This article consists of notes on Lord's Day 15 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

3 pages. Translated by Albert H. Oosterhoff.

Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 15

Lord's Day 15

37. Question:     

 What do you confess when you say that He suffered?


During all the time He lived on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ bore in body and soul
the wrath of God against the sin
of the whole human race.

Thus, by His suffering,
as the only atoning sacrifice,
He has redeemed our body and soul
from everlasting damnation,
and obtained for us
the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.

38. Question:     

Why did He suffer under Pontius Pilate as judge?


Though innocent, Christ was condemned
by an earthly judge,
and so He freed us
from the severe judgment of God
that was to fall on us.

39. Question:     

Does it have a special meaning that Christ was crucified
and did not die in a different way?


Thereby I am assured
that He took upon Himself
the curse which lay on me,
for a crucified one
was cursed by God.

 Q. & A. 37 & 38 A Man of Sorrows

A. Notes

  1. Christ suffered in Body and Soul. 1 Pet 2:24 says: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. . . ."

    Isa 53:11 speaks of the “travail of his soul.” Although the punishment of Christ's body was heavy, there are those who have undergone worse torture. However, no one has suffered as much as Jesus. For a person's suffering is not measured by what is done to him, but by the manner in which he undergoes it. (A child who loves his father suffers more under his father's anger than one who does not trouble himself about his father. Is not also one person more sensitive than another?) Hence, with respect to Jesus' suffering, we must pay more attention to the travail of his soul than the stripes which were inflicted upon him.
  2. His suffering lasted the entire time of his life on earth. Already immediately after his birth his suffering came upon him, including the infanticide committed by Herod, and it followed him in mockery and contempt, misunderstanding and insinuation, and open rejection. It broke him in pieces, “especially at the end” of his life, in Gethsemane, before the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod, and on Golgotha.

    The suffering in his suffering was that he understood in faith that he bore the wrath of God in all that came upon him (CD II, 4).

    That he bore the wrath of God “against the sin of whole human race” does not mean that he redeemed the entire human race. But those whom he redeemed lay, together with the human race, under the curse which extended to that entire race. That is why he could not deliver without undergoing the wrath of God against the whole human race. Thus, his suffering is, indeed, sufficient for the redemption of the sins of all men, but is intended only for, and benefits only, the believers.
  3. Christ's suffering was not a tragic fate, a lot which everyone deplores. That is why the Apostles' Creed says that he suffered under Pontius Pilate. This does not simply date his suffering (and should, therefore, not be considered together with the words which follow in the Apostles' Creed), but points to the character of Jesus' suffering. The Judge declared him guilty. Thereby he sanctioned what happened to him up to that point (rejection of his word; arrest). And thereby the rest of his suffering (death) did not acquire the character of a misdeed, regretted by everyone, but of the execution of an officially sanctioned human judgment. One must remember in this context what Ps 82:1 says: "God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment."

    That is how the “chastisement which made us whole” was upon him (Isa 53:5).
  4. Isa 53:5 continues: “and with his stripes we are healed.” For his suffering was a sin offering. He suffered in our place. 1 Pet 3:18 says: "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. . . ."

    So also, Mt 20:28 says: "Even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

    The text refers to the sum of money paid to redeem prisoners. Thus, also Gal 3:13 says: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. . . ."

B. Cross References

  1. Art. 21 of the BC speaks extensively about the suffering of the Lord “to purge away our sins,” and of his complete satisfaction to still God's anger. See also art. 20.
  2. The CD II, 1-4, speak more fully about the “death of the Son of God,” which was abundantly sufficient for the expiation of the sins of the entire world.
  3. See also the Form for the Celebration of the Lord's Supper (Remembrance of Christ): “We are to remember Him in the following manner. . . .”

C. Questions

  1. Wherein did Jesus suffer? What aspect of his suffering deserves our greatest attention?
  2. When did he suffer? What did he suffer?
  3. Did Christ redeem all men by his suffering? Was his sacrifice not sufficient for that purpose?
  4. What is the character of Christ's suffering?
  5. What is the fruit of Christ's suffering for those who are his?
  6. What do 1 Pet 3:18, Mt 20:28 and Gal 3:13, respectively, say?

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