Today we focus on the section of the Apostles’ Creed which I believe “brings home” the heart of the Gospel.
“[Jesus Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell.”
While Paul preceded the Creed, he set the stage for the centrality of this pain and death-filled section.
With the exception of Luke’s recording of a twelve-year-old Jesus, we possess no scriptural information about Jesus’ life from an infant to thirty. Likewise, if you will notice, the Creed jumps from “born of the Virgin Mary” to “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Why? Because the suffering and death of Jesus the Christ is the message of the devastating price of your sin and my sin and the dynamic love of God.
In The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the authors pose the question, “What understandest thou by the little word ‘suffered’?” (qtd in Barth 101)
They answer their own question with these words, “That He all the time of His life on earth . . . hath borne in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race.” (qtd in Barth 101)
Christians believe that Jesus, God in the flesh, truly suffered. He did not appear to suffer; the suffering was real, felt, and painful emotionally and physically. His ultimate suffering, His torture before and on the cross, brought about the forgiveness to all who believe.
Christians remain thankful for Christ's suffering because while we are not thankful that suffering was something He faced, we know that without His suffering, we would be without hope.
His suffering also brings life-altering perspective in regard to our view of our own suffering.
Barth, Karl. Dogmatics in Outline. New York: Harper & Row, 1959.
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