Colossians 3:1-4

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on Easter, April 16, 2017.

In Colossians 3, Paul gives us a way of thinking and preaching that makes Easter a present day reality for the church. He treats Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return as participatory events. Jesus is not the only one experiencing Good Friday and Easter. Paul invites us to imagine that we too are part of Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Jesus takes us with him on the journey to Golgotha, into the tomb, and now out of the grave. When Jesus dies, we die with him and our lives are hidden with him (vs. 3). When Jesus rises from the grave, we too are also raised with Christ (vs. 1). When Jesus returns, we will also appear with him (vs. 4). When we gather on Easter Sunday to say that “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” we are also saying as a church, “We are risen! We are risen because of Christ indeed!”

Our lives are typically not lived in the way Paul describes. When we watch television, go to a sporting event, or attend a play, we are consumers and spectators. We pay to be entertained and enjoy watching other people play. Paul says that the events of Good Friday and Easter do something unexpected for us. Jesus takes us off the sidelines of life and puts us on the stage with him. We are transformed from spectator to participant through the power of the resurrection.

This news can be very strange for the average duty-bound Christian who assumes that because Christ died, our responsibility is to show up on Easter Sunday, attend a Bible study class, sing, and go to lunch. We come to church to watch someone else tell us the good news, and we go on with our lives. Treating Easter this way is more comfortable and much easier to manage for the average person than imagining that the resurrection still occurs. Paul, however, refuses to leave the cross on a hill far away. To enliven the present day and prepare us for Christ’s return, Paul presents Christ’s ascension as a mental model for our lives. Christ’s reign as ascended Lord pulls Easter off the pages of storybooks and into the actions of believers today. Jesus is Lord, and the church will show you how.

This message can be very redemptive for anyone who comes to Easter Sunday burdened by grief, loss, and sin. We must travel through the tomb to discover resurrection. We will experience death in this world in the loss of loved ones, and we will also learn to die to ourselves. The only way to set our minds on the things of Christ is through death. Paul’s statement “You have died,” (vs. 3) offers hope to anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one or is learning to die to self.

You will recall in Philippians 2 that Paul uses similar mindset to describe humility in light of Christ’s sacrifice and ascension. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Just as Christ humbly gave his life for us, so we also follow his example by thinking of others greater than ourselves.

Paul uses the same language to describe the habits of resurrected believers. To help Easter Sunday worshipers understand how this possible, Colossians shows us how the world works now that Christ reigns. The events of Good Friday and Easter shape the Christian “mindset” vs. 2 (The Greek is φρονέω). We are not motivated by earthly ambitions or intimidated by scare tactics. We are empowered by Christ’s ascension. Our worldview is shaped by the coronation of Jesus as Lord and his reign at the right hand of God (vs. 1). Because the King reigns, the events of Easter continue to happen among us. Jesus’ ascension to the throne inaugurates the ongoing triumph of the resurrection and the subsequent transformation of lives. We are now participants in this new lifestyle as servants of a reigning King. Certainly there is much more to be done along the way, but eventually, everything will be fulfilled when Christ appears at his return. In fact, when Christ appears, we will participate in his return as well (vs. 4).

Seeing and preaching Easter in this way changes minds. We no longer focus on earthly things (vs. 2). The sinful habits implied in verse 2 are fully described in verses 5-9. As Paul indicates, these idols died with Christ when we died with him. As believers, we have a tendency to return to the old habits that once controlled our lives, consumed us, divided our loyalties, and destroyed the good creation that God made.

Paul shows us that when we set our minds on the ascension of Christ, then we practice a lifestyle of people who imitate the reigning Lord. He tells us to practice the virtues that Jesus demonstrated for us on earth. This is the conduct of the person who realizes that he has been through the tomb and is now energized by the coronation of Jesus as Lord. These disciplines are listed in verses 12-15 and are the virtues that Jesus practiced that demonstrated his qualities as King. He lived with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and forbearance.

Easter Sunday then is the opportunity for the preacher to invite a congregation to practice for Jesus’ return using the virtues of the crucified, risen, ascended, reigning, and returning Lord. Because of the resurrection power of the present day, we rehearse our parts, preparing for a new world that is about to be fully revealed. Jesus reigns, and he invites us to be ready to appear with him in glory. We have a part to play. Now is the time to practice the royal virtues. We are risen indeed.


William D. Shiell, Ph.D.
President and Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching
Northern Seminary




Tags: easter, risen, focus, virtues, us

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