By Jane Williams
A Reading from Romans 8:1-11
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law — indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
This is an extraordinary passage to read as we wait beside the tomb of Jesus. It enables us to see that the body lying in the buried grave is ours, too. This is the “flesh” Paul speaks of, with its inevitable end. The choices we make, “through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault” culminate in the ultimate rejection of God in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But we wait in hope, because ours are not the only, not even the most significant, actions in the world. In John 3:17, Jesus tells Nicodemus that God’s purposes are loving and salvific, and that the coming of the Son is God’s saving love in concentrated form. The Spirit of life is at work in the silent tomb, raising the Son to life, and changing the fate of our “flesh” into the promise of Jesus’.
It is hard to let go of condemnation (v. 1); it is woven so deep into us, as we judge ourselves and others, hate ourselves and others, always finding what is lacking, what is wanting, never at peace, never satisfied. Holy Saturday invites us to trust this broken and damaging “flesh” to the tomb of Jesus and let the Easter life become our reality. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead hovered over the face of the waters in eternity, breathed over the dry bones in Ezekiel’s valley, and yet comes to live in us; such power and such tenderness, such hope and such challenge. It is still a lifetime’s work not to live in and through condemnation but to live in the life of the Spirit; but once we have seen the Spirit at work, we know all things are possible.
Dr. Jane Williams is McDonald Professor in Christian Theology at St Mellitus College. She is also an editor, a sought-after public speaker, and is involved in promoting theological education in the Anglican Communion. She is the author of a number of books, including The Art of Advent (SPCK, 2018).
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
The Diocese of Bauchi (Church of Nigeria)