“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried and 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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” — Romans 6:3-5
The darkest day in all of history. The Son of God hanging on the cross. The Father turning His face away. For the first time in history, the Triune God has forsaken one of His Persons.
Yet we celebrate this day as Good.
We celebrate Good Friday as the day when It was accomplished: the wrath of God was satisfied and “upon [Jesus] was the chastisement that brought us peace.” As a result, “with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5b).
But if we simply celebrate this day, we fail to honor the sacrifice which was made. Scripture calls us to respond. Paul implores us to share in the death of Christ, saying, “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” (Romans 6:7-8).
Therefore, we as Christians are urged to partake in the death of Christ by denying ourselves and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Matthew 16:24-25, Romans 12:1). It is evident in Scripture that faith is a gift from God such that we would be created in Christ Jesus to walk in the good works which God prepared for us (Ephesians 2:8-10).
However, this is not something which can be accomplished of our own accord. Thus, God sacrifices Himself for the forgiveness of our sins and offers us to partake in His own death through the gift of faith which He Himself provides, that we may be a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
If all of this was accomplished in the crucifixion of Christ, what need had He to be raised from the dead? After all, Jesus declared “tetelestai”—or “it is finished” (John 19:30)—from the cross.
How then can Paul write: “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)?
He can say this because, as Paul continues, Christ’s resurrection represents the firstfruits from the dead, and resurrection of the dead comes into the world by the resurrection of Christ as death entered into the world by the sin of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
This is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday. We celebrate the raising of the dead, Christ being the firstborn of the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness providing an inheritance for us marked by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:14, John 16).
Yet, just as we must partake in the death of Christ, if we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and do not also partake with Him in His resurrection, we have responded in vain.
Christ’s death is to sin and physical death, such that they might once and for all have no dominion over Him. Christ’s life, being resurrected from the dead, is to God. We then must, as Paul urges, die too to sin and consider ourselves “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11).
How do we do this?
As with all imperatives of the Christian life, God does not leave us without direction. In Colossians, we are commanded to walk in Christ as we have received Him. We are to do this by “[seeing] to it that no one take [us] captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).
In other words, we must hold fast to the truth of Scripture and disregard the futile philosophies of the world. We are called to set our minds on “things that are above not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
How can Paul tell us to do such a thing? Because we, in Christ, have died, and Paul says “your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4). Thus, if we have been resurrected with Christ, we are hidden with Him and are set free to dwell upon Heavenly things.
So we partake in Jesus’ resurrection by putting on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12). We partake in His resurrection by walking in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).
We partake in His resurrection by living as though we are already in Heaven.
We can only do this, though, by the grace of God. A righteous life is accessible to the Christian because God “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
We can live as though we are citizens of Heaven because we are already citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). But we often don’t. We are naturally sinners and live in constant war against our flesh (Romans 7:23).
Here lies the key to responding to Christ’s death and resurrection: we partake in the death and resurrection of Christ primarily by placing our faith in Him. We lean not on our own ability to put our old selves to death but on Christ’s ability to atone for our sins. We lean not on our own ability to live as citizens of Heaven but trust in Christ’s position at God’s right hand such that we can dwell in Him for eternity!
This is why we celebrate! Sing for joy at the works of God’s hands (Psalm 92)! I pray that each of us rests on Jesus as we celebrate His death and resurrection and that we find ourselves moved unto righteousness by His love.