Trusting the Crucifixion
Baptism of our Lord – C LSB #’s 779, 596, 468
Text – Romans 6:6
We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
TRUSTING THE CRUCIFIXION
The names Agatha Christie & Ellery Queen are recognized, not in the world of church or theology, but in the world of mystery. They wrote stories in which the reader is provided with the clues from which the identity of the perpetrator may be figured out before the story provides the revelation itself at its climax.
To describe this category of literature the term ‘whodunit’ was coined. From the reader’s perspective, it’s the whole point of the book – to figure out who done it. From the author’s perspective, the goal is to write a book in such a way that when the reader is finished, he’s kicking himself for not figuring out who done it.
A whodunit is a book that practically begs you to solve the mystery, while also making that solution a struggle. In the book, the hero often has a sidekick. Sherlock Holmes had Watson. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Batman had Robin. Together, they do battle against the forces of evil to win the day for those who, although helpless, are good.
St. Paul’s letter to the Romans informs us that as children of God we have been granted an ability to engage in the ongoing battle against sin, & to offer ourselves in service to our Lord. That is what God has done for us in our Baptism. You & I have been delivered from the reign of sin. We honor our Savior by consciously joining in the battle, for ourselves & for our neighbor.
The struggle for us is that we also, consciously, opt out of the battle much of the time. You see, children of God are schizophrenic. We have a dual, or split, mind. We are saint & sinner. We love God & we hate Him. We love our neighbor & we hate him. We love ourselves & we hate ourselves. Yet, our heavenly King calls us in to the battle. Through Baptism into Christ, His followers already “now” have died to the slavery of sin. Nevertheless, as long as our own physical death has “not yet” taken place, we remain a target of the forces of evil throughout our earthly lives.
And in that struggle, between us & the unbelieving world around us, there are plenty of reasons to experience feelings of fear. Listen to these words of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark:
“‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. And a great windstorm arose, & the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him & said to Him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And He awoke & rebuked the wind & said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, & there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid?’” (Mark 4:35b-40a ESV)
These were tough, hardened fisherman, who made their living on the sea. Yet God allowed such a storm as to strike fear into the hearts of these men. It could only have been a storm that was certain to kill. They truly had reason to be afraid. They were the targets of the forces of darkness & evil. Still, Jesus chastises His disciples for being afraid.
But that is not the end of the fear. Yes, they feared for their lives during that storm, but after Jesus calms the storm, & after He chastises them for their little faith, do you know what verse 41 says? This is their reaction to the miracle Jesus performed: “And they were filled with great fear & said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind & the sea obey Him?’”
They aren’t fighting the devil in this fear, which should give cause for anyone to be afraid. No, this time they are greatly afraid of Jesus Himself. It’s not just the unbelieving world that we are engaged with in warfare. It is also God Almighty Who is doing battle against you & against me. It’s the dual nature thing again.
Our saintly nature does battle against the spiritual forces of darkness in our lives. Our
Sinful nature does battle against the spiritual forces of light in our lives. Our sinful nature attacks & accuses even our Lord & Savior. And in that struggle, between us & God, there are plenty of reasons to experience feelings of fear or anxiety. It is our heavenly Father’s desire that your sinful nature should die.
As C.S. Lewis penned it in the Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan is not safe.” Lewis means for that phrase to grab your heart & shake it, so you wake up. Momentarily, he leaves you hanging, because Aslan is a picture of Christ & it bothers us, it makes us nervous, to think that Jesus is not safe. Then the punch line comes in, again written of Aslan, “…but he is good.”
Jesus, our Savior, is not safe, but He is good. That he is not safe is written for our sinful nature, the one that would enslave us. It needs to fear God. That Jesus is good, is written for our saintly nature, that we might trust Him even when we have every reason in the world to be greatly afraid! All that boils down to this, “Are you willing to trust Jesus?”
For people who claim to be Christians it’s an easy question to answer in the affirmative. As St. Paul writes to the church at Rome, however, he’s trying to dig a little deeper. He wants them to have something more than a shallow faith that is easily agreed to. The Apostle wants you to face the fears of your heart while trusting not simply in Jesus, but in His crucifixion.
You see, the disciples were afraid for their lives due to the storm on the Sea of Galilee, but that was a fear of something corrupted by the evil of sin. When Jesus calms the storm, is when their greatest fear comes to the forefront. There are probably a lot of earthly things that come to mind when you think of fear. I want to ask, “What is the greatest fear in your life?”
If it isn’t the sheer holiness of God, then it’ll do you well to hear Matthew’s words in 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul & body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 ESV) That kind of fear is what the disciples were feeling, not just in their heart, but in their very soul, once Jesus said, “‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, & there was a great calm.” That great calm brought out a great fear from the depths of their souls. In Romans 6, that is what St. Paul is writing to:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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 6:1-4 ESV)
St. Paul reminds the members of the church at Rome of the horrific nature of sin & its effects. Paul has to remind them because their sinful heart is part & parcel of that horror, & some people end up numb to the results. It is natural for us to think if we just do our best God will see to it that everything turns out okay. That is how some struggle to trust the crucifixion.
At other times, or for other people, it’s a real struggle to believe that their sins are erased, forgiven, washed away. They are very sensitive to the effects of sin & Satan lashes them day & night with their guilt & shame. It just doesn’t seem possible that their sin has totally been paid for. That’s another way in which some people struggle to trust the crucifixion.
A third category in which we struggle to trust the crucifixion is when others are taking advantage of us. Every fiber of our being can end up screaming, “It’s not fair!” Of course, Jesus is the only human being who could honestly make that claim. The rest of us do not get what we deserve only by the grace of God, for hell is what we have earned.
In circumstances where we’re taken advantage of, God’s Word calls us to turn the other cheek. When we consciously do that, it’s takes tremendous faith & the God-given ability to trust the crucifixion. This is how the Word of God summarizes the difficulty we have in trusting the crucifixion:
“For Jews demand signs & Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a
stumbling block to Jews & folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews & Greeks, Christ the power of God & the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV) Millions of God’s children, over the past thousands of years, have firmly believed that God sends His Holy Spirit to call His children out of the darkness of this world through the waters of Holy Baptism.
Leah O’Leary will be/was baptized this morning through the water that was connected to the power of God’s Word. We cannot explain it & thus we concede that it is a mystery. The Latin word Sacrament, simply means mystery. Yet the story of our Baptism is no whodunit, & neither the pastor, nor her parents, nor even Leah herself is the Holy Spirit’s sidekick.
Yahweh accomplishes this miraculous salvation entirely by His own power. Paul reminds us because the nature of God’s reign here on earth is hidden behind the veil of our sin-fogged brain. Paul reminds us because Jesus’ death on the cross did everything needed to make us holy in the sight of God, for this life, & completely free of sin & any of its effects in the next.
Freedom from the dominion of death is ours in Baptism, yet lots of people today still have a difficult time trusting the crucifixion as old age creeps up on them. It is Baptism that connects us to Christ’s death so that sin’s power is done away with in our lives. Baptism is the means by which our heavenly Father creates the relationship we have with Him.
He adopts us there as His son or daughter & there’s nothing He will ever do to sever that relationship. Since Yahweh is holy, He cannot be anything but faithful to us. Thus Baptism is the foundation of our faithfulness, not merely the removal of our sins. Through Baptism, Christ’s resurrection becomes the promise of ours, by virtue of the grace of God!
Through our Baptism, the Spirit of God does battle against the forces of evil to win the day for those who, although helpless, are not even good. Through the water connected to God’s Word we receive the merits of Jesus’ holiness & righteousness. Those merits then qualify us to enter the realms of heaven where we will be good. Mysteriously, our baptism takes us back in time where we continue, daily, to be united with the crucified Christ. In fact, St. Paul tells us in Romans 6:6 that our old self was crucified with Christ.
If you want to be a follower of Jesus, you need to be crucified. Everything about our earthly lives tells us that in death we get death. If we trust the crucifixion we see that such a death is actually our entrance into the life that only the heavenly Creator can give to us. God’s Holy Spirit crucifies us through our Baptism. Do you trust that it was effective?
Mysteriously, our baptism also takes us back, & connects us, to Christ’s resurrection. It connects us to our future resurrection. It is the beginning of our future resurrection, a life which we already begin to live here, under the power & grace of God. We enter this life, not under the compulsion of Law, but by the empowering of God’s grace.
As 2 Corinthians 5 puts it: “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Our present life gets its character, direction & purpose from the fact that we shall live with Jesus who lives a life beyond death. Our future is also beyond death, & it has already begun in the here & now.
“For the death [Jesus] died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin & alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Amen.
O Christian, firmly hold this gift & give God thanks forever! It gives the power to uplift in all that you endeavor. When nothing else revives your soul, you Baptism stands & makes you whole & then in death completes you. So use it well! You are made new – in Christ a new creation! As faithful Christians, live & do within your own vocation, until that day when you possess His glorious robe of righteousness bestowed on you forever! Amen.
 Romans 6:10-11
Pastor Dean R. Poellet