WHY WAS THE LAMB SLAIN?
Although nearly all Christians understand that Jesus died for sinners, many do not understand why He had to die. And for non-Christians the death of the “so-called god of the Christians” is incomprehensible and ridiculous. This is of course to be expected—Paul said, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). But even those who believe that they are saved because of Christ’s sacrifice often do not really know why. Many, if they were asked, would reply that Jesus simply had the misfortune of falling into the hands of wicked sinners.
But Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Before sin ever entered the world God had ordained the plan of salvation which involved the sacrifice of Jesus. In their efforts to understand the fullness of why Jesus had to die, Christians have disgreed, even to the point of violence. But as in everything that God does, He accomplishes many things at once with his acts, and this is particularly true of His sacrificial death.
1. Jesus satisfied justice. It is no arbitrary law that demands the death of those who sin. As Ezekiel put it, “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). But for reasons we cannot fully understand, Jesus could be a substitute for sinners, dying the death that they should die so that they could live—“Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
2. Jesus identified with our humanity so that we can be identified with His divinity. Jesus did not cease to be fully divine when He became fully human. This point has been the source of innumerable heresies and foolish disputes, because it is incomprehensible to our finite minds, but regardless of the fact that we cannot understand it, we can still believe by faith that it is true. Jesus became fully human and then made us one with Him (John 17: 21-23) so that we could be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). “If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5).
3. Jesus died as a demonstration of the love of God. As we saw in the previous section, Jesus is fully God, and God died for us after taking upon Himself the full burden of our sins, so that we could realize the extent of His love and how far He was willing to go to save us. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8).
4. Jesus lived and died as an example to us. He fully took upon Himself the same humanity that we have, lived a perfect, sinless life and died a perfect death to show us how to live and die. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil…therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren” (Hebrews 2: 14, 17). “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:21, 22).
Although the church has disputed as to which is the “real” reason Jesus died, the reality is that these are all true, and the death of Christ encompasses much more as well. No doubt, for all of eternity we will continue to marvel at the depth of love expressed in the sacrifice of the “Lamb that was slain.” The fact that God the Lamb was slain answers the question, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?”