Heidelberg Catechism Q40 & Q41

Q.40. Why did Christ have to go all the way to death?

A. Because God’s justice and truth demand it: only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin.


As we touched on at other places, godly justice demands that sinners be destroyed.  There are countless examples of the total destruction of sinful people.  When Israel was given the Promised Land they were told to completely destroy all the inhabitants of the land.  And that is what happened to Jericho.  Read 1Samuel 15:1-3.  Many people struggle with God’s message to Saul here, but in reality it is a picture of how God deals with sin.  Sin and sinners must be destroyed and wiped out from his presence.  Justice demands it.  If Jesus were going to appease God’s justice, then he would have to die.Tuesday

In addition to the rule of godly law, the Lord himself also proclaimed to Adam that death was the punishment for sin.  Read Genesis 2:17.  When we sin by defying God’s commands actively or passively, the lord has told us the outcome in advance: Death.  We will die when we sin.  Therefore, our savior, if he is truly human also had to suffer death.


The entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament and many of the prophetic utterances foreshadowed the death of the Savior.  Whenever a Jew brought a sacrifice to the temple and killed it, they were rehearsing the death that the ultimate Savior would have to pay.  Read Isaiah 53:7 and Philippians 2:8.


We have seen three examples of how the death of Jesus was required or foreshadowed, but does the Scripture ever make the explicit connection?  Yes.  Read Romans 8:3-4. God knew that humanity could not bear up under his divine wrath and so the law simple foreshadowed, or looked ahead to the time when God would send his Son, fully human and fully divine, to suffer and die to fulfill justice and God’s word concerning sin.  Jesus had to die as a man, so that human sinfulness could be atoned.  Praise God that in Jesus justice and truth have been met. Read Hebrews 2:9.

Q.41. Why was he “buried”?

A. His burial testifies that he really died.


Like a handshake among teams after a game that affirms the event is over, so burial is a sign in most cultures that death has occurred. It affirms that the one who has passed is not returning to the earth.  They have completed their life and no longer have any power.  In Jesus’ burial the world took notice that Jesus of Nazareth was no longer part of human history as they understood it.  Read John 19:38-42.


Aside from simply cultural proclamation, the burial of Jesus also fulfilled prophecy.  Read Isaiah 53:9, Acts 13:29 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Culture and prophecy serve to proclaim that Jesus truly died as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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