Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.
Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, “only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross,” wrote Canon Peter Green, “may claim his share in its grace.”
The answer which we have so far given to the question “Why did Christ die?” has sought to reflect the way in which the Gospel writers tell the story. They point to the chain of responsibility (from Judas to the priests, from the priests to Pilate, from Pilate to the soldiers), and they at least hint that the greed, envy and fear which prompted their behavior also prompts ours. Yet this is not the complete account which the Evangelists give. I have omitted one further and vital piece of evidence that they supply. It is this: that although Jesus was brought to his death by human sins, he did not die as a martyr. On the contrary, he went to the cross voluntarily, even deliberately. From the beginning of his public ministry he consecrated himself to this destiny.
In his baptism he identified himself with sinners (as he was to do fully on the cross), and in his temptation he refused to be deflected from the way of the cross. He repeatedly predicted his sufferings and death, as we saw in the last chapter, and steadfastly set himself to go to Jerusalem to die there. His constant use of the word must in relation to his death expressed not some external compulsion, but his own internal resolve to fulfill what had been written of him. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” he said. Then, dropping the metaphor, “I lay down my life…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn 10:11,17-18).
John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IVP Books, 2006), 63-64.