“The Walking Dead” (Col. 3:1-4)
The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (August 4, 2019)
Have you noticed how obsessed our culture today is with the morose, the macabre, the scary and simply anything else that goes bump in the night to frighten the daylights out of you! This fascination with horror is not confined to Halloween. Novels, comic books, television shows, and movies are rife with stories about monsters, ghosts, vampires and gross, vicious, aliens. And many of them are blockbuster hits! I guess you might say we as a people love to be frightened, at least when we know it is not for real, that is!
Over the years some of the most gruesome and scary creatures that have captured the imagination of movie makers and their patrons have been what are termed zombies. A whole host of bizarre television shows and movies have been produced featuring these flesh eating, walking, dead people.
The word zombie had its origins in the voodoo culture of Haiti. Linguistically the word could have even emanated from an African word for devil. As the legend goes, zombies are deceased humans who have by some strange magic or power been made alive again, only now they feign the light, have little if any recollection of their previous life, and survive only by eating human flesh. They are in a sense alive but in reality actually dead. Hence they are called the walking dead.
Based on our text today from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians, I must say that there are much scarier creatures than zombies inhabiting our world. These frightening monsters, at least scary to the enemies of Christ, are the true walking dead. In fact, you can see some sitting in this sanctuary this morning! These walking dead are people just like yourselves, baptized believers in Jesus Christ!
Listen to these words once again: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Paul says, you, dear Christian, have died! You’re dead! “How can that be?” you ask. “I’m sitting right here, taking up space, sucking air, seeing and hearing you preach! Do you call this dead?”
Oh, but according to the Holy Scriptures and to God, you are definitely dead; dead to this world, that is. In fact, most of you were dead and buried long ago. In fact, you were all drowned; drowned in the holy waters of baptism. You may not remember it, but God definitely put your flesh to death there. Earlier in this same epistle, Paul wrote: “…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).
You see, baptism is no simple christening. Your baptism was not simply a ceremonial act of initiation performed when you were new into this world as a baby. Nor was your baptism simply, as all too many are falsely teaching today, some outward action on your part as an adult signifying that you have accepted Jesus as your Lord. Baptism is not something you do or did. It was done to you. Your baptism was a drowning. By it the Holy Spirit put your old self, your flesh, your Old Adam, to death in Christ’s death.
Yes, you might say, then, that there in those precious waters you were drowned in Jesus’ shed blood. After all, Jesus was crucified, not for His sin, but for your sins; all of them… the sin you inherited from Adam to the sins you have committed in thought and desire while you have been sitting here today. When you were baptized, therefore, you were placed by God’s reckoning into Christ’s death under the penalty for your sin. Your body of sin was put to death in His death! Hence, you, dear Christian, died then and there.
That death you died in baptism, unlike eternal death in hell, is a good thing for you. The sin that could have weighed you down to the depths of hell has been washed away in Christ’s blood. The lead boots of God’s condemnation have been removed from your feet by Christ in your baptism. Is not that a great thing!
But there is more good news for you in your baptism. Baptism is more than a watery grave. It is also a fountain of life! Those same waters that drowned your sinful nature and your sin in Christ’s death also made you alive in Christ Jesus. Your baptism resurrected you from the dead! As we quoted from Paul earlier, “…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Where there is forgiveness of sins there can be no death, only life.
You are, then, the true walking dead! Jesus’ resurrection was more than a raising of His body. He became flesh of your flesh to die your death and be your life. Jesus your substitute rose on Easter morning. Your baptism has made sure that you rose with Him! As Paul says in our text, “You have been raised with Christ…For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
You see, you are more zombie- like than you thought. You are marked with the cross of Christ in which your baptism put you to death with Christ. Yet, the Holy Spirit has made you alive in that same Christ, risen from the dead. You are now impervious to death.
Oh, yes, your body can and still does fall victim to a fleshly death. In fact, you and I bear death’s grip on us even now with every ache, pain, and every ebbing frailty that comes with aging, not to mention the diseases that plague us. We feel its sting when death robs us of the presence of a loved one. But living daily under this attack of death is like living in the putrefying carcass of the zombie. It does not stop or do us in. It’s simply part of living in this fallen, death ridden, world.
But as dead as you might look in a physical sense, still you are truly alive. Your life is hidden from the sight of this world, tucked away in Christ Jesus. Your bodies are riddled with death’s markings, ailments and disease, just like everyone else in this world. Yet, Jesus is not only living your life, in Him you see your life.
In fact, as Holy Scripture testifies, the whole created order awaits the final revealing of the sons of God, those alive in Christ (Ro. 8:19). When Jesus appears, your life which you now see by faith and the world can not see, will be clearly visible to all. Your life will appear. You will appear with Christ in His glory at God’s right hand!
Your life in Christ, however, is not simply about the unseen future. You are dead men walking! Because you have been put to death according to the sin and wickedness of this world and made alive in Christ to the extent that you are seated above with Christ, your mind and heart are alive and free to look beyond the here and now… beyond the so called pleasures of this world… beyond the ways of this world. You have been made alive in faith to see the things above… the things of God… what will be.
Accordingly, you no longer need to live in same way the people of this world live. Through your death and resurrection you have been set free from all of that. You no longer need to live in the sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness and all other such idolatries that so characterize life in this sinful world. Even though you have walked in these things before, you are free to repent of them, turn away from them in the forgiveness of Christ and walk in the sexual purity, holy desires, and sacrificial love that marks a person in Christ. You may still be in the world, but you no longer have to live as part of it.
Yes, you can still raise a family, build a home, work a job to support that family, enjoy the recreational opportunities afforded to you. But, you can do so with a whole new perspective. Your heart and mind can always be in the clouds, so to speak, keeping all these things in perspective with what you already see is laid up for you in Christ…your heavenly family… your eternal home…Your holy Father. You, as one who has already died and been made alive, can even approach death in a whole different way than others in this world. You do not need to fear it or see it as an end. Within you is already that life of Christ that has destroyed death. Death can not hold you nor defeat you. You are the walking dead!
And because you are these walking dead many in this world fear you more than they would any zombie. For you see, the unbelieving world, the wicked, and the enemies of Christ, hate and despise anything or anyone who might reveal they are actually dead in their trespasses and sins or that their lifestyles, their choices, could in anyway be wrong or evil. And believe me, they will say and do whatever they can to hide, deny, or destroy your true life in Christ.
Look at the enemies of Jesus. They were willing to perjure themselves in court testifying falsely about Jesus, besmirch the perfect and noble character of a man everyone had observed harmed no one and in fact lovingly helped even those who wanted him harm, and they were willing to put an innocent man to death just to preserve their power base… their theology of works righteousness.
So, as one whose life is hidden away in Christ, don’t kid yourself! Jesus Himself has warned, “If they have persecuted me they will persecute you.” If you are truly living with your mind on things above as you are enabled by your death and resurrection, then, believe me, people around you will notice that you are different… that there is something other-worldly about you… that you are alive in a whole way that they are not. Because you won’t share in their wicked, lustful, unholy ways, they will call you strange… holier than thou…Miss Goodie two-shoes… Without trying, you will make them convicted and guilty.
Accordingly, because you won’t justify their sinful behavior, they will avoid you like the plague. They might even, like you were real zombies trying to devour their flesh, seek to destroy you in any way they know how; call you names, impugn your character, poison the minds of your friends and family against you, discredit your church… your belief… your Savior.
But take heart, Walking Dead! As those who have already been put to death and made alive again in Christ Jesus through Holy Baptism, you can endure their scorn… their harsh words… their threats and their persecutions. In spite of their assaults you can continue to live a Christ-like life in this unchrist-like world. For you know a secret they don’t know. You know you can not truly die! As the Book of Revelation testifies, the second death (hell) has no power over you because you have already had part in the first resurrection in Holy Baptism (Rev. 20:5,6). Your real life is hidden away in Christ. You are but a stranger here. Heaven is your home. Your honors are in the glory of Christ ready to be revealed in the last day. Walk on, you living dead!