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Words: John McFarlane Moore (b. Sept. 1, 1925)
Music: John McFarlane Moore
Note: Born in Scotland in 1925, John McFarlane Moore put his faith in Christ at the age of sixteen. He went on to serve as the Assistant Superintendent of the Seamen’s Chapel, in Glasgow, and as a pastor. He later came to Canada, and became the pastor of a church in Willowdale, Ontario. Moore also wrote more than 150 hymns, including the popular Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary.
Why? It’s a question children ask all the time–sometimes to the bewildered frustration of adults? “Why does the sun look so bright?” Answer that question–“because it’s close to us”–and you may simply get another “why”! And responding, “Because God made it that way” won’t get you off the hook. Again, “Why?”
Such questions arise from the curious minds of the young. But when older children or teens ask it, it can sometimes be a challenge to parental authority. “Why can’t I go to the party?” Or, “Why can’t I get a tattoo?” Sometimes parents retreat behind the all-purpose “Because I said so.” But the underlying issues likely deserve a fuller and more helpful answer than that.
The “why” question appears in our English Bibles over four hundred times. Sometimes the Lord Himself asks it, in order to help us understand the root of our own actions and decisions. That’s the case with Scripture’s first “why,” when God confronts Cain. His brother Abel’s offering was received by the Lord, but Cain was enraged when his was rejected. “Why are you angry?” asks the Lord. “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:6, 7).
Refusing to examine the evil in his own heart, and seething with fury, Cain killed his brother. The Apostle John later comments, in almost the last use of the word in the Bible, “And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (I Jn. 3:12). Philips paraphrases, helpfully, I believe: “It was because he realized the goodness of his brother’s life and the evil of his own.” But instead of following Abel’s example, Cain killed his brother.
Quite a few times, the question is raised with regard to the death of Christ. The demand of the Jews that He be crucified puzzled Pilate. “‘Why [he asked]?’ What evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, ‘Crucify Him!’” (Mk. 15:13-14). “Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no fault in this Man’” (Lk. 23:4). But in spite of this conclusion, for fear of a mob uprising, the morally weak governor ordered Christ’s death anyway.
The question of why Christ died still needs to be answered. The immediate motive for demanding Christ’s death was jealousy on the part of the Jewish leadership, and resentment at His growing popularity. But in the sovereign purposes of God, the reason was quite different. Why would God the Father allow His sinless Son to die a cruel death at the hands of His creatures?
The answer is: the Son of God died as our Substitute, under the wrath of God, to pay the penalty for our sin. The Lord Jesus Himself declared, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
“[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree….For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet. 2:24; 3:18).
In 1953, Pastor Moore wrote both words and music for a gospel song simply entitled Why? It addresses the question regarding the purpose of Christ’s death this way.
Why did they nail Him to Calvary’s tree?
Why? Tell me, why was He there?
Jesus the Helper, the Healer, the Friend–
Why? Tell me, why was He there?
Echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah quoted above (Isa. 53:6), Moore answers the question:
All my iniquities on Him were laid–
He nailed them all to the tree.
Jesus the debt of my sin fully paid–
He paid the ransom for me.
It will be the eternal song of the saints, in heaven:
“You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
1) What are some other “Why?” questions that are commonly asked about God?
2) What answers can you provide for such questions?