Who is Jesus and why did He have to die?
We start with the most important question first. After a simple introduction, we go a little deeper. In the following chapters, it divides up more and goes into even more depth. I think you, as a reader, will greatly benefit and enjoy reading the book, but it can also be challenging. In several places, I have also included longer passages from the Bible, so that you can easily see how much good and useful the texts of the Bible is and the information we get from them.
Brief introduction to the Christian faith
Have you heard anyone say, “God loves you” or “Jesus is alive”? The Christian faith is based on that Jesus lives today, that He is the Son of God, and that He was physically a human being who for 33 years walked around here on earth for approx. 2000 years ago. As a human, He taught us a lot of useful things that we still benefit from today. But most importantly, He restored the path to God for us humans. This path had been blocked due to human sin. The way to God is therefore only through Jesus, and through our own faith and confession that He died on the cross for the sins of men, and thus became our Savior. So, when someone says that God loves you, it is because that is what they have experienced with God. In addition, this is what the Bible explains to us. How God created us so that He can have fellowship with us, and how God amends things when we turn our backs on him.
Who is Jesus and why did He have to die?
Have you ever asked yourself this question, or been asked this question by others?
I often find that Christians have a good overview of Christianity, its traditions and the Christian lifestyle, but they know less about the simple basic truths in the word of God. Perhaps the church has thought that everyone who grew up in the Christian faith knows this, so it is not taught that often. In any case, this is the most important message in the Bible. Without understanding why Jesus had to die, it is impossible to understand the Christian faith. That’s why we start with this topic.
The word Christian means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you are already discovering here that the term Christian has been abused, misused or at best diluted. For many, the Christian faith has simply joined the ranks of the many religions that exist.
Religion and being a follower of Jesus Christ are two opposites. Let me explain: In a religion, it’s always about what you have to do to deserve the saving message presented, just like when you go to work and earn a living. That’s what all religions are about – that YOU must make yourself deserving. Being a Christian is the opposite. You are a Christian by the grace of God, and grace means free. You cannot earn God’s salvation by doing certain things, such as going to church every Christmas, helping your neighbor, giving money, or the like. Your goodness is at best just a fruit of the fact that you have chosen to have Jesus as Lord in your life. If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, then the Bible says that you are saved. (Romans 10:9–13)
But back to the question of why Jesus had to die. God created us because He wanted to be with us in true and genuine love. In the Old Testament in the Bible, we can read the creation story, which shows that God created us with a free will. Otherwise, we would not have had the opportunity and ability to feel true love. With our free will, we can choose Him or not choose Him. Without free will, we would be programmed robots that can only do exactly what the programmer wants, and fortunately we are not like that. In Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament, the two well-known trees in the garden of Eden come in, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the knowledge about good and evil. In the very beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in a beautiful garden. God said that they were allowed to eat the fruit on all the trees but forbade them to eat from one tree and it was the tree that would give people knowledge of good and evil. God had also placed the Tree of Life in the middle of the garden, the tree that would give them eternal life in fellowship with God. The tree of knowledge about good and evil represented evil. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve made the wrong choice which affects all of us, they chose to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This whole story can be read in the Bible – Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 3, where the devil disguised as a serpent challenged Eve by saying: «Has God really said?». This is a short version of a long story as I just want to highlight the essence of this story. In the next chapter which is about creation, and who God is, we will read a lot more in these chapters of the Bible and go into more detail.
Because Adam and Eve made the wrong choice and followed the devil’s advice, we now live in a sinful world where the devil is the «boss». God created the world and gave people control over the earth, but they passed this control over to the devil when they chose not to follow the only commandment God had given them, which was, not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of this, we are all born into sin, and we must choose ourselves to return to the kingdom of God and to His people. Jesus said that the children belong to the kingdom of God, but as we can understand from the teachings of the Bible, we as adults must choose which way we want to go. And we only have two choices: The god of this world or the Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord God. Or rather, we have only one choice. It is choosing God, through Jesus, who is the only way to God. If we do not make a choice, the choice is still made – we are lost forever and have the devil as god.
God is a gentleman, and He stands by His decision to give us free will. Therefore, we must choose Him by faith. The devil is not a gentleman, and Jesus said this about him, «The thief does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy.» (John 10:10) This is exactly what the devil did, he stole us away from God so that the spirit of God, who from the beginning dwelt in men, died in us. In order for people to live right with God again and choose Him, God gave Moses the 10 commandments and a series of rules of life on Mount Sinai. A temple was built, and priests were chosen to mediate between the people and God. People confessed their sins to the priests and performed purification rituals. Once a year, the high priest entered the most holy part of the temple and offered a blood sacrifice (a sheep, a goat, or a bull) to God. This sacrifice made up for all the sin that men had committed. Men then became pure and holy and had eternal life with God. (Bible texts from Exodus 12 onwards). Ever since the time of Adam, there has been sacrifice for sin and we can read that from the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve. The letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament points out that animal sacrifice was only a preliminary answer to the question of atonement for the sins of men. The final answer came when Jesus died as a sacrifice for us.
There are more than 300 prophecies, and statements in the Old Testament that said that Jesus would come, and what He would do. We can read how these prophecies are fulfilled, one by one in the 4 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in the New Testament. Already in Genesis 3: 15b we find the first prophecy, right after humans turned their backs on God. «He (Jesus) shall bruise your head, and you (the serpent) shall bruise His heel.» As a human being here on earth, Jesus was painfully tested. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 53: 2-5, we find a prophecy about Jesus: “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.» Furthermore, verse 6 says: “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, everyone, to his own way; And the Lord (God) has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled the law God had given to Moses. Jesus became the last sacrificial lamb, which God himself sent to make atonement for us once and for all. According to the Law of Moses, it was the task of the priests to atone for the sins of the people. But this arrangement was abolished when Jesus died on the cross, and the veil leading to the most holy place of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Luke 23). God gave us a RESTART. The first Adam led mankind into sin. Jesus, who is also referred to as the last Adam, restored our relationship with God, the relationship that was destroyed in the fall. In 1 Corinthians 15:45, It is written: “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
When Jesus died, the Old Testament was fulfilled, and the New Testament came into effect. In order to understand the New Testament, we must also read and understand the Old Testament, so that we understand what we have been set free from. But even if the Old Testament and the laws are fulfilled, it is still not abolished. There are a number of truths in the Old Testament that do not change even if Jesus took our guilt and sin when He died on the cross for us. For example, it is still not allowed to kill, lie, steal, make idols and so on. The 10 commandments in Exodus 20: 1-17 still apply as good and useful living rules.
In John 8: 3-11, we read about a woman who was caught red-handed in adultery. This was a violation of the seventh commandment in the Law of Moses and this was before Jesus died on the cross. We read the whole story here: «Then the scribes (the priests) and Pharisees brought to Him (Jesus) a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? ”She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”». In this story, Jesus shows us the righteousness of God, while showing us His faithfulness to the word of God. By law, the woman was guilty, and it was right what the prosecutors said about her. According to the law, she was guilty and should be stoned to death. It is not written, but this is how I understand this event. When Jesus sits down and writes in the sand, he changes the law. Not the law that says you should not commit adultery, but the law of how God forgives the one who repents. So it is the gospel of grace that is being introduced here! It is written in the Old Testament that it was God, who with his finger, wrote the 10 commandments on the stone tablets (Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 9:10). This time, in this story, it is the Son, Jesus who writes with his finger. In order for Jesus to be able to say, «Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more», the law had to be changed. Otherwise, the accusers would have had the right to do what the Mosaic Law had taught them. «A man of pain, well acquainted with sickness» Throughout his time on earth, Jesus made atonement for us, so that in the last second before He died on the cross, He could cry out. IT IS FINISHED!
He died and we were set free! He rose again and that opened the only right and true way to God. Jesus says in John 14: 6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. ” What Adam and Eve destroyed, Jesus restored on the cross. They died a spiritual death, but Jesus gave us the Spirit back. The Holy Spirit is the pledge of our salvation. In Old Testament times, human actions had everything to say about their salvation, but according to the description of the New Testament, it is only faith in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, and only faith alone that sets us truly free (Romans 3: 19-9). 4.5). It is not of ourselves, but a gift from God. (Ephesians 2: 8)
If you are not sure if you are saved, you can pray these simple words: God, I believe in You and I believe in Your Son Jesus Christ. I ask You to forgive all of my sins. I now turn to You and ask You to become the Lord of my life, in the name of Jesus, Amen!
God hears our prayers, and He longs to hear us say these simple words. It is important to know that the way to God is only through what Jesus has done for us. Through baptism, we confirm the faith and the confession, as the Bible tells us in Romans 6: 3-11, «Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.»
Until the day we get to heaven and live with God there, our body has the fallen human nature. But with salvation, that is, by faith and confession, we get the Spirit of God back in our soul. A common and recurring experience for many is that the emptiness in us disappears when the Spirit of God takes residence in us. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 «Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.» The Bible says in Philippians 4: 4-7, «Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.»
The Bible is given to us as a guide or a compass to live by. Every seaworthy skipper carefully follows the map and compass, so that the boat he leads will find the right port and not drown. This is also how the Bible is for us believers, it is given to us as a life compass, where we can read stories about people who followed God, people who did not follow God, about who God is and who we are in Jesus Christ. It is therefore vital that we read the Bible. This is also why the Reformers from the 14th century translated the Bible and it continues to be done today. It was done so that ordinary people can themselves read the word of God in their mother tongue allowing them an opportunity to understand the word of God, understand salvation in Christ and not be bound by religious power structure. In the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were tricked into eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, also stood the Tree of Life. This was a picture of Jesus. John 1: 1-5 explains that Jesus was with God before the foundation of the earth was laid. «In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.» From the dawn of time, the Tree of Life, Jesus, has been God’s solution for us. Where Adam and Eve led mankind astray, Jesus stood waiting. In John 15: 1-8, Jesus says: «I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.»
«But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.» Ephesians 2: 4–10.
Jesus had to die for us to have life. In Matthew 7: 13-14, Jesus says: «Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.» Jesus is the narrow gate. Religions abuse the name Jesus, the cross and the Bible, where the authority in the Name of Jesus is replaced by a weak, diffused, and incorrect figure of Jesus. Reading the Bible is therefore vital for us. Read God’s word carefully so that you do not miss the way to God!
Imagine a compass, where the red guiding needle is Jesus. We stand together in the middle of Paris, and the plan is to go to the middle of Norway using this compass. Norway is narrow in the middle, so precision is needed here. First, we lay out the map, find the direction north and adjust the compass needle so that it hits the center of Norway. When we start walking, it is super important that we keep the right course. If we go less than a half degree beyond what the compass needle shows, we end up in Sweden. It can feel right there and then, because the temperature is the same, the people there look like the Norwegians and the language is «almost» the same, but it is a different country, a different people and they have a different flag. So just a half degree outside makes us miss the target. When Jesus says in John 14: 6: «I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.» and in Matthew 7: 13-14, «Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.» it is for the simple reason that there is no other way to God than through Jesus. Almost the entire compass disk represents the wrong direction and for most of us it is easy to see if we are heading straight west, straight south or straight east. The problem arises when it is just a half degree that we go wrong. Many religions are close to the truths of Jesus and the Bible, but they distort the truth a little. They use the name Jesus, God and they even read from the Bible, but they take away the authority of the name of Jesus, they take away the salvation in Jesus and they replace the lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit with great rituals, moving songs and fine buildings. The human in us is impressed and touched, but it is often not the Spirit of God and His love that touches us, but human methods that impress. This is how people are led astray. Fortunately, there are churches that really lead people into God’s presence, but unfortunately, they are in the minority. It is therefore important that you yourself are a good compass reader, so that you can stay up to date on the course all the way. At the end of this life and before the throne of God, it will not help you to blame your neighbor, priest, or pastor for leading you astray. I will not lead you either, I will only point to Jesus and lead you to become a sure follower of the Master himself, Jesus Christ. It is His disciples we are all called, or chosen if you will, to be.