“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20)
This is where the wilderness leads – The cross. The cross. The cross.
A place of humiliation, suffering, shame, and grueling death.
Why would Paul say, “I have been crucified with Christ?” Why would he want to be? Would you?
The cross: where the full weight of politics, religiosity, sinfulness and human indecency come to bear. Why would Paul say, “I have been crucified with Christ?” The very thought of it makes me cringe.
The cross: it seems so cruel of humanity, so cruel of God, so cruel a way to offer to save humanity.
Is God that cruel? is God that demanding? Is God that bloodthirsty? …Is God that loving?
God is so loving that after we’ve run from him, he would to anything to come after us and bring us back. The cross is doing everything to bring us back: by entering our world, sharing our humanity, living among us, proclaiming a kingdom, and dying for it.
Dying, for you… …That is the promise of the cross. That God loves you enough to die for you.
In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther says it this way,
“I believe in Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father in all eternity, and also true human born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being. He has purchased me and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold, but with his holy, precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death. He has done all this in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.” (ELW, p 1162.)
Jesus, the man on the cross, the one whom Paul says, “I have been crucified with” is our Lord. Jesus, the man on the cross, rules your life. He rules not with power and might, but by providing a ransom for our rescue. He offers not silver and gold, but his precious body and blood, spilled on this night for you, for the world, that you might be part of his kingdom; that you might live and serve in his name.
“I have been crucified with Christ.” is pure gift.
Jesus goes to the cross for a reason: to defeat sin and death and evil and darkness and despair. Jesus sends the devil running once and for all; to restore your life to God; to send you forth to serve in his name.
“I have been crucified with Christ.” demands something of us as well. We must die.
Our affiliation with darkness, with sin, with evil, with despair, all must die too.
These things Jesus takes with him to the grave. These things must die, that we might live.
This is his promise. This is the gift of this night. This is the call to follow.
But there is more. “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives within me.”
Our lives are not our own. Your life and mine, bought for a price, belong to the Lord.
Our life is death. His death is life.
As we sing, pray, contemplate, listen, and sit in the darkness this evening as those forces encroach upon us; ponder anew the gift that is offered here – not just the life he offers, but the life he takes – yours and mine – that he would be our Lord, and that we, would live. I “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” Wait until Sunday. Amen.