Christ is risen! On Easter, we raise our voices in praise and thanksgiving, celebrating the victory won for us by Our Lord, our new life made possible in His new life.
And rightly we do celebrate – but before we do, wait a moment. Paul writes in Romans that “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom 6:5 ESV). How easy it is to jump ahead, in our eagerness to be united with Our Lord in a resurrection like His own mighty resurrection. Stop for a moment. Stop and think on Paul’s words: “if we have been united with him in a death like his.” A death like Jesus’ death. What does that mean?
We cannot come to new life without death. We cannot find the Risen Lord without the Cross; we cannot reach Easter any way except through the agony of Good Friday and the emptiness of Holy Saturday.
Our Lord leads the way – from triumph and hosannas as He entered Jerusalem on Sunday, through the lonely watch in the garden of Gethsemane. Mark tells us that in the garden, Jesus “fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mk 14:35-36). Our Lord Himself was distressed and troubled, yet constant in obedience to the Father. How easy it is to proclaim Christ when we anticipate that His will is peace and prosperity. Yet Christ calls us to come and die. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:3).
Would you die for Christ? Here in America, we are unlikely to literally die for Christ at all, and certainly not as Our Lord did – in agony, His scourged body stretched across the wood of the cross, struggling to breathe. Put it differently. Would you be willing to lose your job for Christ? Would you let go of God’s good gifts to follow God Himself?
Christ calls us to share in His death, that we may share in His resurrection. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). We will, soon, glory in His resurrection – but first comes the cross.
The crowd shouts, “Crucify him, crucify him!” (Jn 19:6). We are in that crowd. Pilate offers to release Him: the crowd shouts, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.” (Jn 19:12). What accommodations have we made with Caesar? What do we worship instead of the One True God? We must face the darkness in our own lives as we make our way toward the light of Easter.
Christ is crucified.
Not for a vague and unspecified “humanity,” nor for a general idea of “sinners” which we so easily interpret as “other people.” No – on the cross He hung for three bitter hours, bleeding, thirsty, listening to the mockery of the crowd – for us. For me who writes this, for you who are reading this, for all the individual human lives that have ever been and ever will be. And with Christ was crucified all our sins. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:6-7).