Heidelberg Catechism Q37

Q.37. What do you understand by the word “suffered”?

A. 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.


The Apostles’ Creed states that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate.”  It is the word suffering that we will examine this week.  There are many types of suffering. Physical suffering overtakes us when pain is inflicted on the body and relief is not apparent.  Emotional suffering comes when a situation seems so dire, and it appears that no one else in all creation is standing alongside of the one suffering.  Mental suffering comes when a person is unable to grasp a concept and agonizes over learning content.  But one can also suffer mentally when the world refuses to see the truth and we just can’t understand why.  There are countless other kinds of suffering but these are the most common.  Did Jesus suffer?  Read Isaiah 53 and make a list of all the suffering that the Messiah was going to suffer.


Jesus suffered physically.  As a first century Jew, Jesus would have been no stranger to cold and hunger.  He would experience pain and hardship from his work as a carpenter and the inevitable injuries that occur when working.  These are some of the practical consequences of having been born 200 years ago.   As he lived on this earth, he had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20).   His physical needs were not always met in the comfortable ways of western living.  Each of these physical pains is the result of sin and they were with Jesus every day he lived on this planet.

But that is not all.  At the end of his life, Jesus suffered multiple beatings, whippings and physical abuse at the hands of the Sanhedrin and the Roman guards.  He felt inexorable pain as the nails pierced his flesh and as the cross was raised and dropped into the ground.  He was pained with every breath he took in those final hours.  Did Jesus suffer physically?  Certainly he did.  Read Luke 22:63-65, John 19:1-2 and 19:17-18.


Jesus also suffered emotionally.  The call to bear all the sins of the world must have been immense, to realize that one is alone and no one else can walk with them.  What great aloneness.  There are a number of times we catch glimpses of this emotional pain.  Read John 6:66-67, Mark 14:32-34 and Luke 22:44. All of this emotional pain, this sense of aloneness and the overwhelming situation Jesus faced was the result of our sin and God anger at it.


It is mental heartache to know the truth and for the world to deny its existence.  Jesus knew the truth of sin, he understood the reality of failing to repent and yet he repeatedly saw the world respond apathetically to his calls.  Read Matthew 12:1-8 and 23:37-39. From the beginning of his ministry until the end, Jesus encountered the mental anguish that comes from seeing a people hell bent on destruction.  For God himself, this must have been a form of mental suffering we will never know, nor understand.


We have explored a little bit of the physical, emotional and mental suffering that our sin brings upon Jesus Christ and which he had to bear up under as God anger and wrath were poured out.  But why did he choose to suffer under these calamities?  He suffered so that we would be released from God’s wrath.  He suffered so that we wouldn’t have to. Read Romans 8:1-4 and Galatians 3:13.


But Christ didn’t suffer just so that we wouldn’t have to suffer.  He suffered so that we might have the exact opposite of our life of sin.  He suffered so that we could be righteous.  He suffered so that instead of being dead in sin, we might be alive forever in Christ.  He suffered so that instead of being under God’s wrath, we might be under God’s grace.  Christ suffered so that we could have a life wholly different than the life stained by sin.  Read Romans 5:12-21 and Hebrews 4:16.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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