“How come Jesus had to die on the cross? I’m glad we don’t have to die on a cross.”
My 5-year-old and I have been talking about the death of Jesus this week. He has been fixated on the details. The soldiers. Jesus carrying the heavy cross on his back. The crown that hurt. The nails going through his hands. The blood. He always points out the blood.
The image of Jesus on the cross in the Jesus Storybook Bible is not overly graphic and yet it commands his attention. He stares at it for quite some time.
I worry about him lingering on this page, reluctant to flip ahead to the empty tomb. Death is scary, and death on a cross nearly unbearable to imagine. He wonders how he will die.
I do answer his original question: “How come Jesus had to die?”
We talk about how God and Jesus are perfect and we are not. We talk about sin and how it separates us from God. I try to explain how God loves us so much that he didn’t want us to be separated. So Jesus had to die.
We move on to the empty tomb. He knows about the angel moving that big rock and confirms how “God rose Jesus from the dead.”
His questions are done for now, he goes back to his Paw Patrol and Transformers.
I keep thinking about it, though. I close my eyes, open my palms. I try to imagine nails going through my hands.
It’s too much to think about and I distract myself. I grab my phone and search for recipes, look at clothes. I’m ashamed. I can’t escape my selfish nature. Not even for a minute.
And then a haunting question hits me. Did Jesus have second thoughts about dying for me? Was I, am I, worth dying for?
I panic. I’m not worthy. None of us are. But what was Jesus thinking?
I remember his words and actions in the days and hours before his death. His conversation with God at Gethsemane gives me pause. "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me....” (Matthew 26:39).
I’m struck by what Jesus is not asking. He’s not asking if we are worth saving, but instead if there is another way. He affirms that he is committed to God’s will. He has done this all along.
Even as he is dying on the cross, he pleads on our behalf “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34).
Not once does he ask God, “Are you sure about this? Or, are these really the ones I’m dying to save?”
Not even close.
Good Friday, indeed.
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