Death came to His body, therefore, not from Himself but from enemy action, in order that the Savior might utterly abolish death in whatever form they offered it to Him. A generous wrestler, virile and strong, does not himself choose his antagonists, lest it should be thought that of some of them he is afraid. Rather, he lets the spectators choose them, and that all the more if these are hostile, so that he may overthrow whomsoever they match against him and thus vindicate his superior strength. Even so was it with Christ. He, the Life of all, our Lord and Savior, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those others His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognized as finally annulled. A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.
– written in the 4th century by Athanasius of Alexandria in On the Incarnation (emphasis mine)
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
– Hebrews 2:14-15
Sometimes when I speak with Christians, I get more of the sense that the general held belief is that God is the problem. Jesus dies to free us from God, so the story sounds. Jesus dies to win over God. But, the story of Scripture seems to keep pointing to the fact that humanity has pledged allegiance and given adoration to dark forces, to evil, to death, to satan. Evil is the problem, not God. Jesus dies not to win over God, but to reveal the loving and forgiving God. (Remember, Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the EXACT representation of God.) And evil kills Jesus, not God. God in Christ dies the death that evil humanity pours out to free us from the great superpower that we have given ourselves over to. God in Christ is buying us back from slavery.
God is not the problem. Evil is the problem. Our sin is the problem. Our giving evil and satan rule over our lives is the problem. God in his love saves us from ourselves, from our sin, from our idolatry, from the one who has held the powers of sin and death and kept us in slavery, that is the devil. As C.S. Lewis would put it, there was a deeper magic from the dawn of time of which satan was unaware. The White Witch has been defeated.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. – I John 3:8