Saturday, January 30, 2016

Heidelberg Catechism: Q16-19

16. Q. Why must He be a true and righteous man?

A. He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner cannot pay for others.

17. Q. Why must He at the same time be true God?

A. He must be true God so that by the power of His divine nature He might bear in His human nature the burden of God's wrath, and might obtain for us and restore to us righteousness and life.

18. Q. But who is that Mediator who at the same time is true God and a true and righteous man?

A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (I Corinthians 1:30).

19. Q. From where do you know this?

A. From the holy gospel, which God Himself first revealed in Paradise. Later, He had it proclaimed by the patriarchs and prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law. Finally, He had it fulfilled through His only Son.

Let's look at the human nature of Jesus Christ.  The best, most vivid place to look is Isaiah chapter 53.

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 

We see things happening in reverse.  This is a reference to Christ's resurrection and exaltation.  Then we go back to his crucifixion and punishment.

As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations; 

His punishment pushes him beyond the description of an actual human.  Even though he was fully human, he was not like us in the fact that he was debased into a sub-human.  Even humans rejected him because he was made worse.  And yet, his spilled blood sprinkled the many and cleanses us--out of all nations--from all our sins.   

kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

When the children of God, the flock, even the most wealthy kings and queens of our world, hear the gospel, the Holy Spirit regenerates their hearts and instills them with faith, giving them understanding of the Gospel.  And yet there are those who hear and still do not believe, even though the Gospel is simple and straightforward.  This is proof that the unbelieving mind is dulled to understanding, that the unbelieving will is in bondage to sin.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 

This line about Christ having no beauty is quite compelling.  We think this is a post-beating Christ, but I would offer that Jesus on-the-whole was not handsome to view.  He didn't have the charisma that our church leaders seem to need today.  The heart turning toward Jesus is solely based on the Holy Spirit drawing it, not because of some worldly appeal.  We see pictures of the blue-eyed, blond-haired Jesus even today, and it has been replaced with a more swarthy look--but still attractive.  He MUST have been attractive, we say. But...

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 

Although despised by us, he took on himself all of our ugliness, all of our sin.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 

Grace and peace are the two words that summarize the Gospel in the tightest way possible.  By Grace, God sent us the means of reconciliation, and the result is peace between ourselves and our creator.  Christ's is the ultimate sacrifice, once for all:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 

All of these descriptions of the Christ are only possible if he were fully human, being treated as human by other humans.

And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 

Remember the thief on the cross, who repented and made a confession: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  A true fruit of faith is the correct view of oneself and the correct view of Christ himself.  We are wrongdoers, justly condemned, but Jesus did nothing wrong and he was punished instead.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 

All of this is a plan of God, delivered to us out of God's good grace.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 

And since Jesus is also fully God, he himself is in on the plan.  He died in anguish, yes, but also with satisfaction.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. 

All of this is made possible through our Lord Jesus Christ alone, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness, sanctification and redemption.