Question 272:

Why did Jesus have to be crucified?



The following quotation is from the discussion in Topic 3 and is a good response to this question:


The life of Jesus is itself liberating and redemptive. He displayed inner freedom towards the practice in his day of the religious Law, which had in part been interpreted contrary to the original will of God and so laid unnecessary burdens on people (cf. Matthew 11:28; 23:4; Luke 11:46). This approach, along with the faithfulness with which Jesus revealed the true face of God as a father who loves all people without preconditions, brought upon him the hostility of the leaders of his people. Collaborating with those who had become disillusioned with Jesus, these leaders condemned him to death. They handed him over to the power of the Romans, who killed him in accordance with their laws, employing the traditional, cruel punishment of crucifixion. The violent death of Jesus was the inevitable consequence of all that he had set in motion in his life.


The death of Jesus can also be understood precisely as an intrinsic and profound consequence of this very love, so that Jesus fundamental vision is not disproved by the cross but rather is validated by it. For whoever loves and is good to another person, without demanding preconditions as to how that love and goodness should be demonstrated, will stay by the other person’s side, regardless of changing circumstances, showing devotion to the other even when – particularly when – the other is in danger. Whoever loves in the way of Jesus does not shun suffering and hold back from it but rather shares in it, showing compassion, the literal meaning of which is to suffer with.

The above quotation leads us to understand the crucifixion of Jesus as the consequence of his life and actions. As a result of what he said and did, Jesus became the target of the envy, hatred and rejection of the religious leaders. According to the normal pattern of human interaction, violent opposition to Jesus should have provoked a violent response. His disciples should have fought to protect and save Jesus. But Jesus did not urge his disciples to respond in this way. Instead, he allowed himself to be taken and killed without making any efforts to have revenge. The Gospel of Luke even says that Jesus forgave those who were crucifying him (Luke 23:34). The Gospel of Luke also says that, after his Resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to his disciples with a message of peace and forgiveness (Luke 24:36).

It is precisely this response by Jesus to suffering and death that broke the cycle of hatred and revenge. Jesus’ willing surrender to death opened the way for others to endure the suffering, rejection and even death that a life of committed service may bring. It is because Jesus did not take violent action against his enemies that the followers of Jesus find the strength they need to struggle for justice and peace in the world without expecting instant recognition and success. They receive the vision and the commitment to struggle even in the face of violent opposition.

The short answer to the question: “Why did Jesus have to be crucified?” is that it was not necessary for Jesus to be crucified but that his graceful response to being unjustly crucified broke the chains that have kept mankind bound in an endless cycle of violence and revenge. 

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