Why did Jesus die (from the OLD Testament)?

I must have read and watched thousands of murder mysteries, but the one I keep coming back to is the mystery of why Jesus was murdered.

Years ago I was a novice detective, so I approached the death of Jesus with untrained eyes. My teachers were veterans of Protestant tradition, most of whom had settled for one set of clues to explain Jesus’ death. It was an easy case, they said: Jesus died to save humanity from its sins – case closed.

But disturbing new evidence came to light that made me think there was more to Jesus’ death that needed to be investigated. It was called the Old Testament. Most of my training and investigation into Jesus’ death had come out of the New Testament, which had focused my mind on Jesus dying to save me from my sins. But the Old Testament wasn’t about Jesus dying to save me from my sins, it was mostly about the story of Israel.

So where did Israel fit in with Jesus’ death? And if it didn’t fit in, what was the point of all that Old Testament stuff in the first place? Or could Israel be the biggest clue of all?

It was a clue from the New Testament that set me off, in Luke 2:34, when Simeon sees the baby Jesus and says to Mary, “This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel.” Oh, so Israel was the primary reason for God sending Jesus. That means Israel must be the starting point in investigating Jesus’ death.

And of course it is, because Jesus was Israel’s Messiah. For centuries the Jews had been hoping the Messiah of the Old Testament would come and save them from their enemies, and restore their nation to the glory it had in Solomon’s day. And the Old Testament scriptures are full of that, of story after story of God delivering Israel from its enemies. When Jesus arrived, then, hopes soared that their Messiah had come to deliver them again.

But then he died, and none of them had a clue why. It was all there in the Old Testament, though, in dramatic prophecies that told of a final great battle between the Messiah and the kingdoms of this world, and the Messiah emerging victorious – not by military might but by suffering and death. The reason for Jesus dying, then, was to become King of the world. The Jews of Jesus’ day missed that, and so did I. It was time for me to open the case on Jesus’ death again, therefore, and this time using all those clues from the Old Testament.


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