Why did Jesus have to suffer and die in order that we might be forgiven? Surely, if God wanted to forgive us, and to redeem us, He could have done so without Jesus having to suffer such a cruel death.
These are questions which may have crossed our mind from time to time. I don't claim to have the answer; but here are my thoughts on the matter.
When God created us, He had two choices. He could have created a race of robots, all pre-programmed with His will, all doing as He would have wished. There would have been no wrong-doings, no sin, no evil; and everyone living happily ever after in Heaven.
But God in His infinite love and generosity gave us a gift. The gift of free will. The choice to make our own decisions and to do as we wished. Even to deny His very existence and to rebel against Him.
And humanity did just that. Humanity rebelled. We chose sin time and again, from one generation to the next, and the chances are we will always choose sin.
God wanted to give us a second chance. And yes; He could have said, "If you truly repent, then you're forgiven. You are redeemed. Saved. All is well again between us!"
But God wanted us to meet Him face to face. To see Him as a human. Just like us. To learn from Him. To see His love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and power. Power to heal, power to forgive, power to raise people from the dead. So God sent His only Son, Jesus, so that we may see Him and learn from Him.
Yet God did not take away from us our freedom to choose. We still retained the gift to mock this Man who claimed to be His Son. To turn the other way. To rebel against Him and kill Him even.
Let us not forget that God knew we would turn against His Son long before it happened. It was predicted by the prophets in the Old Testament many years previously. Yet God allowed it to happen. He allowed His Son to come to earth and be rebelled against and killed.
Jesus always existed as God; He did not just start to exist when He was born on earth. He always existed and always knew that by coming to earth He will be rebelled against and killed. Yet, He accepted His mission in obedience to God and in love for us.
I can appreciate here the possible confusion in many minds. How can a "grown up" Jesus who always existed appear again as a baby on earth. This is one of the great mysteries of our faith; and I doubt anyone has a suitable explanation. In my mind, I think that as a Spirit Jesus always existed. His birth as a baby was as a human being. God decreed that He would be born of a human as a vulnerable child, growing amongst us, learning our ways, and living with us. The alternative would have been to appear suddenly as a Superman type character with many powers that would astound and baffle our brains. Hardly the act of a loving, caring, God. Is it?
So Jesus came to earth as a human; just like us, albeit He was/is God at the same time.
Because of our sin, from generation to generation, everyone in humanity has to suffer. It is the price we pay for making the wrong decisions. It is, perhaps, the cross we have to bear, as Jesus put it in one of His sermons.
Everyone of us carries his own cross. For some it is poverty, for others it is some illness or ailment, for others it is the work we do, or the difficulties of unemployment. Everyone of us has his own share of suffering that we go through in life.
This is not a punishment for our own personal sin; but a consequence of humanity's rebellion over many generations and its propensity to sin; to choose evil instead of good. There is no one in the world, whether rich or poor, whether great or small, old or young, who has not his own share of suffering. It goes with the territory. It is part of life. The good news is that God does not allow us more suffering than we are capable of bearing.
It follows, therefore, that Jesus, being human, as well as being God, had to suffer the pain and cruelty of a terrible death. Not because of His own personal sins; because He was without sin. But because of the consequences of humanity's sins throughout the generations. Sinning humans rebelled against Him and put Him to death; thus fulfilling the prophesies about Him which God knew about all along.
God knew that when He sent His Son to earth we would attack and kill Him. Yet He allowed it to happen. Had He interfered He would have been interfering with our freedom to choose; our freedom to do evil; our free will! A freedom we have used for generations to sow death and destruction throughout the world.
When Jesus prayed to His Father in the garden on the Mount of Olives "not my will, however, but your will be done"; He meant, "not your will that I should suffer, but your will that they may have and exercise their freedom of choice!"
Later, on the Cross, Jesus says, "forgive them Father! They don't know what they are doing," (by exercising their freedom of choice).
It is us who put Jesus to such suffering and cruel death, not God. God knew it would happen and allowed it to happen because of His love for us; because He wanted us to see Him and meet Him face to face; to learn repentance and forgiveness and redemptions through Him. Instead, we behaved true to our evil nature.
When we study the life of Jesus, there are more than 300 prophesies about Him in the Old Testament that He fulfilled in His life. Some prophesies He had no personal control over - like where He would be born, the manner of His death and suffering, where He would be buried. The fact that on His Death the Romans would not break His legs as they did to the other two crucified with Him. The fact that the Roman soldiers would divide His clothes amongst themselves and gamble for His robe whilst He hung from the Cross.
But there is more to it than just Jesus suffering death in such a way. God needed to show us that He can conquer sin. He can conquer death. And He did so by resurrecting His only Son for us to believe. For us to know that He was/is the Son of God. The one who died for us, to forgive our sins, and was raised again by His Father, our God.