God’s Atonement – Why did Jesus have to die?


How would you respond to someone who says, “Why was God required to spill blood of his own son to save us, when he could have just done that some other way?” If you think about it, in the strict sense, God could have done it a different way. He could have told the story of our redemption any way he wanted. So, why did he choose to put it on the shoulders of Jesus?

Well, a lot of the objections about the atonement comes from the misunderstanding of the doctrine put forth by some Protestant groups. Some Christians view the death of Christ as a punishment for sin. That God is wrathful and angry at all of us. He has to hit somebody, so he takes it out on Jesus. It is the belief that Christ sort of steps in and takes the brunt of God’s anger so we don’t have to catch it. It is the image of a tyrannical God. It is the view that someone had to stand between us and a wrathful God, so he took it out on Jesus. But of course that is not the way Scripture depicts it and it is not how the Catholic Church looks at it.

Jesus was not being punished in our place. If we look at the time before Christ, we see that people brought animals to be sacrificed as an offering to God. Was the animal being punished in our place? No. God wasn’t taking out his anger out on the animal. God wanted the person to give him something of value to him as an offering.

In the death of Christ, Jesus is obeying his own devine command, “if an evil man forces you to go with him one mile, go the extra mile; if he strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him your left cheek, etc…” So for Jesus, he let himself be that unblemished lamb led to the slaughter. He let himself be handed over to wicked men who put him to death unjustly. And because of this self surrender, made his life and death a meritorious act that was pleasing to God. Jesus did this out of Love! Christ giving himself to death was an act of love for us. We see in the book of Philippians chapter 2 and the book of Acts chapter 2; both of them tell us that because of this self sacrificial giving, that Christ merited for us the gift of forgiveness and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Why did God chose to reconcile the world though the death of Christ? Well, because as St. Paul tells us in the book of Romans, “greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” We are reconciled to God ultimately through love. God is love and he wishes us to be conformed to his image in love, so he gave to us Christ who is the very perfect representation of the life of self sacrificial love.

Until next time, God bless.

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