National Collection for the Needs of the Church in the Holy Land
Why Did Jesus Die On The Cross?
First Reading: Isaiah 52. 13 – 53.12.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31
Second Reading: Hebrews 4. 14-16; 5. 7 – 9.
Gospel: John 18. 1- 19. 42
On April 12th, 2004, after the release of Mel Gibson’s widely acclaimed film The Passion of the
Christ graphically depicting the cruel torture and crucifixion of Jesus, the cover
of TIME magazine asked, “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?” Based on the Bible and the teachings of
the Fathers of the Church, Bible scholars and theologians try to explain the reason for Jesus’
death, proposing various theories. All these theories are based on the central fact that man cannot
atone for his sin against the infinite justice of God. But God is both just and loving. Therefore,
God’s love is willing to meet the demands of His justice. But only a God–man could do that, and
Jesus the God-man made that atonement by his suffering and death. Out of perfect love for us,
Jesus took upon himself the punishment we deserved. Thus his willingness to suffer in our place
balanced the Divine “scales of justice.” The debt was now paid. His love paid the price. His
passion and death atoned for our sins and redeemed us. Christ’s making satisfaction for the
penalty of our sins through suffering was, in fact, the way God chose to make possible our
The examples of numerous martyrs, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King and Archbishop
Oscar Romero will help us to convert our sufferings salvcific. Gandhi, King, and Romero felt
called by God to carry out a certain mission – to be liberators of their people, and to speak with
courage of their convictions. All three were assassinated or executed for their “crime” of speaking
truth to political power. All three knew that they, like Jesus, would most likely pay the ultimate
price for their fidelity to their mission. They could easily have escaped death by preaching a safe
message. But in doing so, they would be unfaithful to God and to their mission. So they continued
to say and do things that endangered their lives. Did God will for them to die? “No” and “Yes.”
All three men died because their enemies wished to get rid of them. It certainly was not God’s will
that evil people kill good men. But it was God’s will that all three be faithful to their mission,
even if it meant sacrificing their lives for the liberation of their people. In this sense, God willed
the death of Gandhi, King, and Romero. But we also know that God always turns the tables on
such evil acts. The deaths of Gandhi, King, and Romero brought about significant progress in the
liberation of their people from oppression. Their sacrificial deaths give us some glimpse into the
significance of the death of Jesus. Because he was God in human form, his death was Infinitely
more valuable for all of humanity. Looking at Jesus’ death in this way helps us to see that we are
saved by an act of sacrificial love. God took what was intended as an evil act and used it to save
the world. Many of the Christians who have viewed Mel Gibson’s film report that it brought them
to tears to realize what our Lord did for us. More than ever before, they have been made aware of
just how high a price was paid by God the Son—and God the Father—to save us. They have been
inspired to a stronger faith in God’s love and a firmer hope in his desire to bring them to heaven.
Let us welcome our crosses as Jesus accepted his, for the atonement of our sins and those of
others: We may have been crucified several times in our lives. We may have been betrayed by our
dear ones. We may have been misunderstood in the most calculated and deliberate of ways by
those whom we trusted and loved. We may have been forced to take up the cross for others
several times. We may have felt forsaken and abandoned on several occasions. The question we
should ask ourselves on Good Friday is whether we have accepted these painful experiences
gracefully from a loving God and offered all these painful occasions as atonement for our sins and
for the sins of our dear ones. By dying on the cross Jesus embraced human suffering. So, when we
are troubled and in distress, we can turn to him in confidence that he will be with us. Jesus unites
his cross with our own and calls upon us to share in the sufferings of others. This means we are to
bear one another’s burdens just as Christ has carried our burdens. That’s one way we can show
we’ve accepted Christ’s precious gift.
Let us experience and share Christ’s love: Since on Good Friday we gratefully remember the
depth of the sacrificial love shown by Jesus, we should see the reality we celebrate as an invitation
to show our gratitude to our Savior by loving those who don’t deserve our love and by showing
compassion to those who suffer and those who may have no one to help them face the prospect of
Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in
a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.
It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have
found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ
completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but
disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies
If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for
his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not
be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.
If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two
ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to
avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because
when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open
his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize
set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before
him, bore his cross and despised the shame.
If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by
Pontius Pilate and to die.
If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto
death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by
the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.
If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the
Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he
was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to
Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among
themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourging. Nor to greatness of
rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in
my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.