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I know evangelical literature like John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

says Jesus died to redeem mankind. However, I suspect these are only later interpretations. Did Jesus himself ever say his death would be a sacrifice?

If so, would it have a double meaning in Greek? In Czech, English and German, one could use the phrase "he died for humans' sins" in sense of "because of" - that is, his death was humanity's fault, the fault of the Romans who crucified him.

(I think I understand the evangelical message so I'm not asking how Christians see it today, so I'm not looking for a "stretch" of a Jesus quote, but rather a quote that is plain in meaning.)

closed as primarily opinion-based by curiousdannii, Dan, KorvinStarmast, fredsbend, Matt Gutting Sep 6 '17 at 14:42

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I assume you're looking for passages in the Bible, but I think it's important to mention that there are passages in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants (recognized as scripture by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) where Jesus Christ testifies of his atonement in first person. See, for example, 3 Nephi 11:10–11 (Christ speaking to people in the Americas after his resurrection) and D&C 19:16–19 (Christ speaking to Joseph Smith more recently). Not sure if that's answer-worthy based on what you're looking for. – Samuel Bradshaw Jun 28 '15 at 23:21
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    @Samuel Probably not what the OP is looking for. Generally, if questions don't mention they want or are receptive to and LDS answer then they probably don't want it. If you decide to answer anyway, you might catch some flack. Answers must match the frame of the question. Ref: What should we do about matching the viewpoints of askers and answerers? – fredsbend Jun 29 '15 at 5:26
  • @fresbend, thanks. The viewpoint of the asker isn't really clear, though – he essentially is asking for "not an evangelical interpretation" and he's not specifying that he wants an answer only from the Bible... which leaves the question pretty broad. He is probably expecting an answer from the Bible, but I don't think the Bible provides the clearest answer to this specific question. Anyway, I'll leave it as a comment unless he asks for an expanded answer. – Samuel Bradshaw Jun 29 '15 at 18:15
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    I'm voting to close this because questions asking for verses about a topic are off-topic. – curiousdannii Sep 2 '17 at 12:14
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The most obvious answer is Jesus' words to his disciples at the Last Supper, in Matthew's version:

this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.

(Matthew 26:28, New American Bible Revised Edition)

  • Is there more you can add? Is this all there is? It just feels like a really short answer. – fredsbend Jun 29 '15 at 5:27
  • I'm on my phone. I may be able to expand tomorrow. – Matt Gutting Jun 29 '15 at 6:05
  • @MattGutting If so, I'd be quite glad for that greek-problem. Thx – Probably Jun 29 '15 at 15:43
  • @MattGutting Any chance you can come back to this and expand as requested? – ThaddeusB Aug 18 '15 at 14:44
  • @ThaddeusB Oh wow. I'd forgotten about this. Hmmm...... – Matt Gutting Aug 18 '15 at 15:15
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But I suspect these are only later interpretations. Has Jesus himself ever said his dead is a sacrifice?

Jesus's death is placed in the context of a Passover (Seder) meal, and since the meal is literally a liturgy, it must be completed or the participants defy the commandment of God.

Anyway, Four cups must be drunk to complete the ceremony, and the Eucharistic cup Christ passed around at table was what the Jews call "the cup of blessings," the third cup. However, any devote Jewish person would realize that the meal is then cut short, with Christ going to the Garden to pray while forgoing the fourth cup, meaning the meal was not completed. However, later on, in the Garden, Christ prays about "letting this cup pass from me," which still indicates that Christ has the fourth cup in mind.

He is captured, and eventually sentenced, and again we hear "Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God," another reference to the fourth cup. Notice how he refuses to drink the wine while he still hasn't suffered.

After his agonizing pain on the Cross, right before His death, Christ is given some sour wine, which He does drink "And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink (Mark 15)" which St. John, an eyewitness, describes in more detail:

A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:29-30)

In all Gospel accounts, Jesus drank the wine and then died. That wine was the fourth cup which finished the Pasover meal.

And what do Jews call the fourth cup? The cup of Salvation, meaning that the Cruxifiction was a part of the Last Supper which ended in the cup of Salvation, bitter in more ways than one.

St. Mark and St. Matthew then go on to point out: "And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom" immediately after, which indicates that the relationship between God and Man was healed, He forgave Man, as forgiveness is the only way to continue a relationship. Thus, the Cruxifiction was for forgiveness.

In other words, all four Gospels teach that the Cruxifiction was for the forgiveness of sins. It is not a later interpretation (as if that is a bad thing anyway :shrug:).

Christi pax,

Lucretius

Note:* I assume Markian priority in this article, although I disagree with it.

Note:** I also assume GJohn was written by an eyewitness. If you wish to believe otherwise (as the OP seems to implicitly believe), and instead see it as written by later Christians adding theological detail, that is fine. The point is that the Synoptics indicate the same events, although GJohn most clearly expresses the theological meaning, which are no less absent in the Synoptics, although they are not as clear. In a sense, one can see GJohn as a Gospel written to flush out more of the theological meanings of the other Gospels (which might be why GJohn is traditionally symbolized by an eagle, the bird that flies higher and sees farther than all other animals). Simply stated, the Synoptics, as well as the Old Testement, are the raw material which GJohn builds his theology.

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Yes, Jesus did say that he would die, voluntarily as a sacrifice:

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." - John 10:14-18 ESV

And following:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one." - John 10:27-30 ESV

  • The answer so far does not make clear that Christ "laying down" his life is the cause of the eternal life he offers, nor that the relationship is a matter of sacrifice. It looks like this is a good starting point. – disciple May 13 '16 at 19:56
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For Jesus to have gone voluntarily, even willingly, to his death, he must have been aware of an overwhelming benefit, which later theology tells us is the forgiveness of sins. In this regard, Rhoads, Dewey and Michie, in Mark as Story, page 113, caution the modern reader not to read into Mark [the first New Testament gospel to be written] theological meanings that later came to be associated with Jesus' death. They say that Mark does not portray Jesus' death as a sacrifice for sin.

Along similar lines, Thomas Kazen (Stockholm School of Theology) says in his paper entitled 'Why is Jesus’ death described as a sacrifice', page 4,

  • In Mark the Son of Man has come to “give his life a ransom for many” (10:45), but much more than this is not to be found. At the last supper the Markan Jesus says: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (14:24). The saying alludes to the covenant sacrifice at Sinai (Exod 24:4-8) which is neither about sin, nor about atonement, but rather like a vassal treaty confirmed by sacrifice.
  • The Lukan writings in fact never relate the forgiveness of sins to the death of Jesus, in spite of the fact that both themes are important by themselves. Faith in Jesus is sufficient for forgiveness. Jesus’ death was predicted and provides a background for his resurrection.
  • Matthew, in contrast, adds “for the forgiveness of sins” after the phrase about the blood of the covenant (Matt 26:28), which fits well into his general tendency. (For example, he downplays forgiveness of sins in his narrative of John’s baptism, since he associates forgiveness with the death of Jesus.) Matthew probably did not consider Jesus’ death only in view of the covenant sacrifice, but also in view of the chattat offering, although this is never stated explicitly.

So, among the synoptic gospels, it is only Matthew that suggests the crucifixion was a sacrifice for sins, giving Jesus a strong reason to go voluntarily to his death, although Matthew follows Mark in having Jesus beg God that if it be possible, to let this cup pass from him. The following section looks more closely at the gospel accounts.


Mark's Gospel does not tell us how Jesus made any preparations for the forgiveness of sins after his departure from earth. There is no suggestion of his crucifixion being a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.

In Luke 24:47, Jesus talks of remission of sins coming from repentance, not from his sacrifice:

Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Similarly, in John's Gospel, Jesus told the disciples that in receiving the Holy Spirit, they would be empowered to forgive sins. This was subsequent to the crucifixion and the resurrection, but there is no suggestion that Jesus believed his death was a sacrifice without which the disciples would be unable to forgive sins:

John 20:22-23: And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Matthew 26:28 does give us something to show that Jesus knew his death was indeed a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins (although we should not read from this that Jesus would shed his blood voluntarily, in the light of Matthew 26:38-39, which is explained below):

Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.


As to whether Jesus went to his death voluntarily:

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus' own words show that he was resigned to his fate, if that was the wish of his father, but nevertheless he did not go voluntarily to his crucifixion, for example Matthew 26:38-39, Mark 14:34-36 and Luke 22:42:

Matthew 26:38-39: Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

On the other hand, Jesus went triumphantly to his crucifixion in John's Gospel. Instead of going a little way from the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus spoke to them then lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed in words that can only mean he was going voluntarily to his death:

John 17:1-5: These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

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    I don't see vv 38-39 as indicating that Jesus went involuntarily. There's a difference between going involuntarily and going reluctantly. Jesus went, I'd argue, voluntarily but at least in the beginning not very happily. – Matt Gutting Jun 29 '15 at 3:12
  • @mattgutting I think your disagreement is semantic. I've voluntarily done a lot of things I didn't want to do. Have you ever known someone who voluntarily resigned from a position after some sort of incident? Obviously the situation is quite different, but I think Dick's answer is clear and is a well-accepted viewpoint. – Andrew Jun 29 '15 at 3:55
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    @Andrew Dick appeared to be saying that Jesus had no choice but to die. I had never heard of that as a Christian viewpoint, and I don't think the verses cited support that viewpoint. – Matt Gutting Jun 29 '15 at 5:47
  • @MattGutting Matthew 26:38-39: "... if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." In this passage, Jesus is being obedient to his Father, which is a little different to voluntarily going to his death, as portrayed in John and as some martyrs are said to have done. – Dick Harfield Jun 29 '15 at 7:06
  • I think we may need to have this out in chat; but I don't know if I'll have time for that today :-( – Matt Gutting Jun 29 '15 at 13:22

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