by Rev. J.P. Mosley, Jr.
40. Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer “death”?
Because the justice and truth of God required that satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other way than by the death of the Son of God.
41. Why was He “buried”?
To show thereby that He was really dead.
42. Since, then, Christ died for us, why must we also die?
Our death is not a satisfaction for our sin, but only a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.
43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?
That by His power our old man is with Him crucified, slain, and buried; so that the evil lusts of the flesh may no more reign in us, but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
44. Why is it added: “He descended into hell”?
That in my greatest temptations I may be assured that Christ my Lord, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, and terrors, which He suffered in His soul on the cross and before, has redeemed me from the anguish and torment of hell.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
The sixteenth Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism gives the church a focus on death for their meditation: the death of the Christ and the death of the believer. As we meditate upon these catechetical words together, consider this theme: The Christ had to die so you could live before God eternally.
First, consider the fact that the Christ had to die. In the previous Lord’s Days, the student learned why He had to suffer in the first place. Today we see why He had to die. In our fortieth answer we see that “God’s justice and truth required” the “death of the Son of God.” The moment Jesus accepted the task of redeeming His people for their sins, He sentenced Himself to death. There are numerous places in the Gospels where we can find Jesus informing His disciples that He had come to die. Jesus knew the wages of sin was death, and that was what He was willing to pay, even though He Himself had never sinned. We learn the entire reason for Jesus Christ’s coming was to die, be buried as proof of His death, and that His entire life, especially at the cross, He lived out the consequences of our sins, namely Hell on earth, so that we would not have to.
Second, consider that beautiful reality that Christ died the accursed, wrath-filled death upon the cross. Christ took on hell so that those who believe in Him would not perish (in hell), but would receive everlasting life. Yes, we have to die, but our death is what we deserve because of our sins. While we may still experience the consequences of our sins in this life, the Gospel tells us that we will not experience the consequences of sins in the next one. Instead, we will receive God’s gracious gift of eternal life because of what Christ has done for you and for me. Our time in worship ought to be filled with giving thanks to a God who would die so that we could live.