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.