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I WAS THERE

I WAS THERE

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:3-4, 11

Years ago the popular Baptist preacher, R. G. Lee, was visiting the Holy Land. While there he wanted to see Gordon’s Calvary, thought by some to be the hill where Jesus was crucified. But Lee didn’t just want to see Gordon’s Calvary, he wanted to climb to the top of the rocky, skull shaped hill. As Pastor Lee stood atop the stark, barren hill, he became strangely silent. He took off his hat and bowed his head. After a few moments his Arab guide asked Lee: “Excuse me sir, but have you been here before?” “Oh yes!” Lee answered. “I was here 2,000 years ago. I was crucified with Christ and I was raised up with Him to new life.”

On Good Friday we sang the old spiritual asking: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” It is the clear, unequivocal assertion of today’s scripture that we were indeed there when they crucified our Lord! And what’s more, we were there when God raised Him from the dead!

In this marvelous passage the apostle Paul sets forth the reality of our union with Christ in His death and His resurrection. Paul says that we were “baptized” into the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we might live in newness of life.

The word “baptized” is a fascinating word. Rather than translate, it transliterates the Greek word bapto, a word without any religious connotation. Look up bapto in any Greek lexicon and you will see that it had two basic meanings: “to dip” and “to dye”. (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Walter Bauer) In everyday conversation bapto described the work of the fuller working with cloth. He would take raw, unbleached cloth and dip it into a vat of dye. When he brought the cloth up out of the dye that cloth was said to have been “baptized”, or given a new identity.

The New Testament uses the first century word bapto to proclaim our new identity, as we have been baptized into Jesus’ death and His resurrection. The fact of our baptismal identification with Christ is a fact that Paul says Christians should “know”: “Do you not KNOW that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” In Christ we have a new identity, having died with Christ to the reign of sin and made alive to God in Christ. This is something we “know”.

Remarkably today’s scripture contains the first command in Romans. Paul has gone on for 6 ½ chapters setting forth what God has done for us. Now finally, Paul calls on us to do something “So you also must CONSIDER yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The word “consider” translates the Greek logizomai, a bookkeeping term. It meant to enter accurately into an account what you knew to be true. So to consider ourselves dead to the reign of sin and made alive to God is not something we feel; it is based on what we know. Nor is it based on wishful thinking, but on what the Gospel tells us. I might not feel my oneness with Christ’s life, but I consider and acknowledge it to be true. The essence of the Christian life is first, KNOWING our oneness with Christ, and then CONSIDERING it to be true in our daily living.

Paul nicely sums up for us the Christian life: “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.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Thank God, we were! And we were there with Him when God raised Him from the tomb! This is our Easter faith!

A fellow traveler,
Tim

P. S. Watch around mid May on our website for Water from Rock’s new publication “This I Know: The Bible Tells Me So. Here are 40 scripture reflections on some things we can know and consider for sure in the midst of life’s uncertainty.

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