Sunday, 30 April 2017

Public Spectacle - Colossians 2:6 - 15

There is a story of a man dying in hospital. Death seemed the certain outcome, but the person was a Christian. One day he decided enough was enough, and with faith in Christ was able to get up and leave the hospital the next day. Everything changes when you put your whole life in reference to Jesus.

These Colossians passages could be titled 'Cosmic & Epic' because they make grand statements about Jesus which affect the whole universe. This passage is no different, but concludes with two real life illustrations: an offender's charge sheet and the public spectacle of power defeated. I recall being on jury service, and the seriousness accompanying the reading of the charge sheet against the person in the dock. The second image is less easy for us to relate to - what does it look like for a defeated power to be made a public spectacle?

Remember that His Story is all about Jesus - the Word was in the beginning and then became flesh. Now writing to the Colossians Paul affirms Jesus as creator of all things and natural head of everything. Statements made in chapter one are effectively repeated - Jesus is the image of the invisible God with all His fullness. For Paul the whole universe is to be aligned in Jesus - to believe anything else is a hollow and deceptive philosophy, and will be found wanting sooner or later.

This should be our mindset, even in the face of national or international uncertainty. We may have a general election or superpower posturing, but for us as Christ-followers are roots are in Jesus. Hence the key question and challenge:

Key Qn: [IN] What does living in Christ's victory look like for us as a faith community?
Challenge: See issues through the spectacle of the cross!

Note that v10 talks of both the fullness of God in Christ, and ourselves being brought to fullness. This is because not only do we see God by looking to Jesus, but we also see humanity and ourselves as we are supposed to be. We find our identity in Him.

Paul then uses covenant language, talking of circumcision. Recall the covenants - God's movement to us that demands a response. By faith we respond and God gives a covenant sign to show that we belong. For Christians this is baptism, signifying the inner transformation of our lives. It is a public declaration that we have a new person (Jesus) in charge of our lives. Before we did our own thing and were influenced by all kinds of stuff, but not any more! Now we are free to be in Christ and say 'no' to anything unhelpful.

This is possible because of the achievement of Jesus on the cross. God's story became our story in that while we were still in our own quagmire God came: fully God in the fully human form of Jesus. He came to save, but that would require not simply a nice sentiment but deliberate action. Jesus had to allow all the bad, all the evil to turn against him and nail him to a Roman cross. The Roman practice was to write the charges against the offender and nail them also with the hanging body hanging - a hideous spectacle.

We realise that the charge sheet should have been ours, that he is taking that which can be held against us. In dying he dealt with it - nailed, finished, gone. Yet all the while God was in control: this was Jesus, God's Son, Lord over All ... so in 3 days he was fully alive again. His new life both confirms him as God and renders all that evil power as defeated. It had thrown its worst at him, but now had nothing left - the evil is now powerless. Hence Paul's summary in v15: disarmed, triumphed over and made a public spectacle. Paul is now using the language of the conquering king, who returns from his victory with a celebration parade, towing the defeated foe at the back to be pilloried. It is as if all of us who are in Christ can jeer at evil, seeing it for what it is - a defeated power.

Paul therefore urges Christians to live in the light of this victory. Himself no stranger to suffering and setback, he nevertheless continued forward knowing Christ's victory. We are to do the same. Surely our corporate mindset should be one of victory and therefore knowing that we can advance. We can talk of pioneering, and seeing Kingdom Life in new places across the city, all because of this victory.

Let us be alert to how that victory might look whatever is happening in society around us. There may even be situations that humanly look only towards death, but in which a person can, in Christ, unexpectedly walk out and live.

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