Colossians 3:1-4 (The Resurrection of Our Lord—Series A)
“Raised with Christ to Eternal Life”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
April 12, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text the Epistle lesson from Colossians 3:
1Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on the things above, not on the things of the earth. 3For you died and your life stands hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
This certainly has to be the strangest Easter we have ever observed as a congregation. We are not together here in God’s house, singing our Alleluias, rejoicing in the victory over sin and death that our Lord Christ has won for us with His death and triumphant resurrection. But we are singing. We are rejoicing. We can’t help but do so on this first day of the week, for Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
I found St. Paul’s words in Colossians 3 very helpful for us this Easter. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians, exhorting them to “seek the things above,” to “set your minds on the things above, not on the things of the earth.” What a truly different perspective! We’re social distancing in the middle of a world-wide pestilence. Many people are sick. Many have also died. We are very focused on protecting ourselves, our families, and our neighbors from contracting and spreading this disease. You and I must pay attention to these things. It’s a matter of being responsible Christians as we love others and honor the leaders God has placed over us, whether or not we agree with their decisions. By the power of His Spirit, we will seek to obey the Fourth and Fifth Commandments—honoring and respecting authorities while we do not hurt or harm our neighbors in their bodies.
By doing so, we are seeking the “above things.” We have our minds set on the things of God because we are new creations in Christ, the Crucified and Risen Savior. Paul grounds the words of our text in the reality of what took place for us in our Baptism. We read in Colossians 2:11-13, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2:11–13 ESV).
You and I have died with Christ in Baptism and we have been raised to new life with Christ in Baptism. Your Baptism incorporates you into Christ’s redemptive work. The promise of God in Romans 6, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. 6:3–4 ESV). You have been delivered from evil, from sin, and death for eternal salvation. The Paschal Candle, which stands beside the altar during the Season of Easter, is a reminder of this. This candle reminds us that Christ died and rose for us. He paid for our sins in full with His sacrificial death and the shedding of His most precious blood. He suffered hell in our place. Forgiveness of sins is yours! New life is yours. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia! Every time you see the Paschal Candle lit, it is a reminder of your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. When the Invocation is spoken, it is also a reminder of your Baptism “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You died with Christ; you are raised with Christ. Every time you recall your Baptism and its meaning, consider also the reality of your participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Your life lived out in this messed-up, sin-filled, going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket world, is bound up with Christ’s life. Jesus is YOUR life, and your life is as eternal as His! By Baptism, you have already been raised with Christ to life above. Eternal life is your present possession. You truly have it now because of your participation with Christ in His resurrection. In this life, however, your possession of eternal life is hidden under the shadow of suffering and cross-bearing. But, at the Last Day, when the Risen Lord Christ appears again in glory, your being raised with Him spiritually in Baptism will be made known by the rising of your body from the grave! You have Christ’s eternal life now and resurrection life in body and soul then!
While you and I are in the tension between the now and the not yet, we are empowered by the Spirit working through the means of Baptism and Gospel and Supper to seek the things above. Our “new creation lives” which are ours by God’s declaration of grace because of the saving work of Jesus’ death and resurrection enable us, as heirs of eternal life, to live in a manner that corresponds to life in the holiness of heaven rather than to a life characteristic of conduct on this evil earth. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, because we have been Baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we conduct our lives here and now in a way that shows our eternal life above. By daily sorrow over sin and repentance, the old sinful nature in us with all sins and evil is drowned and dies. We have been crucified with Christ! A new person daily emerges and arises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. We have been raised with Christ!
In Holy Baptism, the new creation has already begun in you (Phil 1:6). Christ is your life. His interests have become your interests. Your desire is to love God with your whole being and to love and show mercy to your neighbors. Your desire is to keep the Commandments because you belong to Christ and now live a new, holy life. You see life in this world from Christ’s exalted standpoint. Nothing here and now can ever be the same because of Jesus’ death for you, His resurrection for you, and His incorporating you into His own body through the washing of water and the Word in Baptism. He is your hope of glory. The Early Church Father, St. Augustine wrote, “So now is the time for groaning, then it will be for rejoicing; now is the time for desiring, then for embracing. What we desire now is not present; but let us not falter in desire; let long, continuous desire be our daily exercise, because the One who made the promise doesn’t cheat us.” This world of disease, suffering, pain, and trouble is not your end. You will live in body and soul, glorified and risen with Christ. “[O]ur citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20–21 ESV). Amen.
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20–21 ESV).
 Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, New Testament IX (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 47.