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Catechism Class: LD16B Q40-41 Why Did Jesus Have to Die?


Why did Jesus have to die?

LORD’S DAY 16A Q40-41

Why did Jesus have to die? The Catechist’s answer is that he died to make ‘satisfaction’ for our sins. Because God, in His unchanging nature, is both JUST and HOLY, and because he is IMMUTIBLE – that means that He never changes, in Malachi 3:6  the wages of sin MUST be death for the soul that sins will die!  To our first Father, God warned, in his law, But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:17. That is why Jesus had to die – HE DIED MY DEATH!  Let’s start with this statement:-

God is both JUST and TRUTHFUL

We must firstly establish the importance of Christ’s death. This is what the catechist does He makes a statement about the nature and attributes of God.  GI Williamson tells us that Christ’s death was required by the nature of God. In his book, on the Heidelberg Catechism he writes:- He (God) is holy and righteous. There is no way that God could possibly bypass the demands of Justice. How then could he allow sinners to go free? How could he treat them as if they’d never sinned? Well, one thing is certain, – he could not do it by allowing sin to go unpunished To do that, God would have to deny himself, and the Scripture says that God cannot do that.

Only by Christ’s death could God’s justice be SATISFIED

In him, the righteous demands of God’s law were completely fulfilled for us. Philippians 2:8 And consider the implications of what Paul says in Romans 6:23 … the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  In that one phrase, both the gospel and the reason that Jesus had to die is both simply and profoundly presented to us. It is in order that we might receive that gift that Jesus died. And also because there was no-one else who could satisfy God’s justice than His own sinless Son. Hebrews 2:9  

Let’s move on to Question 41 and ask, 

How do we know that Jesus really DIED on the Cross

The Apostle’s Creed asserts that Jesus was ‘crucified, dead, and buried’ which prompts our Catechist asks, in Q.41. Why was He “buried?” The answer we must give is “To show thereby that He was really dead.”

Having stated the vital importance of Christ’s death for sinners, the catechist is anxious to show the actual historicity behind that death. The Heidelberg Catechist reasons that the burial of Christ is proof of his actual death. Here’s a basic list of proofs for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus:-

  1. The Roman soldier was well trained in killing and death.  The Roman soldier was a cold, trained killer, who could bring about the death of a prisoner in the most brutal, agonising and prolonged methods imaginable. A Roman soldier knew how to make a prisoner suffer, and he knew exactly what death was all about.   To all of this — there were witnesses. There can be no doubt. JESUS WAS DEAD
  2. The body was laid in the tomb. Now, to the evidence laid out for us in the Apostle’s creed and therefore commented upon by the Catechist. He was laid in the tomb.  Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, prepared the body for burial, wrapping it in linen cloths and folding into those cloths a mixture of spices to fragrant the tomb. He was buried and the tomb was sealed, and it was guarded by the Roman soldiers who had been assigned to the Sanhedrin.READ John 19:38-42, Matthew 27:59  

Let’s sum up…

  • The burial of Christ is proof positive that Jesus died, really died — did not faint or swoon, or be substituted by someone else on the cross — he DIED, and that death was the punishment for my sins and for yours. 
  • The burial of Christ shows us that in his sacrifice on the cross the effects of Adam’s fall are completely reversed. Adam came from dust, and he returned to dust. This was part of the curse of sin, following the fall. Genesis 2:7  Jesus came from God, was crucified and buried in dust for us, and rose again! The sting of death and decay and the grave was defeated in Jesus! 
  • The burial of Christ gives us great comfort and hope, when we too stand at a grave and weep. Graveside weeping is common to us all, saint and sinner alike… But believers have a lovely assurance that for we mingle the sadness of parting with the joy of anticipation. Just as our loved ones are laid in a tomb so also was Christ, and just as He rose triumphant from that tomb, so too shall they! And so, we shall meet them again… 

Paul writes, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. v18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

© Bob McEvoy January 2021

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