Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 3:46 pm
The Messenger, February 16, 2012
By CAMILLE KENDALL
Special to The Messenger
We all suffer. The terrified toddler facing a needle-wielding nurse at the doctor’s office … and his tense mother, struggling to assure him the pain will only last a minute. The misfit teen, ridiculed by her peers and excluded from their society. The father, struggling to make ends meet, who just got notice his plant was closing and he would soon be out of a job. The young man dying on the highway in a tangle of twisted steel and shattered glass, and the heart-broken parents he’s leaving behind.
We hunger and thirst. We hurt. We grieve. We die. Suffering, we have learned from experience, is an inescapable part of life in this broken world. But it’s not something any of us would willingly choose, given an alternative.
Imagine a life free from the effects of sin — no sickness, no broken relationships, no financial problems, no pain, no death. Perfect health, perfect happiness, perfect delight, and it’s yours forever. Then imagine freely giving that up to step into the painful, messy life that you and I experience every day.
That’s what Jesus did for the people He came to redeem, His Church.
Continuing through the Apostles’ Creed, Question 37 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: What do you understand by the word “suffered”? Answer: That during His whole life on earth, but especially at the end, Christ sustained in body and soul the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race. This He did in order that, by His suffering as the only atoning sacrifice, He might set us free, body and soul, from eternal condemnation and gain for us God’s grace, righteousness and eternal life.
Jesus left a perfect life in glory for life in a fallen world. Here, He experienced hunger and thirst, the death of loved ones, poverty, ridicule, rejection and temptation. Then He died an excruciating, shameful death and suffered the anguish of God’s rejection and the curse of His wrath.
Question 38 asks: Why did He suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as judge? Answer: So that He, though innocent, might be condemned by a civil judge and so free us from the severe judgment of God that was to fall on us. Romans 13:1 tells us that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God Himself ordained Pontius Pilate to preside over Jesus’s trial, and He orchestrated history to have Pilate in just the right place at just the right time.
As God’s judicial representative, Pilate did two significant things concerning Christ. First, Pilate made it a matter of public record that Jesus was without fault: no criminal judgment could be levied against Jesus. Second, in spite of Jesus’s innocence, Pilate condemned Jesus to the death sentence, a sentence normally reserved for the vilest criminals.
Why the severe sentence of crucifixion for an innocent man? Question 39 asks: Is it significant that He was “crucified” instead of dying some other way? Answer: Yes. This death convinces me that He shouldered the curse which lay on me, since death by crucifixion was accursed by God.
Moses, giving God’s people the sentence for a capital crime, wrote in Deuteronomy 21:23 that “he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Even the corpse of such a person was a defilement and so had to be removed from the sight of God. Just as God had ordained the judge (Pilate), so had He ordained the sentence.
Jesus Christ, as the Apostles’ Creed summarizes, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.” Why would Jesus willingly choose to do such an outrageous thing? Paul tells us in Galatians 4:5 that God sent Jesus into this broken, painful world “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” This is reiterated in Titus 2:14, which tells us that Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession …”
Jesus lived on my behalf, suffered on my behalf and died on my behalf. In exchange for my miserable, sinful life and the curse that I deserved, He gave me God’s grace, His righteousness, and eternal life. Truly, what wondrous love is this.
“… though he (Jesus) was the very form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, becoming born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8
(If you have questions or would like to comment on this article, you may do so online at http://graceunioncity.com/resources/gcc-in-the-news. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your comment.)
Editor’s note: Camille Kendall, wife, homeschool mom and redeemed sinner, is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy.