It is very important for us to examine some of the widely held beliefs about the life, mission and the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
Fundamentally, it is believed that Jesus came to die for our sins and that this death automatically washes away the sins of mankind, as long as we believe in Him. Conventional Christianity apparently sees His mission only in His death. As far as they are concerned, the only reason of His coming to earth was to die and wash away the sins of mankind.
It is, however, very important for us to separate the issue of His mission from the circumstances surrounding His death. His mission and His death are completely separate events and must be examined separately if we are to understand Jesus and derive any benefit from Him. It is a shame that most of us see His death as His mission on earth, whereas His Teaching is of far more importance, even though His sacrificial death is also of the utmost importance. This may sound like a paradox, but if it is looked at in the light of the fact that He died to preserve His mission, then it is not that difficult to understand.
Jesus died and sacrificed Himself to preserve His Teaching, which is His actual mission. His mission was to bring a new Teaching to mankind, showing them the way back to God, the Father. His mission laid solely in this fact. So, there are two events here: one is the fact of His real mission which laid in the bringing of a new Teaching, and secondly the preservation of this Teaching through His sacrificial death.
Many of us still do not realise the greatness that lies in this simple fact alone. The fact of His real mission, which is this Teaching that He brought to us so that in adhering to It we might find our way back to God. Only this teaching will be and can be our salvation and nothing else, and this fact He reiterated many times, as for example when He said that only those who do the Will of His Father will see the Kingdom and that not all those who say, “Lord, Lord…” and so on.
We should not confuse His sacrificial death with His real mission. When He was arrested and told more or less to recant what He had been saying that He was the Son of God, He reaffirmed the fact that He was the Son of God and refused to recant. It was this His firm assertion and this refusal to give in to the slanderers at that time that led directly to His death. He died for what He believed in and for His Words. He stood by His Words which represented His Teaching and His legacy to us. He died so that all He had said to us in His Teaching might continue to exist.
If He had recanted and denied the fact that He was the Son of God, then all He had lived for would have been in vain. He died so that we might continue to have His Word and live by It. It was this Word which He brought that would liberate us from the oppression of the darkness. His death only preserved His Teaching among mankind, so that His Teaching might continue to exist, and it is this Teaching or this Word that would liberate us if we adhere to It.
We must therefore be able to differentiate His death from the His teaching. His death was necessary because no other choice was left to Him. It was either He capitulated and continued to live whereby His reputation and mission would completely have been destroyed because from then on, nobody would ever believe what He said again, or stand and die by His Word thereby preserving the truth of His Teaching for posterity.
No other choice was possible and indeed He was martyred for the sake of the Truth He stood for and represented. So Jesus was actually a great martyr for the Truth and indeed the greatest martyr. This does at all belittle Him or His Mission but He must be revered even more for standing by and sacrificing Himself for the preservation of His Teaching so that we might continue to live.
So, the saying that He died so that we might live is right. He died so that we might continue live spiritually and avoid spiritual death and damnation. This has nothing to do with physical life and death. All must die physically but spiritual death is not preordained for anyone and this is what Jesus came to prevent with His Teaching.