Every Sunday, we will be going through one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the year 1563, the Heidelberg still remains a popular confession of faith in many churches to this day. You can find the full text here.
Lord’s Day 15
Question 37: What do you understand
by the word “suffered”?
Answer: That during his whole life on earth,
but especially at the end,
in body and soul
the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race.1
This he did in order that,
by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,2
he might deliver us, body and soul,
from eternal condemnation,3
and gain for us
and eternal life.4
1. Isa. 53; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18
2. Rom. 3:25; Heb. 10:14; 1 John 2:2; 4:10
3. Rom. 8:1-4; Gal. 3:13
4. John 3:16; Rom. 3:24-26
Question 38: Why did he suffer
“under Pontius Pilate” as judge?
Answer: So that he,
might be condemned by an earthly judge,1
and so free us from the severe judgment of God
that was to fall on us.2
1. Luke 23:13-24; John 19:4, 12-16
2. Isa. 53:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13
Question 39: Is it significant that he was “crucified”
instead of dying some other way?
By this I am convinced
that he shouldered the curse
which lay on me,
since death by crucifixion was cursed by God.1
1. Gal. 3:10-13 (Deut. 21:23)
As Good Friday approaches, the Heidelberg writers hit on the significance of the death of Christ (and they pull no punches on the value and importance of the atonement). The most interesting question here is the one we don’t often think about…Is it significant that he was “crucified” instead of dying some other way? Why couldn’t Jesus have been killed in some other way? Could Judas have poisoned Jesus? Could Pilot have had Jesus beheaded and God’s wrath be satisfied? To start, we will look at Proverbs 17:15:
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.”
Seems like an odd place to start, I know, but what was Jesus accomplishing by going to the cross? He was going to the cross to justify the wicked. And “he who justifies the wicked” must be a curse and an abomination to the Lord. But why crucifixion?
“If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God)” Deuteronomy 21:22-23
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Galatians 3:33
Christ became the curse for us. He became the abomination that we should have been. He suffered the wrath that was stored up for us and purchased our redemption. Jesus delivered us, body and soul, from eternal condemnation and gained for us God’s grace, righteousness, and eternal life. This is why we celebrate Good Friday.
“The very form of the death embodies a striking truth. The cross was cursed not only in the opinion of men, but by the enactment of the Divine Law. Hence Christ, while suspended on it, subjects himself to the curse. And thus it behoved to be done, in order that the whole curse, which on account of our iniquities awaited us, or rather lay upon us, might be taken from us by being transferred to him.” John Calvin