Why He Got Us


“Why?” This question often asked by an inquisitive child is not childish, but rather one that we should continue to ask throughout our lives because it is important not just to understand “what” and “how” of various ideas, but also the “why” – the reason behind them. Therefore, it is wise to explore not only what it means and how it is possible that Jesus “gets us,” but also to think through why it is that the eternal Son of God took on human flesh and walked in our shoes. As I pondered this question and how to offer an answer, I recalled the great explanation found in the Heidelberg Catechism. This is one of Faith Church’s confessions of faith that seeks to explain what the Bible teaches in a question and answer format. These questions were asked by people when it was written in 1563, and are still asked today. The answers given are filled with footnotes citing various passages in the Bible, showing that these answers are not coming from church traditions or the thoughts of humans, but rather from the Word of God that stands as the church’s only guide for belief and behavior. 

The Framework of the Catechism
The first two questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism essentially introduce the central concept and outline of the document. The first addresses the comfort that belonging to Jesus Christ offers us in life and death. It is a wonderful statement that I have written about in a previous post and would encourage you to study and maybe even memorize at some point. The second question and answer then tells how we are able to know this comfort, noting that it requires understanding “three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.” The rest of the catechism then develops these three ideas often summarized as “guilt, grace, and gratitude”: 

1) Q&A 3-11 focuses on guilt (or human misery)
2) Q&A 12-85 examines God’s grace to us (which delivers us from this misery)
3) Q&A 86-129 explains how we are to live in gratitude to this deliverance from our misery as it walks through the 10 Commandments and Lord’s Prayer.

The Placement of This Explanation
Discussion of Jesus’s divine and human natures and the reason for them appears in the middle section that focuses on God’s grace. The placement of this discussion at the beginning of this section reveals part of the “why”: the Son of God took on human flesh because we are guilty. Questions and answers 4 and 5 tell us to love God and love others, but we don’t do that, instead hating God and our neighbor. Therefore, we can say that the law of God shows us our guilt (Q&A 3). God did not create us “so wicked and perverse,” but we have become corrupt because of the disobedience of our first parents. Thus, we are unable to do good but rather are inclined to do evil, being unable to keep the law (Q&A 6-9). God, in His justice, will not let this disobedience go unpunished, but He is also merciful (Q&A 10 and 11). The combination of our guilt and God’s justice and mercy thus stands as the overarching “why” that Jesus came – he “gets us” because God is a just and merciful God.

The Explanation of Catechism
After this note about God’s justice and mercy, the catechism talks about grace and how God delivers us from the sin and misery that is our natural estate. It notes that in order for us to escape judgment “both in this world and forever after,” God requires that “his justice be satisfied” and “the claims of this justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another” (Q&A 12). Here’s the problem with that – we cannot pay for it because each day we become more and more guilty (Q&A 13) and another creature cannot pay for it because “no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it” (Q&A 14). Only “one who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is one who is also true God” (Q&A 15) can be our deliverer.  The Son of God had to “get us” and become human so that our sins could be taken away. The Son paid the high price of his life and the Father the high price of his son because there was no other way; if there was, it would have come at a lower cost and choosing this path would be a foolish and reckless choice.

We could thus say that the “why” of Jesus taking on flesh is because we are guilty and that this was the only way to save us from our sins. This “why” explanation, though, can prompt another “why” question, which is “why” it needed to be one who was human and yet righteous (thus God). The questions and answers that follow pick up that question. The mediator who could deliver us from our sin and misery had to be truly human and truly righteous because “God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin; but a sinner could never pay for others” (Q&A 16). An animal can’t take the place of humans, and one sinner can’t take the place of another, as the first person’s sin would still need to be punished. It would only be one with the “power” of divinity that could “bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life” (Q&A 17). The mediator that we need is Jesus, “who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God” (Q&A 18). Those words are a wonderful, concise explanation of the reason that Jesus “gets us”: so that we might be set free from sin and made right with God!

The Proper Response to this Explanation
After this explanation of why the Son of God took on flesh and noting that this truth about our mediator was proclaimed before his arrival in word and symbol (Q&A 19), the catechism then notes that Christ’s work does not save all those who were lost in Adam. It is only those who have “true faith…which is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation” (Q&A 20 and 21). Therefore, it is not enough for us to know the how, what, or even the why of Jesus “getting us.” Rather, we need to believe this reality in the core of our being and rest in this truth. Do you? If you believe that Jesus “got you” as the way to rescue you from your sin, then know that he’s “got you” and has saved you and forever will keep you in his hands. 

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