. . . We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, . . . ~ Romans 6:4a
As we continue to ponder this, during this in-between time of Holy Saturday, I thought I would post another reflection towards this end. When Paul says . . . we were therefore buried with him . . . , what is it that has been buried? Galatians gives us a list of rotten fruit:
. . . sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20. idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21. and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. . . . ~ Galatians 5:19b-21
This list could be enumerated over and again, in fact it is all through the New Testament (as well as the Old); each of the sins above represent things all people deal with as a result of the Fall. Each of these sins represent expressions of something else, something more sinister at work in our members—self worship (or self love or pride). Satan beckoned Eve with these alluring words:
. . . Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? . . . For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. . . . ~ Genesis 3:1-5 (snapshot version)
Immediately Eve’s, and subsequently, Adam’s orientation moves from God’s Word to Satan’s word. The former is ekstatic dependent life, while the latter is eis-static living. In other words, life in God is shaped by looking beyond self “outward” toward Him, the poured out life; while living apart from God finds form by looking “inward,” focusing on my own individual needs, the gluttonous life.
So what is it that Jesus takes to the cross, and now to the grave? What is it that is buried? Is it all of those ugly things noted by Paul in Galatians? Yes! But there is more, it is what lies behind those ugly idolatrous acts that has been “buried” with Christ . . . it is the life that Adam and Eve won for us all, as they yielded to Satan’s word; the gluttonous life. When Jesus assumed humanity in the incarnation this was an actualization of the eternal life of God within the sphere of “human history.” The life that we had, pre-Fall (lapsarian), dependent on God’s life, was one that was shaped by: outward focus, poured out life, humble worship, concern for the other without concern for self. The fall, as already noted, plunged us into the opposite, ultimately singular-death. The wisdom of the cross, and now the grave, is that Jesus, being true to His life as God, took humanities’ emaciated backward focused life to its end; motivated by His life of love with the Father and Spirit. He resisted sin by completely yielding to God’s “word” (see Mt. 4), while at the same time becoming the curse (Gal. 3) that we are in Adam and Eve. As He died at the cross, He condemned and overcame this backward life by His life of kenosis and humility. In other words, for us, because of Christ, real life is expressed in death; if by death we mean pouring life out toward others, for it is in this process that life is actually called life, since this is what defines the trinitarian life of God. In the end God in Christ is exactly what we need in our Fallen state, we were dying apart from God, and in ourselves, and through Christ’s kind of dying, we can now die in God which produces life . . . since in Him this is in fact life after all.
I hope you our catching the irony of all this. Recalling Genesis 3, the moment we bought the lie that we would be like God (apart from God and in ourselves) we began an parasitic existence. Since we were designed to die (in God’s terms and within His life), once the Fall occurred we continued this “creaturely” characteristic; only mimicking the real life. Instead of our lives shaping outward they began a trajectory of shaping inward . . . this is hell. Since, apart from union with God’s life, our lives are monadic and singular, we cannot really die or live the way we were intended to; instead we pour into ourselves (since that is all we have), and the only place for that kind of life ends in a cavernous existence, known as sheol. Unless of course your “life” has been reconnected with His life . . . the one which flipped narcissistic life on its head, by his death (which ironically within the God-head is ‘life’). Let me close this with an excellent quote:
. . . Remember, however, that this glory, this honor, this dignity are not that of possessed identity; they are not to keep myself alive, to keep myself real, to hold onto my own identity. I am free to give myself away, provided that what I give is not anything that I do not need, provided that what I give is the substance of my own life. In Jesus Christ, therefore, we have the freedom to love; we have the freedom to love by laying down our life. The new kind of identity which Jesus brings involves this new life, a freedom of absolutely unthinkable to those who live by possession. The freedom to love is the freedom to do what Jesus did on the cross, the freedom to give ourselves away. (Arthur McGill, “Death and Life,” 76)
This is what has happened today (some two-thousand years ago), the ‘inward-focused’ debased self, the “possessed identity,” in McGill’s language, has been turned upside down and inside-out. Tomorrow we will focus on the power we have in Christ, to “fully” live this new kind of real life . . . resurrection power!