Devotional Word for Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Just about a year ago (in fact it was the last Youth Fellowship before Christmas), I fell while playing with the youth and fractured my arm. It hurt. There is no other way to describe it. I had a fairly terrible throbbing in my arm. My fingers and wrist did not want to move. My body was sending me all kinds of messages that something was not right and that I needed to not move. As I say this, I recognize that many people have been through far more injurious and difficult circumstances. However, physical pain and suffering are never pleasant. I became even more grumpy trying to wrap Christmas presents with one arm in a cast. Seriously speaking, suffering is never easy or fun.
Today, as we are marching through the Heidelberg Catechism we are going to look at two questions that center around the statements in the Apostles’ Creed that describe the suffering of the Lord Jesus. Let’s begin by looking at question 37. It asks, “What do you understand by the word ‘suffered’?” This suffering in context refers to Jesus’ suffering. Listen to the answer. It says, “That throughout His life on earth, but especially at the end of it, He bore in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race, so that by His suffering, as the only expiatory sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and might obtain for us God’s grace, righteousness, and eternal life.” Question 38 continues, “Why did He (the Lord Jesus) suffer ‘under Pontius Pilate’ as His Judge?” The answer says, “That He, being innocent, might be condemned by an earthly judge, and thereby set us free from the judgment of God which, in all its severity, ought to fall upon us.”
As we think through these two questions about suffering consider when Jesus suffered. We think of His time on the cross where He satisfied the wrath of God against sin, but we also need to acknowledge as the catechism directs us to Jesus’ suffering in life. Simply put, Jesus was truly man and subject to all the infirmities of man. That means he was sick. He got colds. He was hungry, thirsty, and weary. In all ways, he felt the consequences of the fall of Adam into sin except Jesus Himself did not sin. It is by His suffering which culminates in the Father turning His face from Jesus upon the cross that Jesus redeems us from sin and death. In so doing, He obtains for us God’s grace, righteousness, and eternal life. Hallelujah!
As we reflect upon that awesome work of Christ, we may well wonder why Jesus suffered under a human judge Pontius Pilate. After all, consider John 10:17-18. There Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” The catechism answers our wondering with a bit of irony. God is THE JUDGE. He is the good and righteous judge who rightly discerns every thought and intention of our hearts. We recognize that because of our sin, His judgment should be of wrath. We also understand that in Christ’s perfection, the Father’s judgment of the Son would be that He is innocent. As a result, Pontius Pilate a sinful human judge with no righteousness declares the only righteous One guilty so that the good and true Judge declares innocent all of His sinful people.
My arm has healed. I no longer feel pain or discomfort. I am very thankful for that. I realize that there are likely those who are at this moment suffering and perhaps suffering unto death. If that is the case, you may well wonder what good the suffering of Christ does. First, as we just said because of Christ’s suffering, through faith we obtain grace, righteousness, and eternal life. In addition, as we look to our suffering Savior, we see that the Lord Jesus understands our pain, suffering, and misery. He knows because He lived through it. Whether physical, mental, or spiritual anguish, the Lord Jesus experienced it all. If you are suffering now, remember your suffering Savior. He joins with His people in their suffering so that they might suffer no more! Let us pray.