“Why did my Savior come to earth?” asks J.G. Dailey in his famous hymn.
“Why did He choose a lowly birth?”
“Why did He drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain and woe?”
“Why on the cross be lifted up?”
Why was the Son of God crucified on Calvary? Why rejected? Betrayed? Beaten? And Battered? Why mocked and ridiculed? Why treated with scorn and contempt? Why killed like a common criminal?
We can point an accusing finger at Judas who betrayed him. Peter who denied him. And the Sanhedrin council who tried him.
It is almost too easy to blame the howling mob who cried “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate who cowardly washed his hands of the whole sordid affair. Or the Jews who assumed responsibility when they said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
It’s tempting for us preachers to explain the cross by getting bogged down in words like “atonement.” “Justification.” And “propitiation.” True, they are words that offer insight into the deeper meaning of Jesus’ journey to earth. His life. Death. Burial. And resurrection. They do deserve our serious study.
But the answer is found in Dailey’s hymn. It is simple. Succinct. And scriptural. It’s the refrain repeated over and over.
“Because He loved me so!”
The 14th century Catherine of Siena, is credited with proclaiming, “Nails didn’t hold Jesus to the cross. His love for you did.” The events of the most famous Friday in history were of Jesus’ own choosing. His death was voluntary. “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18).
In He Chose the Nails, the author expresses Jesus’ decision to die on the cross in these gripping words.
“The hand squeezing the handle was not a Roman infantryman. The force behind the hammer was not an angry mob. The verdict behind the death was not decided by jealous Jews.”
“Jesus himself chose the nails.”
“So the hands of Jesus opened up. Had the soldier hesitated. Jesus would have swung the mallet. He knew how; he was no stranger to the driving of nails. As a carpenter he knew what it took. And as a Savior he knew what it meant. He knew that the purpose of the nail was to place your sins where they could be hidden by his sacrifice and covered by his blood.”
The cross was about love. God’s love. Grace. And gift. Love caused the Son of God to leave heaven. Come to earth. And die on the cross.
In what Robert Jackson once called “The Greatest Sentence in the World,” Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
The cross demonstrated the passion of Christ. The purpose of God. And the power in His shed blood. For me. And for you.
And resurrection Sunday signaled to all of the human race that His love was alive. And well. For 40 days He shared that message. Quieted the skeptics. Emboldened believers. And commissioned His disciples to spread the Good News.
Ahh, the Good News! Why did Jesus come to earth? Because he loved me so!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman