Was the sacrificial system of the Old Testament merely a misguided attempt to appease man's Creator? And when Jesus arrived on the scene, did His Father have any interest in His Son becoming a "sacrifice" for sins? Or was that concept simply an outdated approach which had no real bearing upon God's love and His acceptance of man?
If the death of Christ on the cross was not a sacrifice for sins, someone should have told the writers of the New Testament.
John the Baptist stated, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) The image of Christ as the Lamb is a clear reference to the sacrificial nature of the Lord's death on the cross.
Paul wrote, "God presented Him (Christ) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood." (Romans 3:25) Jesus atoned for our sins when He was sacrificed on the cross. And John penned, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)
The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament merely provided an outward cleansing. The sacrifice of Jesus is what cleanses man's heart. The writer of Hebrews put it this way: "The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:13,14)
The Father accepts believers in Christ because of the sacrifice of His Son. "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10) "By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Hebrews 10:14)
Without the sacrifice of Jesus, no one could approach the Father and live. We are not holy enough. Not even close. But through faith in Christ, our sins are washed away as a result of His sacrifice on the cross. "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him." (Hebrews 9:27,28)
So was it necessary for Jesus to die? Or could God have accomplished the same result while allowing Jesus to avoid death?
God established the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. And God came up with the plan for Jesus to be sacrificed for our sins on the cross. In other words, the sacrificial death of Christ was not man's invention. Man merely participated in the process as he arrested and then killed the Son of God.
The Father is God. The Son is God. And the Holy Spirit is God. The Father and the Holy Spirit did not die on the cross, but only the Son. He was the perfect sacrifice which our sins required. God loved us enough to sacrifice His Son to save us. And Jesus loved His Father enough and us enough to go through with it.
It was necessary for Jesus to die if we were to be rescued. God could have left us "hanging out to dry." Instead, He chose to send His Son to hang on the cross in our place. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16) You can be a gracious receiver of God's loving gift, or a conscientious objector to God's plan. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would turn a blind eye to God's amazing grace.
There are those today who feel more comfortable defining Jesus' death as a display of love, but not an actual sacrifice. This incomplete explanation is simply man's spin. In reality, the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of Scripture to explain the death of Jesus as both an act of love, as well as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Just because man is uncomfortable with the sacrificial system of the Old Testament does not mean God is uncomfortable with it. After all, God designed it when man rebelled against his Creator.
God's Word declares, "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22) While various pagan religions utilize animal and human sacrifice, their unholy sacrifices do not diminish the authentic and holy way in which God ordained the shedding of His Son's blood for the forgiveness of sins. Satan himself has inspired multiple counterfeits to mimic God's design. But the sacrifices of those pagan religions accomplish nothing beneficial.
Ancient Aztecs and Incas engaged in ritualistic sacrifice, as did the Druids of Europe. And in the Old Testament, the Ammonites practiced child sacrifice in the name of their god, Molech. Today we find child sacrifice continuing to be practiced in various places. In Uganda for example, there has been a resurgence of this practice in recent years. This is what happens when people are deceived by Satan, who was described by Jesus as "a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)
When Christ came into the world, He defeated sin, death and the devil. He did this by dying for our sins on the cross, and then rising again. "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Cor. 5:7) And so it's a done deal. You cannot undo it. You can either accept Christ's death on the cross as the payment for your sin, or you can reject it and ignore it altogether. But either way, Christ was sacrificed for the sins of the world. And your belief or unbelief won't change what is absolutely true and holy.
Why else would "Good Friday" be considered good? It's good because it was God's plan of redemption. "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:2) "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7)
So you tell me. Was it necessary for Jesus to die?
Better yet, tell it to God. He is your Judge. And ultimately, your sins will either be left at the cross as you trust Jesus for salvation, or your sins will be left upon you. And no one enjoys leaving a courtroom with the weight of his transgressions upon himself, while the punishment for his behavior awaits him. And yet what else do you think will happen on Judgment Day for those who are not forgiven?
Jesus endured all the punishment for man's sin that He is going to endure. It was enough. But if you would rather decline what He did for you, He won't force you to trust Him for salvation. He won't force you to be forgiven. And He won't force you to spend eternity in paradise. He just won't.
So it comes back to you. Belief or unbelief. Christ or some other approach. You make the call. And then prepare to meet your Maker.
That day is coming my friend, regardless of what you or I think about it. You see, Jesus didn't die for nothing. It was necessary because it was God's perfect plan of redemption for sinners. Period.