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Why Did Jesus Have To Go On The Cross? | Jesse Bradley, Grace Community Church

Mark Holland is joined by Pastor Jesse Bradley to discuss the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They explore the concept of substitutionary atonement, where Jesus took the place of humanity to pay for their sins, and propitiation, where God’s wrath was satisfied through Jesus’ sacrifice. They also discuss the uniqueness of Christianity, emphasizing that it is not about striving to earn salvation through good works, but about receiving the grace of God through faith in Jesus.

Show Notes:


Mark Holland:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them.” This excerpt from Psalm 8 helps put into perspective how wonderful and mighty God is. There are so many mysteries to uncover about Jesus and how his attributes affect our daily life. On this episode, we will unpack the questions, what hope does the death and resurrection of Jesus offer us, and why did Jesus have to go on the cross? Discussing these questions today is Pastor Jesse Bradley of Grace Community Church in Auburn.

We are into the Easter season. We want to discover Jesus this Easter season with our Purposely Equipped series asking different pastors different questions this time of year. A pretty basic one, pretty central to the Easter season is the death of Jesus on the cross. Why did Jesus have to go to the cross? What about the resurrection? What kind of hope does it offer us? Kind of a deep subject, but very central to the Christian faith. It’s really what sets us apart from other religions.

To help us with this subject this week is a very articulate pastor who probably is more well known in the podcasting world than any of us because he has a podcast that reaches around the country. He seems to be the go-to guy for a lot of secular media when they want to try and understand evangelicals and what’s going on in church circles. We’re talking with, of course, Jesse Bradley of Grace Community Church in Auburn. Hi there, Jesse.

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

Mark, it’s great to join you today. Thanks for all you do to bring hope across the sound.

Mark Holland:

Well, thank you. Boy, you’re bringing hope across the country and around the world. You’re podcasting your commentary. I’m reading stories a lot of times online and they quote you. How did you get into this position of being an authority on Christian stuff?

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

Well, it’s kind of ironic or unlikely because I didn’t grow up following Jesus or in the church. I never read the Bible. But Jesus changed my life. There’s a passion that burns inside of me where I want everyone to know how loved they are. I want everyone to know there’s a relationship with God, and there’s nothing better than to know God. Because of that, it’s exciting to go places where Jesus isn’t usually talked about. If that’s NBC or ABC or whatever platform, I simply love to talk about Jesus. I want to create safe environments because I remember what it was like when I had literally a hundred questions. Where could I process? How could I kick the tires? I want to know that this faith is real and it’s solid, and I love to have those kind of conversations.

Mark Holland:

Well, you have those conversations. You’ve participated with our podcast several times. Your own podcast you launched here recently called The Bonfire. Tell us quickly what that’s about.

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

I believe that if we’re isolated, we fade, and we’re not on fire for God. But when the embers come together, God does something special. This is a time not to be intimidated or silent or retreating but to come together. God literally baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire. But The Bonfire is a place where you can gather. It’s a place of stories. And ultimately it’s about God’s presence. God is love. God is light. God is a consuming fire. I believe we need God’s presence more than anything else in our lives, in our homes, in our nation right now. So let’s seek God together. The Bible tells us that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. We come to him and know that he exists. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. So we bring everything, all the questions, all the doubts, all the challenges. We come to God, and God’s grace is amazing. That’s what we experience at The Bonfire.

Mark Holland:

Well, you can hear The Bonfire podcast on our platform, I assume you have links in other places as well. Of course on the radio too. We’ve added it to our Sunday afternoon lineup, 3:30 Sundays on KCIS radio. So The Bonfire, lots of great stuff happening with Jesse Bradley and, of course, his outreach there in Auburn as well.

Well, let’s reach out to people who are listening to this series right now, some basic questions about how to discover Jesus and what makes Jesus different. We are tackling the subject of, why did Jesus have to go to the cross? Why all this blood and this sacrifice and stuff like this? This is very different from other religions, which are a lot of times just a bunch of do’s and don’ts, but there’s something very different at the heart of Christianity. Tell us, why did Jesus have to go to the cross?

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

There’s never been such a great demonstration of love. Love includes commitment and sacrifice. Jesus doesn’t just talk about love, but he literally dies in our place. Now, a lot of people wear crosses around their neck. But what does that really mean to look at the cross and think about the significance of what Jesus has done on our behalf? Now, I think we’re going to get into a little theology today, and I want to introduce a couple of phrases and unpack them briefly.

One of them is called substitutionary atonement. That means that Jesus took our place. We all have a sin-sick soul, and the wages of sin is death, separation from God for eternity. God is holy. This is about God’s character. He is holy. We have all sinned against him, and we all need forgiveness. That’s not to bring shame or guilt. This is all leading up to the hope that we have. We need that forgiveness. Jesus was fully human and fully God. He always existed, but just over 2,000 years ago, he was born. Because he is sinless and perfect, he is able to take our place as that sacrifice, again, substitutionary. If I had a cancer and I was going to die and then Jesus came and took that cancer, what would happen? He would die and I would live. Jesus literally took our sins. The Bible says he became sin, and he gives us his righteousness. That’s the exchange at the cross. We receive the grace of God. He takes the wrath of God.

Another word is propitiation. The wrath of God was satisfied. Because God’s holy and just, there had to be a payment for sin. When you read the Old Testament, you see the foreshadowing, the prototype, the buildup for this sacrifice. Literally, animals were sacrificed in the Old Testament, and there was blood. That was just a temporary cover. It was pointing to the ultimate Lamb of God who took our place. And without the shedding of blood, there’s no forgiveness of sins. It was literally required. Jesus, in that way, we have justification, that’s that we’re declared righteous. Really, this should blow our mind. What we’re describing right here, Mark, is different angles of the cross so that we can see the beauty and the fullness of what Jesus accomplished when he laid down his life. Yes, he was murdered, but really, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If today you’re feeling like you just don’t know if God loves you, you need to think about the cross. You need to think about how much he loves you, how valuable you are. You’re made in God’s image. You’re wonderfully made. Jesus, he literally died for you. That’s how much he cares about you. There’s no greater love than someone to lay down their life. Jesus with joy, not because it was easy, he literally asked the Father, “Is there any other way?” but with joy because he knew of the salvation that would be accomplished. It is finished. Jesus completed it. He achieved it. We receive it.

So that is so important when you think about the Christian faith, because according to Barna, over half of America thinks you earn your way to heaven through good works by being a good person, and that’s simply not true. The Bible says, “Not by works,” the exact opposite, but it’s through faith in Christ. It’s through grace, which is an undeserved gift, but you need to receive it. Don’t strive and achieve and try to earn it. Jesus achieved it. Now we received it. So that’s a starting point, but I wanted to give that foundation, that framework as we talk about the significance of the cross.

Mark Holland:

You mentioned some of the history leading up to that point for the cross. Jews were raised in an atmosphere where they did, they had to sacrifice a lamb. I heard the example one time of the impression that this had on even young kids. A lot of times the lamb that they would sacrifice was like a pet. It was like something very close to them, and they had to go take that cherished animal and sacrifice it. Throughout leading up to Jesus’ time, that was making a real impression on people. The seriousness, the seriousness of sin and the wages of sin is death, and something or someone has to die in my place. It was just impressed on them big time.

Then when Jesus came along and, like you say, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” that was what John the Baptist said about Jesus, he was there to be that lamb once and for all. You mentioned as well on the cross, he said, “It is finished.” So this old system of having to sacrifice lambs and whatever else, pigeons and different things, it was done with. What a wonderful exchange that is that we can’t earn, that he did for us, and that’s why we have to… Did you ever see the movie The Passion of the Christ?

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

I did see that. It was so intense, so visual, and yet so powerful. It’s both/and. I think there is real sadness when we see what happened on that cross. Literally, it’s brutal. At the same time, why do we call it Good Friday? Because out of the darkest moments, God brings hope and that redemption that’s accomplished. Redeem means to buy back. Jesus is our redeemer. He bought us back. Like you said, there’s no blemish in those lambs that were sacrificed, but it really was a sacrifice. This is not light what God did on our behalf. It’s important to really understand how much, how humble Jesus was, not only that he left heaven, came to Earth, became human, served us, but he was faithful to die on the cross to accomplish it. It all points to the uniqueness of Jesus.

I was in a class at Dartmouth College my freshman year, Introduction to World Religions, looking at the different religious leaders, and Jesus caught my attention because not only is he the greatest teacher and the Bible is the most well-read book, and not only are his miracles unrivaled and then the prophecy fulfilled, but Jesus is the only one who’s sinless. He’s the only Messiah. He is the Son of God. And because he’s human, he’s the only one who could take our place. He’s literally the only one. This is the only way. There’s not another way. I can’t save myself, and he’s the only one. There’s only one name given to us under heaven by which we may be saved.

The uniqueness of Jesus stands out, and the uniqueness of Christianity stands out. Because I didn’t believe God existed, and I was just looking at different religions. I saw so much striving and trying to keep the law and all of this effort, human effort to have peace with God. This is completely different. Before we ever knew God, Jesus loves us, pursues us, dies for us, and now we are able to step into that grace. This is relationship, not religion. This is a relationship with the living Savior, Jesus Christ. He said to the disciples… Thomas doubted, but Thomas stayed in the community of faith. That’s important when you have doubts. Then Jesus said, “Look it, look at my hands right here. Look at those scars. Don’t miss what I’ve done for you.” Even today it moves me. It inspires us that we are so loved by God that he would literally die in our place. This brings glory to the Father, and it’s also for our good.

Mark Holland:

That was his mission, too. The society was looking for a conquering messiah who was going to be a political leader or something, but that wasn’t his mission. His mission, his first coming was to die for his people. It seems like everybody missed that. People get mad at the Jewish community because, “Well, you killed Jesus,” but everybody did. We all put him on that cross. He came with a mission. But the thing is, too, Jesus did it on his own, of his own volition. People didn’t whip up on Jesus and murder him. He sacrificed himself. He let it happen because he knew that was his mission. That’s again getting back to that movie. I thought, “Wow, what did Jesus accomplish for us?” We can’t even fathom that sacrifice that he did willingly.

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

That’s right. He’s the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, and we are the recipients. Don’t misunderstand, there’s a first coming and the second coming. I love what you said because people had expectations about Jesus that he would be the political leader. He would overthrow Rome. He would be a military leader. He’d be a conqueror. Then when he came and he died, they were trying to process that. They were perplexed.

There’s the second coming when he will return. He will be over all nations. He will be over all kings. He will come to rule and reign forever. There’s the first coming, the second coming. We look back, but that gives us hope as we look forward. It’s a daily hope. It’s an indestructible hope. But it’s grounded in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is something we call the good news. There’s no greater news. There’s two parts to the Gospel. There’s the death of Christ, and there’s the resurrection. Both are essential. If all we have is the death of Jesus, we don’t have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and we don’t have the resurrection. Literally, “If there’s no resurrection, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15, “Christianity, it’s meaningless.”

Mark Holland:

Yeah, without the resurrection, yeah. Paul said, “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’re goners. This is all for not.”

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

Absolutely. To talk about the death, you also need to talk about the resurrection. It’s a both/and. They’re together. I think it’s important to fully enter the death with gratitude and appreciation. At the same time, we’re not still at a funeral because Jesus has risen, and because he’s risen, now we too are going to have resurrected bodies. We have a home in heaven. We are going to overcome death. The two go together. The Gospel is literally, “Jesus died for our sins, and he’s risen from the grave.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says, “This is of first importance.”

That’s why I love what you’re doing with this podcast, Discover Jesus, because in our own lives and our own priorities during the week and then even in our country right now, first priority is not always the Gospel, but the Gospel is central to everything we do. It’s not just for Easter, or it’s not just for Sunday mornings. Literally, where we live, work, learn, or play, the Gospel’s central. It changes and it affects everything that we do because of this great hope. It’s important to understand what the Gospel is, appreciate Jesus, serve him, grow in our faith, and focus on the death and resurrection because it’s literally everything we have with our faith.

Mark Holland:

Put your hope in Jesus and you will be resurrected just like he was. We serve a Lord who is alive and sitting at the right hand of the Father right now. He’s going to come again someday, and we want to be ready for him. People listening to this, thinking about the claims of Christianity this time of year with the Easter season, a lot of people go to church maybe just Christmas and Easter. It’s about a lot more than Easter egg hunts and Easter bonnets and things like this or dressing up. It’s about some real serious stuff. I would say Easter, even more so than Christmas, is central to Christianity. People are listening, searching for the Lord. They want to know the truth of Christianity. Why don’t you pray for those people who are considering Jesus and want to discover him at a deeper level?

Pastor Jesse Bradley:

That sounds great. Thank you, Mark. For you who are listening today, I encourage you to take that next step. If you don’t know Jesus, you’ve heard the truth today. Decide to follow him. Make your decision to put your trust in the Lord. For those of you who have drifted, make your decision today to return to Jesus with all of your heart. Or if you’re trying to do Christianity alone, remember, you need a church family. You need the Holy Spirit. You need God’s Word. Start to cultivate those habits and find a church family so you can serve and grow in your faith. Let’s all take the next steps together, and it could be that you invite someone to come with you. People are so open at Easter to join you, to learn more about Jesus.

We’re living in a time where we need hope. This is an indestructible hope. It’s a hope greater than our challenges. It’s the hope of Jesus Christ. To receive that hope today, the Bible says, “He’s the God of hope.” What is hope? A confident and joyful trust in someone or something. Our hope is only as strong as the one in whom we hope, and Jesus Christ is our living hope.

I want to pray with you right now as we seek God together. Father, thank you for your goodness that you sent your Son. For you so loved the world, you so loved all of us that you gave your Son to die for us so that we could have eternal life. Thank you for the resurrection. God, we thank you that you are living, you are on the throne, and we worship you today. We offer ourselves to you today. I pray for my brothers and sisters taking the next step, clear decisions, walking by faith, doing it with joy. We know facts lead to faith, and we thank you that our faith is based on historical evidence as we think about the death and resurrection of our Savior.

God, I pray that our hearts and minds would be full of hope. God, I pray that this hope wouldn’t stay within the four walls of the church, but come into our homes and literally fill our streets. Jesus, may you be glorified during this Easter season, and we pray that we would say yes to you right now in what you’re calling us to do. We thank you so much, Lord. We pray in your name, amen.

Mark Holland:

Amen. Thank you so much for listening to Purposely Equipped. We hope that you gain a deeper understanding and discover who Jesus is this Easter season. Invite a friend to listen, too. We’d love you to leave a review so more people can find this podcast. Special thanks again to our guest pastor, Jesse Bradley of Grace Community Church in Auburn. Join us next week for Episode 4 in this series, “What is the historical theological proof for the resurrection?” with Pastor Vince Armfield of Lakeside Christian Church in Kirkland.

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