The Imperative of the Cross


This is the divine imperative: if Jesus was the Messiah, then out of love for man and obedience to the Father’s will, He had to die.

Mark 8:27-33


Why “must” Christ suffer? This imperative was all through the life of Christ. In Matthew 16:21 it says, “He must go to Jerusalem.” In Matthew 26:53-54, Jesus says He could call twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, “but how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Here in Mark 8:3 1, “The Son of man must suffer many things”; in Mark 9:31, “The Son of man must suffer many things and they will kill Him.” Back in His childhood He said, “Do ye not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) In Luke 4:43, “I must preach ... to the other cities also”; in 9:22, “The Son of man must suffer many things”; and in Luke 13:33, “I must go on My way today and tomorrow and the day following,” when He is referring, to the necessity of going to Jerusalem to meet His death. I must. I must.

This imperious necessity was not because of man. Jesus did not say, “I must be killed because men are going to kill Me.” The Lord did not have to allow Himself to be put to death. In fact, Jesus flatly said, “No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (John 10:18). He could have avoided this death if He wished, but thank God, He did not wish to do so. This great must ruled His life. This must was a cable of two strands: obedience to the Father and love for humankind. Jesus said, “I do that which is well pleasing to the Father, thus I must die and pay the price of sin. I love the world, thus I must die, for there is no other way.” This is the cord that drew Him: obedience to God and love for you and me. It was this harness that He took on, and which drew Him to Jerusalem, to the cross. It was this that fastened Him to the cross, not the nails. It was love that drew Him there.

And this must also goes beyond the tomb. “The Son of Man must ... be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). He must rise, because His resurrection was the vindication by God of all that He was claiming. But at this point in the drama, the apostles did not understand this truth; indeed, they forgot that Jesus had ever said it.

So we see the divine imperative. If Jesus was the Messiah, then out of love for man and out of obedience to the Father’s will He must die. The unbelief that despised His claim to be Messiah would be the instrument of His death. “Who do you say that I am?” asks Jesus. If you believe that He is the promised Messiah, you cannot go on to argue, as Peter did, that the crucifixion is unnecessary. For the Messiah, it is inevitable. And for those for whom the veil of unbelief has been torn away, who see Jesus for who He really is, that death is inevitable too.


  • Why did Jesus have to suffer?
  • What does the cross accomplish for mankind?
  • Was Christ willing to die on the part of humanity?
  • Why would Christ want to die?


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