In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:9–10, esv).
No one disputes that Jesus Christ suffered on the cross. But the idea that His suffering was necessary has been the subject of scorn from those who have criticized and ridiculed Christianity through the centuries. The truth that Jesus had to suffer to pay for our sin is also what sets Christianity apart.
Muslims, for example, show respect for the person of Christ, but see the cross as a stumbling block. They regard His atonement through suffering as foolishness. Friedrich Nietzsche dismissed the very concept of Jesus’ suffering, saying, “God on a cross—preposterous!”
“Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.”
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we resolutely stand against such ridicule and embrace His cross. This is a vivid illustration of 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
It was essential for Jesus to suffer:
To pay for the sins of mankind. First John 4:10 says, “[God] loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sin.” The key word is propitiation, meaning payment. It wasn’t enough for Him to die. Jesus had to pay a debt—our debt, for our sin. The payment was necessary.
To satisfy the demands of God’s wrath. As much as God loves you, He hates your sin with a holy, burning hatred beyond comprehension. The only way He could embrace you in spite of your sin was for someone else—someone perfect and holy—to pay for it (Romans 5:1).
To purchase the opportunity for our sins to be forgiven. No longer do you have to carry your sin. You can be forgiven. God laid all your sinfulness on Jesus as He willingly suffered and died upon the cross. The debt was paid, opening the door to your forgiveness.
To provide the way to eternal life. To have a gift, you must choose to receive it (Romans 6:23). Do you know Jesus Himself is the gift of eternal life? His suffering is the reason that gift is possible.
The glory of the gospel is this: Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay. While we are the ones who need to be saved from God’s wrath, He is the one who saves us—through His Son, Jesus Christ. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
You can be forgiven and washed clean, because Jesus is the propitiation. He gave His life to restore your relationship with God. As the Father laid all the sinfulness of the world on His Son, Jesus suffered and died, offering forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe (John 3:16).
Father, You sent Your only Son to pay a debt He did not owe, because I owed a debt I could not pay. Why You did that is hard to comprehend—Jesus did nothing wrong, while my heart is so often tempted toward sin. But Your love is greater than my sin. What an amazing gift You have given me. Thank You for bringing me into a relationship with You through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to never forget the price and the power of His cross. In Jesus’ name, amen.