March 27, 2016
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,
Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on
Things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life
Is hid with Christ in God.
(Col. 3. 1-3)
There is something rather strange about our Easter Epistle, which was addressed by St. Paul to the Church at Colossae, a small Phrygian city in Asian Minor. For no sooner has Christ appeared to Peter, to Mary Magdalene, James and all the Apostles, to some five hundred, to Stephen before his martyrdom, and lastly to Paul as one born out of due season, (1 Cor. 15. 8), than He disappears and returns to His hidden state, with the Father in Heaven. And St. Paul seems to suggest that man is back to having a relationship with the hidden God. Your life is hid with Christ in God. (Col. iii. 3) He did say that, didn’t he? But what does he mean by it? Surely he is not advocating what passes for most as real religion and Christian experience these days? I mean, surely he is not urging us onwards towards some kind of private affair, a hidden relationship, between you and God who keeps your life hid within himself, lest it be challenged, questioned, or called to account by the outside world? Or from another angle, he cannot be calling us to the kind of a la carte religion that picks and chooses what it wants, when it wants, and how it wants in order to ward off unwelcome advances by an intrusive and overly interested God?
No this is not what St. Paul is suggesting at all. Rather, what he has in mind is a kind of hiddenness that points to an unbreakable intimacy and communion with God. The word is not pejorative but positive. For St. Paul, being hid with Christ in God points to a relationship whose nature and value are known fully by Christ and shall be discovered by us progressively if we see to find the secret of it. He makes the conclusion because of the radical belief that Christ indeed has already taken our lives within Himself back to the Father. And this is not to say merely that He has Risen and Ascended to God as a kind of occult medium between man and God in general. This is no paranormal mystical movement, no cosmic sentimental syrrup for New Age superstitious slothful slugs. No indeed, St. Paul means that Christ has returned human life to the God the Father for the beginning of a relationship whose bond cannot be broken by any force or power in the created order. To put it more poignantly, He has lovingly taken on and assumed our fallen nature, suffering the determined effort of men to destroy it, even in His death, and because of it, has taken it up again, enlivened it, and returned it to a place where no harm can happen unto it. For St. Paul, Christ indeed has taken us into Himself, and in the scars and wounds which He exposes in the hands and feet of His Resurrected Body, He reveals to the men of all ages that Redeemed Human Nature is reconciled to God the Father. Suffering and death have always been stumbling blocks to unbelievers both within and without the Church. But for Christians, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ will prove to be the essential pattern of the new life of the soul that is now hid with Christ in God. (Idem)
But how do we find this Risen Lord with whom our life is hid in God? The Apostles had a hard enough time seeing how man’s life could be hid with Christ in God in His death on Good Friday. What were they to make of His reappearance on Easter Sunday? The struggle between life and death and sin and righteousness must have nearly conquered their already teetering faith. Perhaps George Herbert’s imaginary dialogue of what might have transpired between Jesus and His friends on Resurrection Day will be of use:
LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
Who made the eyes, but I? Who made your eyes, your hands, your feet, your senses, but I, asks Jesus. Who made the eyes with which I see you, and with which you now see me? Who took on your eyes, your hands, your feet, and your senses, but I? I lived as one of you. I stand before you as one of you, Love says. Yes, you have marred your eyes and mine. ‘And know you not who bore the blame?’ Even I. Why? Because I love you. But you see your sin and are confessing it now. Because of it our friendship can continue on. Now look and see more fully into me. See my new love which makes new light. See my new light which makes new life. My love for you is so great that I took on your sad and sorry condition in order to reconcile it to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God, so that ‘you life could be hid with Me in Him’. And now I stand before you risen and glorified. And make no mistake. I am no mere spirit. ‘Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.’ (St. Luke 24. 39) It is I, Jesus, who stands before you even now. Your life is safe within me, hid from the eyes of unbelief, hid from eyes of malice, envy, and all uncharitableness, hid from the eyes of the world. Your life is safely hidden within my heart and I shall never let you go if you follow me.
CHRIST being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once : but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin: but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. vi. 9) Christ Jesus our Saviour is Risen from the dead. He invites us to follow Him back to the Father this day. So we must seek those things which are above. Not above and beyond our reach, but above and beyond our wildest dreams and imaginings, above and beyond what we desire or deserve, above and beyond the threats of the world, the flesh, or the devil. And yet not above and beyond what God’s love can and will do for us. God’s love overcomes sin with righteousness and death with life. Seeming contraries are now swallowed up into God’s singular rule of all creation. What we seek is not above and beyond God’s ever-healing touch, His ever-quickening Spirit, or His ever-present desire to save His people. But yes, above and within the heart of Jesus, whose Glorified Body and Being are with the Father and also with us. Yes, above and within Jesus Christ Himself, in whom every aspect of our lives can become a new occasion for our rising up and out of ourselves, mortifying [our] members which are upon earth; [up and out of] our uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…(Col. iii. 5) In our bodies, because hid within His Risen and Glorified Body. In our souls, because hid within His Risen and Glorified human Soul. In our manhood, because hid within His Manhood that invites us to discover the hidden depths of His love for us. Christ is risen from the dead. Sin is finished, death is finished, Satan is finished, if only we shall believe that our life is hid with Christ in God. (Col. iii. 3)
CHRIST is risen from the dead: and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. xv. 20. To be hid with Christ in God, we must be made alive. To be made alive, [we] must sit down and taste [His] meat. Jesus says, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.(St. John 4. 34) You will taste my meat and be assimilated to my work, here and now, as you become part of my Glorified Body in time and space. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (St. John vi. 51) What is our life? To be hid with Christ in God. How can it be perfected? We must sit down and taste His meat… Christ’s meat is the perpetual offering of Himself to us and the assurance that faith gains from it. When we eat His Body and drink His Blood, we do show the Lord’s death, until He comes again. (1 Cor. xi. 26) What does His death do for us? It encourages us to enter into the effects of His death and to reckon [ourselves] to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans vi. 11) It carries us from His crucifixion to His resurrection and beyond.
So let us do this very thing, dear friends, on this Resurrection Morn. You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat. So, dear friends, with thankful hearts for what the Lord has done for us already, let us do this very thing. Thanks be to God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. xv. 57) On this Easter Morn, let us find our lives hid with Christ in God, protected and defended, informed and defined, sanctified and saved because we saying Yes to Christ who even now is reconciling us to the Father. And more so, if our lives are hid with Christ in God, we had better start making a better return on God’s hidden treasure, in hearts that ever expand in thanksgiving because of Christ’s Resurrection love. Amen.