Mission

Jesus is the Answer (Part 2): Why did Jesus Die? (Mobile)

This chapter completes the third step of the Gospel presentation: Jesus is the answer by answering the question: Why did Jesus die?  


UNDERSTANDING

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS PASSAGE?

Read Ephesians 2:1 – 10

 

Goal

The goal of this chapter is to continue to look at the third step of the Gospel — that Jesus is the answer — by examining the question: Why did Jesus die?

 

Context

Imagine you are John the Apostle and it’s the original Good Friday. You are standing with Jesus’ mother, Mary, at the foot of the cross, and looking at your friend, who is experiencing immense pain and suffering. At some point in time, we have to think that John would have asked, “Why does Jesus have to die? Aren’t there other ways God could save the world? How does the death of an innocent man change anything?”

Like John, we might have this question as well. Today, we are going to look at some answers from St. Paul. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision, which resulted in Paul’s radical conversion. Paul spent the rest of his life traveling around the known world telling people about Jesus.

During this time, Paul spent several years in the city of Ephesus ministering to the Church and to others nearby (Acts 19:1 – 10; 20:31). After his departure, other religious teachers caused confusion among the Ephesians on how salvation works. In this passage, Paul seeks to set the record straight and remind the Ephesians how they received their salvation.

 

God’s perspective

Paul shows us what humankind looks like from God’s perspective. We cannot know how great the solution is until we realize how bad the problem truly is. Paul spends the first three verses in this passage outlining the state of man without God.

Here are some details about the key phrases in this passage:

• “The course of this world” (Eph 2: 2): When Scripture speaks of “the world,” it uses it in several different ways. In this passage, “the world” means a non-spiritual way of thinking; in other words, how we would act without God.

• “Passions of our flesh…desires of our mind” (Eph 2:3): Paul’s description makes sense if we look back at the consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin — Original Sin — on humanity. After the fall, humans now have a natural tendency to commit sin; our passions and desires rule us, even when we know what is right. We need grace to overcome this tendency (for more, see CCC 403, 405).

• “Children of wrath” (Eph 2:3): This is a bleak picture of our state without God. Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death.” Justice refers to giving someone what is owed them. Because of our sin, we deserve wrath and death. We are in need of something more than justice. We need mercy, a free gift from God that we don’t deserve.

St. Catherine’s Bridge Illustration can be helpful to explain our current state without God’s mercy. On one side is God and heaven, and on the other side is humanity here on Earth. The separation caused by sin creates an infinite chasm between God and man. Because we’re finite human beings, nothing we do on our own (represented by the arrows) can bridge that infinite gap.

 

Climax

In Ephesians 2:1 – 3, Paul tells us what God’s judgment looks like, in light of what would be just. Verse four of Ephesians Chapter 2 begins with a “but”: We are justly owed wrath, but God is merciful.

God is not only merciful, He is “rich in mercy” — He goes beyond merely saving us from wrath by giving us eternal life. These facts alone would have been amazing, but God offers us so much more. Paul explains earlier in the letter that God destined the Ephesians (and us) to be sons and daughters (Eph 1:5). God doesn’t just save us; he brings us into a family.

Our culture often paints Christianity as a good way to be a nice person. At its root, Christianity is about realizing the fallen and broken state of our world and accepting a solution that raises us up beyond anything we could imagine. With the vision Paul paints here in his letter to the Ephesians, a decision in favor of Jesus Christ makes much more sense than a decision to simply be a nice person.

St. Catherine’s Bridge Illustration can be helpful here as well. Jesus’ death on the cross bridges the divide created by sin. Because Jesus is fully human, He can represent the human family and offer an act of love on our behalf. However, because He is fully divine, His act of love on the cross takes on infinite value. Thus, Jesus is able to bridge this infinite divide. His death gives us an opportunity to overcome sin, to live as His sons and daughters and to go to heaven.

As the Catechism states, “No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all” (CCC 615).

 

Application

Faced with such immeasurable riches, it is natural to think, “What do I have to do to get this gift?” Paul’s surprising answer in Ephesians 2:8 – 10 is nothing. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace (Eph 2:8). God gives it freely while we are “dead in our trespasses” (Eph 2:1). There is nothing a dead person can do to restore himself back to life!

Sometimes it is hard for us to understand the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers through His death and resurrection. Here’s a story that might help.

Imagine you are the parent of a nine-year-old boy. During the summer, your son spends almost every day playing with the next door neighbor’s son. Your son’s friend eats dinner with your family and spends the night at your house; the boys are inseparable.

One day, your son’s friend comes to you and says, “Can I talk to you for a minute? It has been really fun to play with your son all summer. Thank you for letting me spend the night, eat dinner with your family, play games with you and everything.” You reply, “No problem. I’m glad you both have had a good summer.” The young boy looks at you and says, “I just have one question: Do you think that if I mowed your lawn for the rest of the summer, I could be your son?” Of course, you are honored by his request, but you reply, “Well, thank you, young man, but mowing my lawn wouldn’t make you my son.” “Well,” your son’s friend replies, “What if I mow your lawn, paint the house and do your dishes every night? Then can I be your son?”

As we all know, there is nothing your son’s friend could do to earn his way into your family. In fact, there is only one way he could be received into your family: through adoption. But the adoption would be a free gift on your part — a gift that your son’s friend could never expect, or even earn, by himself.

We have to remember that we can’t save ourselves! Jesus is the one who provides our salvation. It is His gift that allows us to be His sons and daughters. At the same time, we need to accept His invitation and commit our lives to Him. We will explore this step more in our next chapter on the Prodigal Son.

For more on salvation, see the resources below.

 

Additional Resources

The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1987 – 2029

“Scriptural Apologetics” by FOCUS, Chapter Six Justification, focusequip.org

 

 

DISCUSSION

DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR YOUR BIBLE STUDY

Ephesians 2:1 – 10

 

Notes to the Leader

• Reminder of the goal of this chapter: The goal of this week’s chapter is for your group to understand that Jesus died on the cross because of the love He has for us and because our sin separates us from Him. Your group will also begin to look at how to accept this grace.

• Instructions for this chapter: Be prepared to draw out St. Catherine’s Bridge Illustration. This simple yet effective illustration allows people to easily understand God’s invitation to us. There will be prompts below to show you what to draw and how to explain it.

• Challenge check-in: Last week, the challenge was to take some time to think about how certain decisions would change if you fully believed that Jesus was Lord. Consider asking your group how this challenge went for them.

 

Opener

1. Have you ever lost something? How did you feel after you lost it? Did it make you appreciate in a whole new way what you had possessed before? What was your reaction upon finding it again?

 

Context

(Share aloud with your group.)

Last week, we began to look at how Jesus is the answer to the problem of sin and brokenness in our lives. Today, we will look at the question: Why did Jesus die?

Imagine you are John the Apostle and it’s the original Good Friday. You are standing with Jesus’ mother, Mary, at the foot of the cross, and looking at your friend, who is experiencing immense pain and suffering. At some point in time, we have to think that John would have asked, “Why does Jesus have to die? Aren’t there other ways God could save the world? How does the death of an innocent man change anything?”

Like John, we might have this question as well. Today, we are going to look at some answers from St. Paul. Early in his life, Paul was a Jewish official who persecuted Christians. His conversion to Christianity came through a miraculous vision from Jesus (Acts 9:1 – 19). After his conversion, Paul went to several towns in the Roman Empire preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to others. Later, Paul wrote letters to these communities who had accepted the good news. Today, we are going to read from one of these letters — in this case, Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus.

 

Read Ephesians 2:1 – 3.

 

2. What phrases or words stuck out to you and why?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

3. Why do you think Paul paints such a vivid picture of life without Christ?

Allow the group to discuss. Paul wants us to see who we would be without Christ so we can better understand what it means to have Christ. Specifically, Paul wants us to know that Jesus died for us because we were dead in sin. Jesus wants us to have new life.

(Share with your group.)

On a sheet of paper, write the words “God” and “heaven” on one side and “humanity” and “Earth” on the other. Write “sin” in the middle to show why there is a separation. The separation caused by sin creates an infinite chasm between God and man. Because we’re finite human beings, nothing we do on our own (represented by the arrows) can bridge that infinite gap.

 

Climax

 

Read Ephesians 2:4 – 7.

 

4. In verses 1 – 3, Paul talks about how we justly deserved wrath because of our actions. In verse 4, he talks about God’s mercy. What’s the difference between justice and mercy?

Answer: Justice is what we are owed; mercy is a generosity that goes beyond what is just.

 

5. Why does God give us mercy instead of what we deserve?

Answer: Because God loves us. In fact, this is why Jesus came into the world. (Feel free to share John 3:16 or have someone in your group read it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”)

 

6. How does God show us His mercy?

Allow the group to discuss.

(Share with your group.)

Draw a cross between God and man that bridges the divide. Jesus’ death on the cross bridges the divide created by sin. Because Jesus is fully human, He can represent the human family and offer an act of love on our behalf. However, because He is fully divine, His act of love on the cross takes on infinite value. Thus, Jesus is able to bridge this infinite divide. His death gives us an opportunity to overcome sin and to go to heaven. (See CCC 615 for more).

 

Application

 

Read Ephesians 2:8 – 10.

 

7. The word “grace” is used in verse 8 and in other parts of this passage. What is grace?

Answer: Grace is a gift that is not earned. “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996). Grace restores us to the relationship with God that we were made for.

 

8. Sometimes it is hard for us to understand the concept of grace and what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. Here’s a story that might help.

Imagine you are the parent of a nine-year-old boy. During the summer, your son spends almost every day playing with the next door neighbor’s son. Your son’s friend eats dinner with your family and spends the night at your house; the boys are inseparable.

One day, your son’s friend comes to you and says, “Can I talk to you for a minute? It has been really fun to play with your son all summer. Thank you for letting me spend the night, eat dinner with your family, play games with you and everything.” You reply, “No problem. I’m glad you both have had a good summer.” The young boy looks at you and says, “I just have one question: Do you think that if I mowed your lawn for the rest of the summer, I could be your son?” Of course, you are honored by his request, but you reply, “Well, thank you, young man, but mowing my lawn wouldn’t make you my son.” “Well,” your son’s friend replies, “What if I mow your lawn, paint the house and do your dishes every night? Then can I be your son?”

As we all know, there is nothing your son’s friend could do to earn his way into your family. In fact, there is only one way he could be received into your family: through adoption. But the adoption would be a free gift on your part — a gift that your son’s friend could never expect, or even earn, by himself.

 

9. What do you think of the story? Does this help you understand the concept of grace?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

10. With all of this in mind, could someone sum up why Jesus died for us?

Allow the group to discuss. Jesus died for us because our sin caused an infinite divide between us and God, something we cannot bridge ourselves. Out of love for us, Jesus died on the cross. Because Jesus is fully human, He can represent the human family and offer an act of love on our behalf. However, because He is fully divine, His act of love on the cross takes on infinite value. Thus, Jesus is able to bridge this infinite divide. His death gives us an opportunity to overcome sin and to go to heaven. (See CCC 615 for more.)

 

Summary

(Share aloud with your group.)

This week, we looked at the question: Why did Jesus die for us? We saw that Jesus died for us because sin separated us from God and because He loves us. We also learned about the concept of grace. Next week, we will continue this journey by looking at what it looks like to accept an invitation into a relationship with Jesus and His Church.

 

Challenge

(Share aloud with your group.)

Find moments, big or small, to give grace to others in your life, whether it be to a friend, a family member or a stranger. Also, note times when others gave you grace.

 

Additional Resources

The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1987 – 2029

“Scriptural Apologetics” by FOCUS, Chapter Six Justification, focusequip.org