When my sons were younger, we were playing together in the sandbox one afternoon when one of them asked, “Why did Jesus die?” Before I could respond, he answered himself: “Oh yeah. To give blood.” I thought, yes, Jesus, the ultimate blood donor. As we walk through Holy Week and approach the painful events of Good Friday, we see in Matthew 27 the answer to the question, why did Jesus die? He died because of our sin.
He died for our envy. In verse 18, Matthew writes that Pilate gives the crowd an option – Barabbas or Jesus – because he knew that the religious leaders’ motivation was envy. It’s easy to accuse them of this, but where can we identify envy in our own hearts? He died for the envy of the religious leaders, and for ours as well.
He died for our self-interest. Earlier that week, a Pharisee tested Him with the question, “Which is the greatest commandment of the law?” He responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Instead of loving God and our neighbors, though, we often act in our own interests. Even though Pilate knew that Jesus was a righteous man, he looked out for his own position and political standing and was not willing to take a stand. How do I look out for my own interests instead of the interests of others, instead of loving them as I love myself? Jesus died for my self-interest.
He died for our hard-heartedness. The Pharisees had relentlessly questioned Him, tried to trap Him, and plotted His downfall and His death. Finally, as He hung on the cross, they mocked Him, crying out, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the king of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him.” They had rejected every chance to believe in Him, and now they taunted Him that their hearts would trust Him if He would do just one more miracle. Have we ever, in the face of Jesus’ grace and power, set our hearts hard on a course of action that is wrong, knowing that we were doing wrong? Jesus died for that hard-heartedness.
Jesus died for our blasphemy. The crowd shouted for His crucifixion, judging Him as a criminal. Calling God criminal – what worse blasphemy? Later, those watching Him suffer on the cross derided Him, saying, “If you are the son of God, come down from the cross.” If you are the Son of God – reminiscent of Jesus’ time in the desert being tempted by Satan, they challenged His identity, His power, and His authority. The chief priests said, “He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him.” They challenged the Father’s delight in His beloved son, the son that He had publicly declared his pleasure in. Have we spoken sacrilegiously about God, telling lies about His character and goodness? Jesus died for our blasphemy.
Jesus died for our rejection of Him and of what is right and true. He died for our disdain for Him. He died for our betrayal of Him. He died for our desire for evil and destruction.
There is no question that we are sinful. the big question is what to do about our sin. That’s why Jesus went to the cross. At the beginning of Chapter 27, Judas, after betraying Jesus, felt remorse: when he “saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind.” He tried to return the money he had been given and confessed, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Can’t you see his frantic attempts to track down the chief priests, to backtrack, to turn back time, to do something to fix this terrible betrayal? Their response to his confession: “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” That’s what many of us do – we try to “see to it,” to take care of our sin ourselves. We can’t, though. Because of Judas’ despair and his inability to take care of his sin himself, he killed himself.
We, though, have a different option, given to us by the cross. When we change our minds about our sin, we do not have to try futilely to take care of it ourselves. Jesus, the Lamb of God, went to the cross to rescue us. In dying for our sin, He gives us hope. Praise God for Good Friday!