One of the great questions worthy of consideration is why Jesus had to die in such a manner. Now assuming that the problem of the world is the existence of evil, I suggest that this is the best alternative to save the world from the scourge of evil. I can think of three others possible ways God could have saved the world, none of which are realistic and all which violate his character or purposes.
1. Overthrow evil (annihilation): One way to remove evil from the human realm is for God to simply step in and exterminate it in an instant. People often ask why God does not do this! After all this would solve the problem of the existence of beings that are completely and utterly evil (e.g. Satan and demons) and would remove the problem.
However removing evil in this way would be a problem where people who are partially evil are concerned. And the truth is that we humans are all corrupted, all fallen to a greater or lesser degree (Rom 3:23). If God was to destroy evil in this way, he would have to destroy us all in an instant, and any possibility of relationship with God would be destroyed eternally. God, because of his character and desire to save, is not prepared to do this at this point. Ultimately, when time is complete according to God’s agenda, he will destroy all evil. However, he wishes to give humanity time to repent.
2. Overpower evil (robotism): Another way for God to overthrow evil is to simply force humanity and all creation to acquiesce to his power. As God with all power (omnipotence), he could if he chose to simply force all that opposes him to obey him.
The problem with this is that human freedom would be abrogated. This would defeat the purpose of God in creating people with choice and freedom. God’s character of love demands that he gives us freedom to respond, it is those who freely accept him that will live forever with him.
3. Overlook evil (universalism): Another way for God to solve the problem of evil is to simply not worry about it and let it exist eternally.
The problem with this is that despots like Hitler and Satan himself would then live forever with the whole creative power of heaven and God at their fingertips. This would make heaven an eternal cosmic hell! This would also violate God’s character which involves justice, he cannot allow evil to rule.
Hence God chose a fourth alternative. He chose to overcome evil through sinless perfection, crucifixion and resurrection.
God had to choose a way to solve the problem of evil whilst still allowing humanity to remain free to choose. This ruled out the above possibilities. Hence he conceived of the idea of allowing himself in his eternal form to become human whilst retaining his divinity. This he achieved in the person of Jesus born of Mary. He then lived in the human realm refusing to fall prey to temptation whilst demonstrating the loving, healing, just character of God. In so doing he fulfilled the prophetic expectations of the chosen community, to be the anointed king in the line of David sent from God to save his people (cf. Is 9; 11).
He then allowed humanity to reject him and kill him. He allowed this death to be culturally understandable as a sacrifice (hence the cross, the blood and his death cf. Lev 17:11). He allowed this death to be horrendous and excruciating, symbolically absorbing the worst humanity could throw at him. He then died in a physical sense, but due to his sinlessness, passed through death and was raised from the dead by God. He then invited all humanity to simply place their faith in him and they would be saved.
They would be saved not on the basis of their own perfection but on the basis of Christ’s perfection. At the moment of accepting Christ, the believer’s sinful existence would be replaced by Christ’s sinlessness. Hence at the point of the death the believer, on the basis of Christ, would pass through death to life. God would then replace their inner being with complete purity, extinguishing their evil in the cross. Then as they stand before God in judgement they are seen as faultless, the judgement of the cross being their judgement, and they need have no fear of hell. Those who reject Christ stand before God in judgement day with their evil and sin before them and they will join all evil in eternal separation from God.
I am amazed at how creative and clever this is. The cross is a gruesome disgusting way for a man to die on the one hand; however, on the other hand it is a brilliant, culturally relevant way for God to save the world without violating human freedom and his character whilst destroying evil! To me the only way to respond to such brilliance is to accept Jesus as saviour and Lord.