Why is the death of Jesus Christ so significant?

The significance of a person’s death depends largely on two things: who they are and what caused them to die.

Why is the death of Jesus Christ so significant?

J F Kennedy’s death was highly significant because he was assassinated while serving as president of the USA. In complete contrast, my mother had no outstanding role in society and died of a common cancer, so her death was significant only to her circle of family and friends.

1. Jesus’ death is significant because of who He is

It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the identity of Jesus in detail but His death would have little significance 2,000 years later if he was only an itinerant preacher who started his working life as a carpenter in Nazareth, a despised town in Israel. Jesus’ death was and continues to be significant first because, although a real man, He was not a mere man but actually God “revealed in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16 NASB).

Death had no claim on Him

The Bible tells us that it was a failure on the part of humanity to keep God’s perfect standard that brought in death: “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV). It also tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22 ESV); more than that, “in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5 ESV). Death, therefore, had no claim on Him. When the right moment came, He surrendered His own life: “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily” (John 10:18 NLT).

So . . .

Why did Jesus die?

The Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death under the charge of blasphemy, because He was claiming to be God: “he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” (John 19:7 ESV). However, the charge was false, because He was the Son of God, equal with God the Father (John 10:30), and His resurrection on the third day proved it: “declared to be the Son of God . . . by his resurrection” (Romans 1:4 ESV).

2. Jesus’ death is significant because of its cause

The remarkable thing is that, although Jesus was sinless, His death was because of sin – the sin of others. He died to satisfy God’s wrath against human sin.

On the day that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, the fig-leaf garments they made for themselves proved an insufficient covering. God clothed them, not with wool but with animal skin (Genesis 3), showing that a sacrifice was necessary to atone for sin. Throughout the Old Testament that principle prevailed and in the New Testament the death of Christ is often linked back to those sacrifices and shown to be the ultimate sacrifice that God had in mind. 

So, whilst the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor, Pilate, were guilty of the unjust condemnation, the cruel scourging and ultimately the crucifixion, of Jesus, His death was central to God’s plan for the rescue of mankind. It was the only means by which God could remain just yet offer pardon to guilty sinners (see Romans 3:26). 

The Old Testament not only documents pointers to the death of Christ; it also features many direct and detailed prophecies of it, including that it would be for the sins of others: “he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins . . .” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT).

But there is something else . . .

3. Jesus’ death is significant because He rose again

The authorities took great care to guard His body. His own disciples were not expecting a resurrection but later preached it with conviction. He appeared to more than five hundred people at once, many of whom, at the time of the record of it, were available for questioning. These facts alone combine to produce compelling evidence that, having died on the cross, Jesus rose again the third day.

All this contributes to why that death is still significant after twenty centuries.

One question remains, then: 

What is the significance of Jesus’ death for me?

In Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton gains entry to the jail where innocent Charles Darnay is sitting awaiting death by the guillotine. Concerned for Darnay, who would leave behind a wife and child, Carton changes places with him and dies as a substitute for a good man. 

In contrast, Jesus’ death was for undeserving sinners – rebels against God – so that He could make possible for them a relationship with God: “Christ . . . suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”(1 Peter 3:18 ESV). As an undeserving sinner who has repented, my trust is in Him as my substitute. Therefore, the significance of Jesus’ death for me is that through it I have been brought into a relationship with God, and because He now lives I have new life in Him.

Is that true for you?