As Catholics, Jesus Christ dying on the cross is one of the most powerful images we have. But as we go through life, it’s easy to forget the true meaning and purpose of His sacrifice. So to make sure this won’t happen, here’s a look into why Jesus was crucified and how it affect our lives.
Jesus was crucified so our sins would be forgiven. True to His teachings that there is “no greater love than to lay one’s life for another” and as the “Lamb of God”, He offered Himself so that the sins of the world are taken away. He was crucified not to make us grateful, but rather to set us free.
Now, Jesus’ suffering and death have a reason. It is at the heart of our Christian faith, which is why we must understand it, accept it, and put its meaning to heart. To help you with this, here’s a look into this historical and significant event.
Jesus’ Crucifixion: God’s Plan
The reason why Jesus was crucified isn’t because of any specific group or person. Sure, Judas betrayed Him, there was the Sanhedrin conspiracy, and Pilate gave the final order. But to say that they brought about His death is wrong. Why? Because Jesus handed His life willingly.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 599: “Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan”. He sent His only Son to us, sending Him on a difficult and almost impossible mission – which Jesus embraced perfectly.
In John 13:3, it states that “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that He had come from God and was going to God”, and so He chose to face his passion and death willingly. It is not that He is helpless or powerless. You have to remember that this is a Man with many followers, a Man that could call on angels and the Holy Spirit. This is the same Man who healed people and raised the dead, and who regularly escaped angry mobs. So even when he was mocked, beaten, humiliated, and nailed to the cross, Jesus was still in control.
With that, Jesus – who lived without sin – gave his life so that we can be saved and receive eternal life in heaven. As one of the most well-known verses in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
What Does the Crucifixion Mean to Catholics?
The crucifixion of Jesus is a key event in the Catholic faith and is integral to our religion. It is a symbol of Jesus’ death and suffering, proving to us God’s eternal love and the ugliness of sin. As Catholics, it serves as a reminder of how God sacrificed his only son to save all of humanity.
From the very beginning, the passion and death of Jesus on the cross are “part of the mystery of God’s plan” (CCC, 599). Because the sin of humankind was so great, it required a sacrifice. As seen in the Old Testament, priests used to offer animal sacrifices to God, hoping their death can substitute for the punishment of death people deserved for their sins and disobedience. In the book of Leviticus, this substitution is said to bring an individual and community back to God.
The Letter of Hebrews then connects this to the New Testament, saying how Jesus Christ took these sacrifices and ended them once and for all. Because Jesus is both God and man – He is just like us, yet He is divine and innocent – which made Him the perfect sacrifice.
In this context, Jesus became the priest who does the offering, and also the “Lamb” who willingly sacrificed His life. And with his crucifixion, the cross became his altar of sacrifice. All these give true meaning to Jesus being the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. (John 1:29)
So why would God, so loving and merciful, condemn his Son to such a tragic fate? Well, because of love. God loved us so much that he offered his only Son to do something we can never do, which is to save ourselves. And as for Jesus, he died to fulfill his duty and chose to suffer and be crucified in the worst imaginable way possible to give us a lesson that our sins are no minor thing. It is because of His suffering and death that we are forgiven.
Where Do Catholics Believe Jesus Was Crucified?
Jesus was crucified at a site outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha. According to John 19:17: “So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the ‘place of a skull’, which is called in Hebrew Gol’gotha.” In Latin, the word skull is “calvaria”. This is “Calvary” in English, which is what many Christians know as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Gospel of John also says that there was a garden and a tomb at Golgotha, which have never been used. And since it was nearby, it was where they placed Jesus’ body. The tomb was said to be cut out of rock with a huge stone that can be rolled at its front.
This was proven in the 4th century when St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, traveled to Jerusalem and discovered relics of the cross on which Jesus had been crucified. She then concluded that the site, which was already venerated by early Christians, was indeed Golgotha. Her son then ordered a basilica to be put up in its place, known today as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Now, throughout history, people have always debated whether Jesus was really crucified in Golgotha. But what is fascinating and what further corroborated such claims, was that a rock and a tomb, the same as what John has described, were found near the site.