Sometimes children can ask some of the deepest questions about God. I applaud anyone who takes up the task of teaching children because they can come up with things that absolutely stump us! The minds of children are deep! From the mouth of a child I have heard one of the most difficult questions one could ask: “Did God die on the cross?”
It’s a tricky question, isn’t it? On the one hand, Christ is God, and Christ died on the cross. So in that sense, we can say God did die on the cross. But on the other hand, the divine nature cannot experience death! God is the source of life itself! He is the eternally self-existing and unchanging one! Death cannot affect Him. The answer to this difficult question has to hold tightly to two truths: Christ is God and it is contrary to the very nature of God for the divine being to die.
I think the Bible gives us the tools we need to navigate this difficult question. When the Apostle Paul was exhorting the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he made this passing statement: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (v. 28, emphasis mine). The grammar is undeniable: the church is what God obtained with his own blood. Not only do we see in this text that the one who shed His blood for the church (i.e. Jesus) is God, but we also see that God is said to have blood to shed. But how can that be? Doesn’t Jesus teach that God is a spirit (John 4:24)? Do we not teach our children that “God is a spirit, and has not a body like men” (Children’s Catechism 9).
While these things are absolutely true, when we talk about the God-man, we have to account for both His human and divine natures. The attributes of both Jesus’ humanity and His divinity are true of Him as a person simultaneously. In other words, because Jesus is both God and man, He has all the attributes of God, while also having all the attributes of man. He is God, and as God He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Yet at the same time, He is also a man, and as a man He “grew in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52). As God, He is a pure, bodiless spirit. Yet as man, He has blood that He shed for the salvation of His church. Both these realities are true concerning this one person.
Did God die on the cross? Yes, for He shed His blood for His church (Acts 20:28). Yet the profound, unfathomable mystery is that while God the Son suffered the pain of the wrath of God upon His human body and soul because of His love for His church, He nonetheless remained the unchangeable One according to His divine nature.
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
J. Kyle Brent