Hi everyone, Rob here.
Why don’t Christians wear an empty tomb around their necks? Admittedly it’s probably a bit tricky to manufacture and represent, but for the early Christians Jesus’ empty tomb was the defining symbol of their faith, not the cross. How do you feel about that?
For the last Sunday’s we’ve been looking at what new life in Christ actually means. We’ve based our discussion around Romans 6. Here is some of Paul’s thinking on the matter:
We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:2-4, emphasis mine).
Christ died so that sin and death could be conquered. In the same way we die with Christ so that the reign of sin and death over us can be conquered. In other words we don’t come to the cross to stay there. We have to pass through the cross in order to gain new life. Life is the goal. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
This means that while the cross is absolutely vital to our faith it is not the ultimate symbol of our faith. That honour belongs to the empty tomb that represents new life in Christ. The cross is an essential means to a necessary end. The cross represents sin, shame and evil being put to death. Satan’s tools are rendered powerless and his demise is guaranteed. But the cross on its own doesn’t save us. Salvation is our life with God restored. Through Christ’s resurrection and ascension we enter into God’s realm, his kingdom, his rule, his life. A dead Christ doesn’t achieve that for us, but Christ resurrected does.
This means that we need to shift our thinking a bit. Here are some key points to remember as we adjust our sights to this new and glorious reality.
- The cross is still essential and powerful. We still need to die with Christ. Let us put to death all that does not belong to God’s glorious kingdom. Let Jesus take the sin, the hurt, the arrows, the fear and the lies from us. Let his unconditional and sacrificial love rest on our hearts. Like Paul, we still “preach Christ crucified.” He is the innocent one, the Passover Lamb, the ultimate sacrifice and his death does pay the price for us. New life begins with dying. Meet Jesus at the cross.
- At the cross Jesus takes our guilt and our shame. We are declared innocent and holy. However, if you linger there too long you will start to take those things back. You will start to feel guilty that Christ died for you. You will feel shame that you can’t kick certain sins out of your life. Jesus strips us naked at the cross. We take off our old clothes (see Colossians 3) but our new clothes don’t wait for us there. So if you stay too ling you will put your old clothing back on. Make your confession, let Christ’s love and mercy wash over you and move on.
- The new clothes await for us at the empty tomb. Here we take on Christ’s life. We take on our new hearts and our new way of being. We bow the knee to our new King and receive our new identity as children of the Father and friends of the King.
- This means that our new life is about walking with God everyday and doing the work of the kingdom. It is not primarily about avoiding wrongdoing. That is a shame-based way to live. It is about Ephesians 2:8-10:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are dead to sin and alive to God. Thanks be to Christ! The enemy is still angry and wants to take us down. Evil still exists and in plentiful supply. Death still has power over many. But nothing, absolutely nothing, will conquer God’s kingdom and life eternal. So, let’s take our place in ultimate reality. Let’s meet at the empty tomb and gaze at our risen Lord. Let’s take our place in his life and do his work, in his name, for the glory of his kingdom. Amen.