Devotional Word for Tuesday, December 15, 2020
In our last devotion, we looked at our Lord Jesus the suffering Savior. Today we are going to look at a logical follow up question to the sufferings of Christ. Question 39 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “Is there something more in His having been crucified than if He had died some other way?” Frankly, this seems to me to be a rather morbid question. It seems that question 39 is basically asking if the cross was the worst way to die and if that is true, why did Jesus have to die in the worst way possible.
As I reflect on Jesus’ crucifixion, that is His death by hanging on a cross, I am struck by a couple of thoughts. The first is silly, the second less so. First, while I try to not to be overly dramatic, I have often done so somewhat unwittingly. For instance, how many times have I responded to someone asking whether I was hungry by saying, “Oh I am starving!” Let’s be honest, I am not starving. I just have not eaten in a few hours and am just beginning to feel the pangs of hunger. In the same way, I also have over described injuries by saying they were excruciating. Now, I have done some digging and it turns out that excruciating has two parts. The first is ex which means from. The second is crucio which means to torture and is the same root as crucify or crucifix. This is to say that when I am standing at the copier and get a paper cut and yell out in agony that the pain is excruciating, I may very well be overstating the reality of the circumstances.
But really, why did Jesus suffer crucifixion? The answer to the question is given in answer 39. It says, “Yes, for by this I am assured that He took upon Himself the curse which lay upon me, because the death of the cross as cursed by God.” Jesus suffered on the cross for my assurance that His suffering was effective. Let me explain further. Deuteronomy 21:22-23a says, “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)…” In the Lord’s economy the hanging of a person on a tree is the demarcation of cursedness. I believe there could be a number of reasons, but I will highlight just one. Death upon a tree (or a cross) is visible. There is no hiding that sort of death. If someone died at home and was immediately buried, there may well be uncertainty as to the manner in which the person died. However, if someone has died because they have committed an egregious sin and they are publicly executed and hung in a tree, there is little doubt as to why he died. There is irony here of course because the Lord Jesus committed no sin and there should have been no reason for his death. Yet, in the plan of God for the salvation of His people, the Lord Jesus took the sins of His people upon Himself. In doing so He took on the wrath of God. His being crucified publicly on a cross is a testimony of the wrath of God which He bore. As we then understand that He was publicly executed and hung on a tree as a curse, we can have assurance that He really did pay for our sins. We can be assured that we then have a righteous standing before the Lord God.
Today is December 15; it is ten days before Christmas. That is the day in which we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus. However, we cannot rightly think of Christmas without also thinking about Easter. This year as we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus, let us also remember the reason for His coming. By His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus our Savior has taken our sin and given us His righteousness so that we might dwell with Him forever. That is excellent news! Let us pray.