he was exposed to in the Garden of Gethsemane when although he was accompanied by his disciples he wrestled alone in solitary prayer. His friends failed to understand the battles he was going through on their behalf, they didn't understand the seriousness of the moment and fell asleep – he prayed and prayed in earnest but did not waver in his determination to please the Father by doing exactly what the Father wanted him to do:
Mt.26:39, 42, 44 "And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."… Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."… So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again."
Once again the apostle Paul confirms these things for us. Writing to the church at Ephesus Paul spoke of the way in which Jesus' death upon the cross was in fact a voluntary act whereby he offered himself to God:
Eph.5:2 "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
This type of language recalls the language used of several of the OT sacrifices which as they were offered became "a pleasing aroma to the LORD". In other words Jesus' death upon the cross functioned in just the same way – his voluntary offering of himself was pleasing to the Father.
When we realise then that Jesus lived to please his Father we are ready for the question "Why did Jesus die?" The answer is straightforward: he died to please the Father.
The writer to the Hebrews described the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world in a similar manner. The repetition of animal sacrifices could never provide a final solution for the problem of human sin and it was God's purpose and will that such an end be made. And that is precisely why Jesus came. The Father could take no final pleasure in those imperfect sacrifices and so he planned something different, something greater – that something Jesus accomplished:
The context is all about Jesus laying down his life – he did so because this pleased the Father and accomplished his plan and purposes.
Conclusion and Applications
We should never for one moment imagine that Jesus tried to force a reluctant Father's hand when he died upon the Cross of Calvary. We are not to imagine that the Father was somehow backed into a corner by the Son who loved us when the Father didn't!
No, the Bible tells us plainly that Jesus came into the world to accomplish the divine plan, a plan that had been established in eternity past and brought to fulfilment in the space/time history of 1st century Israel. That plan included the Jesus' death.
Jesus in dying pleased his Father. It wasn't that the Father was tricked or deceived it was precisely what the Father wanted to achieve.
In the counsels of eternity the Father offered a people to the Son and the Son agreed to secure this people offered to him. He would do so by dying in their place, for their sin. He take onto himself the wrath of God that his people's sin deserved and in so doing he would please his Father! The Spirit too was involved filling and equipping the Son as he carried out his ministry, a ministry that would find its climax in the cross of Calvary.
How we should rejoice and be glad at just how good our God is! Salvation is not something that he is reluctant to grant but is his plan from the very outset. As the plan progressed he was pleased with his Son, pleased, pleased and very pleased! So pleased that he raised the Son to newness of life at the resurrection! We can be confident of the loving kindness of this God, our Father.
How glad we should be with our Lord Jesus Christ! We know how easy it is to put our own selfish interests to the fore – but he didn't do that. All the time he did what was pleasing to his Father. When we think of this difference between him and us how full of thankfulness we should be towards him and how ready we should be to place our trust in him.
When we think of how the Lord Jesus lived and how he secured such tremendous benefits by his willing obedience to the Father in such extreme circumstances – how much more ready and enthusiastic we should be in ourselves following such an example. No, we won't by our efforts at obedience add to our salvation – that is the work of Jesus Christ alone and his work being complete needs no attempted additions from us – but our obedience, now that we have been put right with God by Jesus' death, is to be our way of pleasing the Father and, who knows how fruitful he will choose to make such obedience in the lives of others?
To God be the Glory