As I’ve been preparing my Easter sermon, I’ve been thinking about life and death, and then life again.
One of the best ways to understand the meaning of Easter is found in Romans 6. In this great passage, the apostle Paul uses the act of baptism to drive home what God sought to accomplish in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We were buried 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. — Romans 6:4
When we respond to God’s grace in baptism, we are experiencing our own death; in fact, we are being buried into death — just as Jesus experienced when he was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb. We are crucifying our sinful nature, counting ourselves dead to its desires and ways.
But Jesus did not remain in the tomb. Baptism is not only about burial. We come back up! We, too, are raised to a new life. New hopes, new dreams, new values, new start.
For the Christ-follower, baptism begins the pattern of death and resurrection. Dying to self is not a one-time event, although we all wish it was. It is a daily decision to place God’s will above my own, to do what he desires even when I do not desire the same thing. My baptism reminds me that I made a decision to die.
But the Christian life is not only about death and dying; it is also about “walking in the newness of life.” Death to self is only part of the equation. When we yield to God’s plan, we experience a newness of life that can be found no other way. Only when we die do we have the chance to be resurrected. I cannot experience God’s new life until I am ready to be done with my old one.