“Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
Romans 6:5-6 NLT
Perhaps we have an image in our minds, of a unified person. Consider a picture of Jesus, and a photograph of ourselves, and then superimpose one over the other. Personally, a unified picture of Jesus and me. How does that make us feel? Good? Apprehensive? Unsure? Yes, all of the above, but that is the reality of the Christian life. Association with Jesus in this way, in true unity, is the only way forward towards our goal of salvation. And Paul’s use of the baptismal imagery continues, with the mental picture of being raised to life just as Jesus was.
The next thought from Paul profoundly impacts a new Christian’s life. And the older Christian’s too, because we must never forget and slip back into our old sinful ways. When we pilgrims fell onto our knees at the foot of the Cross, a pictorial way of describing how one day we brought our sins to Jesus in repentance, asking for His forgiveness, and believing in Him, we effectively crucified that part of us that was our old life, riven by sin. Now, crucifixion was a terrible way to die. A slow, lingering and extremely painful death. But Jesus went through that to set us free from the dominance of sin over our lives. In fact, the whole process in our spirits was, and is, life changing because we realise that what Jesus did for us we deserved ourselves. Sin has to be dealt with sooner or later. The grace of God is breathtaking, because He allowed His own Son, Jesus, to suffer in this way so that we wouldn’t have to.
Why did Jesus have to go through what He did? There were other forms of capital punishment available to the Jews, such as stoning. That happened to the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Crucifixion was a method the Romans used to put someone to death, and in the process they hoped to deter other people tempted to commit the same crime by attaching a list of their misdemeanours to the cross used. Pilate, the Roman governor who authorised Jesus’ death, ordered that “King of the Jews” was written above Jesus’ head. The Jewish authorities saw Jesus as a threat to their rather fragile relationship with the Romans because He challenged their cosy status quo with His radical teaching and miraculous acts. The people were following Him in large numbers, and, because of their unbelief, the Jewish leaders couldn’t allow the situation to continue. Evil ruled the day but God allowed Jesus’ death to happen because it was all part of His plan of redemption for mankind.
Because Jesus went through what He did, taking on board our sins, we have been released from their dominance over us. I’m sure we can all think of sinful situations hidden away in our skeleton cupboards, that emerge from time to time to embarrass and harass us. But we don’t have to be slaves to these thoughts anymore, because Jesus has redeemed us from them. The skeletons are buried. Their power to torment us is gone. As Paul wrote, “We are no longer slaves to sin”. We can shut the door on our cupboards and lock them. But it’s up to us now. The question is – what will we do with the key? Hmmm…
Dear Father God. What an amazing and gracious, loving God You are. We worship at Your footstool. Amen.