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The Cross and Life
Sunday 9th October


When we look at the cross through the eyes of the scripture many images come to the forefront and have had different emphases over the years. The cross fulfils many texts prophesied in scripture. 

 

One of them highlights the victory of Christ as predicted from Genesis in the curse upon the serpent, “the serpent will bruise the heel of the woman's offspring, but the offspring will crush the head of the serpent.” (Gen 3.15) In this interpretation, the power of the cross is fully realised when we understand the cross not as the end of Jesus' life but as a victory over the powers of this world, over the serpent. As we explore the meaning behind the cross and the kingdom of God it is where we find life. 

 

The victory of the cross and the resurrection changed everything a power shift in the cosmos that reverberated throughout all time. Christ did more than forgive our sins and give us a fresh start, he changed everything.

 

Death and rebirth are essential to the Christian understanding of what it means to follow Christ. Our death and rebirth along with Christ. If our understanding is thinking, as Jesus, did about God’s kingdom here on earth that changes our perception of what it means to live today. If however, we have a limited view of the cross as God’s method to just rescue us from this fallen world and give us entrance to heaven we can miss out on the here and now. Something happened at the cross when the king of the Jews was crucified by the powers and rulers of this world. Yet Christ rose and triumphed over them in his resurrection. There were many potential messiahs on that day who were crucified yet only one rose from the dead defeating the Romans and Herod and triumphing over the power of darkness in a wider sense. These powers are something that some modern philosophy would tell us are in our imagination and has rooted in superstitions. However, forces of both good and evil exist in our world and influence us in ways that we can't understand by more than just human understanding. The presence of evil is obvious we only have to switch on the news and try and find an explanation. Paul understood that the warfare was not against mere flesh and blood there was something evil behind these things.   On the cross, the forces of evil are overcome and are now subject to Christ and will ultimately be put under his feet once and for all time. According to Paul, it is the church that is given the power to continue to walk in the freedom of this victory as Jesus said he will build his church the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

 

“As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Colossians 2:6-15 NRSV

 

 

Introduction

 

Following the death and resurrection of Christ, those early disciples faced the task of unpacking the teachings of Jesus in light of what had just happened. What did all this mean? Would they stand by their messiah and his message in the face of certain death? The fact was they had plenty of reason to find a quiet corner of the Judaea desert and never see another soul. 

 

However we read in Acts 4 they stood firm in the face of the rulers and authorities, and when they were threatened not to speak of Jesus, praying from Psalm 2 they said

 

“it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ .... V 29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness,”

Acts 4:25-26, 29 NRSV

 

Three points this morning from our reading in Colossians.

 

1. Continue to live [just as you were taught]

 

Routed and built up, is key in the way we should live, and apply those principles to our daily life. How does it change the way we live when we already know we are on the winning side? There is a passage in kings where Elisha prays to the Lord to open the eyes of the servant to see those with us are greater than those against (2 kings 6 15-23)

 

Paul wrote to the Galatians emphasizing belonging to Christ is following a crucified life and one that is spirit-guided. This is what it means to be both routed and built up. As he also wrote to the Galatians.

 

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:24-25 NRSV

 

Knowing the foundation of our lives is the cross and our position there with Christ routes us within his victory over powers conspiring against us and provides us with a purpose in how we live our lives each day. This is why Paul can write to the Church in Ephesus in chapter 1 that they are seated with Christ.

 

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 1:17-23 NRSV

 

2. God made you alive [with Christ]

 

We were once dead, subject to the powers of this world but now we are alive. People who did not belong to Christ in many senses are not living to the full. The power working in those who believe is immeasurable. Eternal living starts now, as Paul writes are those being saved.

 

“through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I, in turn, had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,”

1 Corinthians 15:2-4 NRSV

 

Once we were dead through the trespasses and sins in which we once lived and following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 

 

All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace, you have been saved— and raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

Ephesians 2:1-10 NRSV

 

 

3. The ultimate victory of Christ - [over sin and death]

 

Jesus’ teaching was not, as some expected at the time, to release the Jews from the power of Rome, to some extent Rome was a puppet of the real power of darkness behind them. 

 

Paul writes to the Roman church to say that while we were sinners we were held captive and enslaved to sin, and even if we desired to live right we were unable in our strength.  Whilst we try in our flesh to be a better person it is often to no avail. In our efforts, we make null the grace of God and Christ died in vain. 

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”

Galatians 5:1, 4-5 NRSV

 

Sin and death.

 

Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 6 of his letter saying! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 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 the newness of life. 

 

His view unites us with him in a death like his, so we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 

 

This victory that Christ is one we share with him so that when we know that our old self was crucified with him the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 

 

So because we know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once and for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 

 

Even so when we consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, we do not let sin exercise dominion in our mortal bodies.  We present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and present our members to God as instruments of righteousness. 

 

Because of the victory over sin, death has no dominion over us, since you are not under law but grace. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:1-14, 22-23 NRSV

 

Conclusion 

 

As we explore the meaning behind the cross and the kingdom of God it is where we find life. 

 

The victory of the cross and the resurrection changed everything a power shift in the cosmos that reverberated throughout all time. Christ did more than forgive our sins and give us a fresh start, he changed everything. 

 

The forces of evil are overcome and are subject to Christ and will ultimately put under his feet once and for all time.

 

Sin and death defeated on the cross bring us life and life eternal. When we understand who we are in relation to the victory Jesus won on the cross we enter into that same victory.

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