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Greek Word Study - Have To

“Aw, do I have to?” How common was the pitiful whine of my childhood! Bedtime, bath time, time to finish the vegetables—the response was predictable: “Do I have to?”

If only (I thought), if only I were older, bigger, richer, or more important. And then the ultimate one: if only I were God--then I wouldn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. Such is the typical understanding of God. Such is the teaching about God in the Old Testament. Words used of men are never used of God: must, have to, obligated, necessary.

Then we meet the Son of God, who was surprisingly well acquainted with the “have to” of life. (The Greek N.T. word is dei, which sounds like DAY, and means “it is necessary.”) Even at age twelve Jesus knew he “had to be” in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49). It was not an excuse; it was an obligation. Though he was Son, on this mission of salvation he learned always to obey the will of the Father.

As the messiah, Jesus knew that he “must” preach the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). Repeatedly he warned his disciples that the Son of man “must” suffer many things and be killed and be raised again (Luke 9:22; 17:25; John 12:34; Matthew 26:54). Though it would have been easier to whine and quit, Jesus said, “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

The Jews resisted this messiah who yielded to the “have to,” for they expected a leader who would take over and run things. We, on the other hand, resist a messiah who asks us to yield to the “have to,” for we expect to take over and run things for ourselves.

With the cross and the grave behind him, Jesus said with some exasperation to the two on the road to Emmaus, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Wasn’t it necessary? Wasn’t he obligated? Didn’t he have to?