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“Ask a Priest: Couldn’t Jesus Just Have Died a Natural Death?”
Q: I understand Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, but because humans murdered him, is it like a sin trying to remove sin itself? A rough analogy would be if I rubbed out a stain with my finger but my finger is oily. Yes, the stain is gone but now there is a new oily stain. Why didn’t God the Father just will the Son to die of a disease/accident instead of murder? – J.N.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Your question is the kind that keeps theologians busy. A proper answer could easily fill a book.
Suffice it to say that it was Jesus’ loving obedience to the Father that redeemed us by re-establishing communion between mankind and God. It was man’s sinfulness that made Jesus’ obedience so painful.
Our Lord’s willingness to accept that pain without giving up on us is a beautiful and inexhaustibly rich expression of how much God loves and values us.
If Jesus had died of disease, the sacrificial and loving nature of his death would have been lost on us. Rather, he wanted to let us know that he was willing to die for our redemption.
That people put Jesus to death was an extraordinary way by which God shows that he can bring good out of evil. God wanted to send his Son, the fullness of what he wanted to reveal to the world, and the fact that the world put Jesus to death is part of the mystery of the plan of redemption.
God didn’t will that people would kill his Son, but he did foresee that act and had already incorporated it into his plan for redemption. And what seemed a horrific end for Jesus was actually his great victory, for by his death he showed a victory over sin.
This is part of the mystery that surrounds Our Lord’s passion and death. For more insights into the theology of Christ’s suffering, you might find Inside the Passion well worth your time.
You could spend a life contemplating Jesus’ suffering … which might have been part of God’s plan all along.
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