Why did Jesus have to die?
A weighty question from my child’s lips; why, indeed. The short answer is: because of me. Because of you, my darling. Because not any one of us is willing to bend to authority. We, each, want to be our own kings. Our own little gods.
My kids are good kids. I’m told that frequently. And I’m thankful. But I’m also mindful of the moments when my boundaries are flouted. My rules aren’t arbitrary, given only to show that I am in charge; that I rule over these little ones. Don’t-run-into-the-street! Is for the preservation of them, the avoidance of horrific consequences. It’s so that I, as well as they, don’t have to endure what could follow. So that they are safe; and we are both unharmed.
The same holds true for us, as adults. Though we may not like them, even speed limits are for our own good. It’s likely that we don’t think about that when we’re being handed a much-deserved ticket. Instead, we go home and slander the uniformed individual who caught us in our disobedience. Blame them for our actions: that road shouldn’t be so slow. Why aren’t they out catching murders or pedophiles, instead of ruining my day? They’re just power-drunk.
Of course, how many of us, the lead-footed, have ever walked through the carnage of a fatal accident? Seen the disfigured visages of children, or had to notify the next-of-kin? There is a person inside the uniform, one who carries with him or her the memory of such incidents; one who is haunted by scenes most of us aren’t strong enough to handle.
And to the world, aren’t God’s rules a bit on the…prohibitive side? Why can’t we do certain things? Why wouldn’t a good God want us to enjoy this life as much as possible? Who is He to tell me not to do something?
And we build little altars for little gods. I am going to do what I want. When I want. How I want. We tell ourselves that God’s rules are arcane and too prohibitive. Too colloquial. Too unintelligent.
Yet, His rules are for our safety, just like mine for my children, the authorities’ for the governed. He knows what the outcome of our choices are; just like I know what will happen to my children should they dart into the street in front of a car, who is only doing 35 in a 25. Besides, 25mph is entirely too slow for this street anyway. I know…, a police officer knows…, God knows the ramifications of our actions. The awful, unthinkable, damaging consequences that can come from not following the rules. Even the prohibitive ones.
Prohibition isn’t bad. Authorities aren’t all evil. Sometimes they genuinely are there to protect us from ourselves. To keep us from becoming little gods of our own making.
And so, Jesus had to die.
For you. For me. Because we can’t see the car speeding around the corner as we dart into the street after our ball. Jesus absorbs the impact for us. After the fatal wreck caused by our speeding, he trades places with the driver, and allows himself to be placed in the back of the patrol car instead of us. He exchanges His freedom for ours, our lives for His. Even though he knew what was coming. Even though, His Father warned us against these destructive actions; put up boundaries to keep us safe. Even though we refused to listen. Refused to obey.
Jesus offers to save us, in spite of ourselves. We just have to keep letting Him.