Human history swings on the hinge of a Palestinian Jew. They can call it “Common Era” if they wish, but every event known to man is recorded as occurring (approximately) before or after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
And no single event in recorded history is more influential than his execution. Because of Jesus’s death nearly 2,000 years ago, over 2 billion people now call themselves Christians. Most statisticians agree that over 100,000 are killed every year because they take that name.
Why? Why is Jesus’s death so influential? And why are a million people killed in a decade because Jesus was killed?
Why is precisely the right question to ask. Everything hangs on why Jesus died.
The world thinks he died because he threatened the political establishment. But that is not what Jesus believed. When Pilate flexed his governing muscles, Jesus was unimpressed, saying, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). Here’s what Jesus believed:
I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. (John 10:17–18)
But why did he believe he had to lay his life down? His answer: "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). What does that mean? That’s the most important question to ask about the most influential event in human history.
And the most clear, concise, concentrated Biblical answers to that question (that I’m aware of) are collected in John Piper’s 122 page book, Fifty Reasons Jesus Came to Die. This is one of those rare books that can be read as a devotional by Christians of all maturity levels, and given to non-Christians as a clear explanation of the gospel. Each chapter is only two pages long, but meditation on each could go on for days. The book could be a small group study for a year, or a lunch hour office study for a month. Numerous churches give it to visitors on Sunday mornings and many folks have given them as gifts to family and friends at Christmas.
Because the content of this book is so important, we want to help you read it and give it away. You can purchase it or read it free here, or if you want to give a bunch away, go here to purchase cases (48 copies) inexpensively ($1.65 per copy).
Humans are reconciled to God by Jesus’s death (Romans 5:10) or not at all. That’s why his death is so influential and why it is so violently opposed.
The cross is the crux of history because it’s the crux of the gospel.