37 Q. What do you understand
by the word “suffered”?
A. 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,
and gain for us
and eternal life.
^1 1 Pet. 2:24;3:18;Isa. 53:12
^2 1 John 2:2; 4:10;Rom. 3:25
38 Q. Why did he suffer
“under Pontius Pilate” as judge?
A. 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 23:14; John 19:4
^2 Ps. 69:5;Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21;Gal. 3:13
39 Q. 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,^1
since death by crucifixion was cursed by God.^2
^1 Gal. 3[:10]
^2 Deut. 21:;Gal. 3:13
LORD’S DAY (Q/A 37-39)
“All Against One, One for All”
We were at a Little League baseball game the other day. One of our batters was up. He struck out and the kid announcer mistakenly asked over the loud speaker why the batter didn’t hit a perfectly good pitch, shaming the batter in the process and silencing his own parents who were equally surprised at that remark. The announcer’s father, who is a friend of ours and who was seated next to us, darted up to the announcer’s booth, where the opposing team’s coach beat him upstairs demanding that only one person was allowed in the announcer’s booth. The announcer’s twin brother wasn’t supposed to be there so he was dismissed from the booth, leaving the offending announcer up there to remain. The twin brother couldn’t understand why he was dismissed when it was his brother who made the offending remark.
Baseball, like so many sports, relies on taking a fall for the good of the team. Bunting a ball to be struck out at first base so that the man on second base can make it to third. Offensive linemen taking the deadly tackles and hits to prevent the football quarterback from being sacked.
God becoming human as Jesus Christ is not a sport, but what Christ does in becoming human is for the good of the “team,” i.e. the fallen creation which would prefer living free from God, rather than living freely in God.
Craig Barnes insightfully points to our crippling guilt that causes us to wander from place to place, school to school, career to career, seeking never to be anchored to any particular communities or commitments, but moving endlessly. Such movements are symptomatic of restless hearts – restless for home. And part of being restless is that we are alienated from others, alienated from ourselves, and alienated from God. To be free from God, or to seek to be free from God, we find that we are never really free. We are shackled to our own desires, to our own wants, giving in to our wandering lusts, given over to our own will and ways. We are cursed because we choose violence over peace, hate over love. We break the heart of God because we were not created to live in the way we do. Given the right conditions, the exhibitionist violence we read about in war-torn Syria or the terrorists that took hostages and killed several people in a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall recently can erupt from the heart of a mild-mannered suburbanite. The Scriptures are right and true, “No one is righteous, no not one.”
God enters our human condition. We are cursed because we continually choose sin’s will and ways. Let’s say the “W” word. Wrath. When we as human beings are hell-bent on breaking God’s heart, notwithstanding the occasional acts and thoughts of good, God is indignant. Angry. We see glimpses of this as parents who become heart-broken when their children make bad choices. It’s an anger that comes from love, because as parents we know that our children are capable with so much more.
Multiply the sin acts, sin choices, sin motives, sin thoughts of the heart – multiply it 1000 times, or even 8 billion times, 365 days a year. This is not merely the faraway murders of Latin American drug cartels, or the senseless kidnappings in the southern part of the Philippines, or the human trafficking that occurs in this country. This is every act, every thought, every will of every human being. James 2:10 reminds us that that breaking one part of the law means we break all the parts of the law, and are held accountable for all of it.
God enters that situation. God as our Creator knows what we were created to be.
What we see at the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate and at the scene of the crucifixion are the breaking of all Ten Commandments, again and again. In that snapshot moment, as the Son of God subjects himself to the earthly judge and jury of Pilate and all the human spectators who aid and abet the death of Jesus Christ, is what every human being does towards God, again and again. We subject God to ourselves, as we subject each other to each other, as we subject ourselves to ourselves. The crucifixion is a microcosm of what is repeated from the Garden of Eden to our time, on a small or large scale. We inflict our alienation to be further alienated from God’s own Son. Jesus received that judgment, to take up the whole of humanity’s alienation and curse.
This is no sports game, by any means. God doesn’t play around. Jesus Christ, God’s only natural son, is the beloved One of the Father. To take up humanity in Himself, and condemned to die on a tree and thereby cursed (Deuteronomy 21:23), Jesus Christ is “at one” (atone) with humanity and “at one” with God, being God’s natural Son.
Jesus Christ is truly and really in solidarity with us, and being God’s Son and God’s anointed Savior, is for us. With us. For us.
Jesus Christ is the intention of God.
The wrath of God, unlike human wrath and unlike human anger, is not reckless, is not meaningless. The wrath of God is connected to the love of God. God’s love is directed to taking an alienated and broken world, to reconcile and heal it, to anchor it to the heart and life of God.
Even as all were and are against God, in Jesus Christ the chosen One, the One has become for us all.