Matthew 27:46: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Why did Jesus have to die? This is a question asked by little children and scholars, believers, skeptics and seekers, women and men, smart and simple. Have you ever asked this question? We know it is true that Jesus died on a cross. But why? Why did Jesus have to die?
This is a question that Jesus himself asked, and he asked it more than once. In the garden of Gethsemane, the night before he died, knowing something of what was coming, he prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” Behind this prayer is perhaps the question: Is this really the only way? Why?
And there on the cross, suffering an agonizing death, Jesus asks why once more: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yes, Jesus is suffering excruciating physical anguish, but even more, we hear in this cry the anguish of his spirit. Jesus, who is one with the Father, the closest of all possible relationships, was torn away, ripping his body, and his heart, in two.
Why? Why did Jesus become literally God-forsaken? Why did he become cursed? Because it is the only way to rescue his beloved people from eternal God-forsakenness. It is the only way to release us from the curse. Someone had to pay the price, and only Jesus, the Son of God, could do it.
Why did God forsake Jesus on the cross? Why did Jesus have to die? So you, and I, and all his beloved people who look to him in faith, could be rescued from the curse of sin, redeemed from the penalty we’ve earned, and no longer forsaken, but adopted as God’s children.
Why did God forsake Jesus? Why did Jesus have to die? Because he loves you.
“For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 paraphrase)