Easter: Why Did Jesus Have to Die to Save Us?

While many Christians celebrate Easter, most don’t fully grasp why the death of Jesus had to occur.

Christianity stems from Judaism. The Jews celebrate Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement (DOA) in October. When Christians understand the DOA, then they can better understand why Jesus (the Highest Priest) had to die to save humanity.

The Day of Atonement also known as Yom Kippur

In Leviticus, Aaron (the high priest) offered a bull as his sin offering to make atonement for himself and his house.

After the high priest’s sin was dealt with and the tabernacle was cleansed, the high priest dealt with the sin of the people by presenting two male goats to their LORD. (Lev 16:5) Lots were cast for the goats: “one lot for the LORD and the other for azazel” (Lev. 16:8).

One goat was the sin offering. The goat for the Lord was slaughtered; with its blood, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place and the presence of God, then sprinkled the blood on the ark (Lev. 16:15). The blood was sprinkled in this way to cleanse Israel from sin (Lev. 16:16).

The Scapegoat Leviticus 16

The second goat was the goat for azazel presented alive before the Lord. The high priest laid his hands on the goat’s head, confessed all of Israel’s sins, and transferred them to the goat’s head. Bearing all of Israel’s sins on itself, the goat was led into the desert—away from the presence of the Lord—and released into a wilderness to represent free and full remission of their sins. (Lev. 16:21, 22). That’s where we get the term “scapegoat.” Once the sin offering of the two goats was finished, atonement was made for all of Israel’s sins that year (Lev. 16:34).

Animals were sacrificed because God wanted his people to afflict their souls as the spilling of the animals’ blood vividly illustrated the deadly seriousness of sin.

The Crucifixion – The Ultimate Sacrifice

In Leviticus it says that the high priest was humble (Lev 16:4), spotless (Lev 16:11) alone (Lev 16:11-14) and emerged victorious – just like Jesus did in accomplishing the work of atonement.

Year after year this ritual had to be done. Just as a high priest must enter into the most holy place to be in the presence of the Most High God. By faith, we put our hands upon the head of our offering (Jesus); relying on Christ who alone is able to atone our sins and procure us a pardon (Heb. 9:12). Christ’s blood completely covered humanity and erased every sin. The blood of Jesus is so effective that no other sacrifice will ever be needed to cleanse us (Heb. 10:18).

Easter and The Holy Week

In the Old Testament, the Jewish Passover sacrifice and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and the dates on which Jesus was taken by the Roman authorities coincide exactly.

The Last Supper/ Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday

In fact, as a devout Jew, Jesus celebrated Passover (i.e. Last Supper) a day early (i.e. Holy/Maundy Thursday) knowing He would be crucified on Passover to become the Passover Lamb, “without blemish.” Maundy Thursday is derived from the Latin word mandatum meaning “commandment.” The primary commandment of Jesus’ message is found in the story of the Last Supper when Jesus humbles himself to wash the feet of his apostles prior to the traditional Passover meal. Christians also consider the Last Supper as the institution of Holy Eucharist, also known as the Lord’s supper or communion. It is described in the Gospel of Luke 22. At the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus breaks bread, saying, “This is my body,” and pours wine, saying, “This is my blood.” He then asks the disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Photo by Alem Sánchez from Pexels

Just as an angel of death passed by those Israelites who put blood on their doorposts – so Jesus’ sacrificial death also resulted in every Christian’s freedom from death and hell for those who accept His blood.

When one reads the Old Testament, one begins to read the hundreds of prophecies that are later fulfilled in the New Testament. Although the Jews do not believe these are fulfillments, just coincidences. It is also frequently argued that it is coincidence that the Old Testament scriptures bear a resemblance to the life and death of Jesus Christ.

If you tried hard you may be able to find a handful of prophecies that relate to certain people, but you certainly couldn’t find an excess of 60 that clearly match to a tee certain incidents that happened in His life. Some objections are that Jesus Himself fulfilled prophecies. For example, Jesus’ last words on the cross were of His choosing and He chose on His own to recite the Old Testament scripture in Psalm 22 which then became “fulfilled” in the New Testament.

True enough, but many prophecies were completely beyond His control. For example, Jesus had no say over some of these Old Testament prophesies that were fulfilled in the New Testament, like how much silver was paid to Judas for his betrayal and manner of His death. There’s also the reaction of people – mocking and spitting; casting die for His clothing; the non-tearing of His main robe; where He was buried, etc. In fact, more than 50% of the prophecies fulfilled in Christ were completely outside of His power to influence one way or another. Psalm 22 graphically prophecies the Messiah’s manner of death through crucifixion. What’s astonishing is that during the time period the psalm was written, the penalty for blasphemy was stoning.

Good Friday – The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
“It is Finished”

Today, we celebrate His Last Supper on Holy Thursday, His death on Good Friday when “it is finished” (Jn 19:30); His ascension into the presence of God on Easter.

Easter Sunday – Jesus Christ Ascended into Heaven

This demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the final solution for man’s need of a prophet, a priest and a king. It affirms a Christian’s need to worship by hearing God’s Word, confessing their sin, prayer, praise, singing and making melody in their hearts as well as responding and acting with obedience, committing and being available for the plan of God in their lives.


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