“Jesus didn’t have to die despite God’s love; he had to die because of God’s love. And it had to be this way because all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.
Think about it. If you love a person whose life is all put together and has no major needs, it costs you nothing. It’s delightful…But if you ever try to love somebody who has needs, someone who is in trouble or who is persecuted or emotionally wounded, it’s going to cost you. You can’t love them without taking a hit yourself. A transfer of some kind is required, so that somehow their troubles, their problems, transfer to you.
There are a lot of wounded people out there. They are emotionally sinking, they’re hurting, and they desperately need to be loved. And when they are with you, you want to look at your watch and make a graceful exit, because listening to them with all their problems can be grueling. It can be exhausting to be a friend to an emotionally damaged person. The only way they’re going to start filling up emotionally is if somebody loves them, and the only way to love is to let yourself be emotionally drained. Some of your fullness is going to have to go into them, and you have to empty out to some degree. If you hold on to your emotional comfort and simply avoid those people, they will sink. The only way to love them is through substitutionary sacrifice…
Therefore it makes sense that a God who is more loving than you and I, a God who comes into the world to deal with the ultimate evil, the ultimate sin, would have to make a substitutionary sacrifice. Even we flawed human beings know that you can’t just overlook evil. It can’t be dealt with, removed, or healed just by saying, “Forget it.” It must be paid for, and dealing with it is costly. How much more should we expect that God could not just shrug off evil? The debt had to be paid. But he was so incredibly loving that he was willing to die in order to do it himself…”
–Timothy Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus