On a small hill just outside of Jerusalem, a troublemaking teacher was killed on a cross. He was not alone. He was not the only troublemaker in Jerusalem that spring day. “I have been crucified with Christ,” the apostle Paul wrote (Galatians 2:20), but Paul wasn’t the only one with Christ. “You died with Christ,” he told other Christians (Colossians 2:20). “We were…buried with him,” he wrote in Romans 6:4.
What’s going on here? All those people weren’t really on that hill near Jerusalem. So what is Paul saying? Just this: All Christians, whether they know it or not, have shared in the cross of Christ.
Were you there when they crucified the Lord? Yes, you were there. We were with him, even though we didn’t know it at the time. Perhaps this sounds like nonsense. What does it mean? In modern language, we might say that we were represented by Jesus. His death was payment for our sins.
But there is more. We are also represented — and share in — his resurrection! Paul also wrote, “God raised us up with Christ” (Ephesians 2:6). We were there on resurrection morning. “God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13). “You have been raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1).
Christ’s story is our story, if we are identified with the crucified Lord. Our lives become attached to his life, not only the glory of his resurrection, but also the pain and sorrow of his crucifixion. Can you accept it? Can we be with Christ in his death? If so, then we can be with him in his glory.
Jesus did much more than die and rise. He had a life of righteousness, and we share in that life, too. His righteousness is shared with us. We are not instantly perfect — not even gradually perfect — but we are called to share in the abundant, new life of Christ. Paul ties it all together when he writes, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Buried with him, risen with him, living with him.
A new identity
What is this new life supposed to be like?
Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body…. Offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:11-13)
When we cast our lot in with Christ, our lives are his. “One died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Just as Jesus was not alone, neither are we. If we identify with Christ, then we are buried with him, and we rise to new life with him, and he lives with us. In our trials and in our successes, he is with us, because our lives belong to him. He shoulders the burden, and he gets the credit, and we get the joy of sharing life with him.
Paul described it in these terms: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Take up the cross, Jesus urged his disciples, and follow me. Identify with me. Accept that your life is united with mine. Let the old be crucified, and let the new life reign in your body. Let me live in you, and I will give you life eternal.
Author: Joseph Tkach