From “You Will Live Also,” Deliverance to the Captives (1959)
I live. As Jesus Christ’s own statement this means: “I live as true man my divine life.” We must take this quite seriously and literally. I live the life of the eternal and Almighty God who has created heaven and earth and is the source and fullness of life. What does this mean? Perhaps that I live this divine life of abundance intent on laying hold on it, keeping it and enjoying it for myself, as a rich man likes to lay hold on his possessions, keep them and enjoy them? Or that I offer it as a most peculiar and most precious treasure for your admiration at a distance? Or maybe that I hand out occasional alms from its bounty? No, my brothers and sisters, this is not the life of God, not the life of him who, in time and eternity, refuses to be for himself and by himself wills to be and is our God, sharing with us all the riches of his life.
I live. When spoken by Jesus this means: “I live my divine life for you. I live it fully by loving you. Without you I do not care to be the Son of God or to enjoy my divine life.” I live it fully by pouring it out. Without reticence or reservation I give it away for you. I live my divine life by taking your place, the place that is allotted to you. I become what you are (not just some of you, but all of you), a prisoner, a convict, sentenced to death. This I do by the power of my divine life spent for you, that the darkness and perplexity, the sorrow, anxiety, and despair, the sin and guilt of your petty, wicked, and miserable life may be canceled out, and your own death may once and for all be extinguished and annihilated. In this giving of myself, in this saving power, I live my life, my divine life.”
I live. Asserted by Jesus Christ this means: “I live my human life as the true Son of God. It is indeed the life of a weak, of a solitary, of a tempted man dying in shame, like you, totally like you. How so? Perhaps I reserve the better part for myself after all? Or perhaps I rebel against my human existence in misery, or try hard to put up with it in mute and fierce defiance? No, definitely not so. In doing I would not really want to be like you, your neighbor, your brother, the neighbor and brother of the most needy. I would desert and betray. I would refuse to be the one who lives from God’s mercy alone. I would deny my sincere desire to be true man, let alone to be God’s child.”
I live. This affirmation by Jesus means: “I live my human life without opposition or resistance as your own, such as life is. I live it in acceptance of the fact that all folly and wickedness, all anxiety and despair, your own and that of the world, are laid upon my shoulders. I live it by carrying this burden in obedience to God who has laid it upon me, and thereby I lifted from you. I convert, renew, and baptize in my person your human life in all its aspects, transforming your perdition into redemption, your sin into righteousness, your death into life. This I do so that you may be born again in me to new beings who, in hope, give God glory and stop seeking their own. This I do so that you may grow in me into a man with whom God is well pleased. Lifting it up for your sake, I live my life, my human life, my life as your own.”
Therefore, “I live only to pour out my divine life in your service and to lift up my human life in the service of God.” This is the Christ who appeared to his followers on Easter morning. This is the Christ who is in our midst here and now, proclaiming I live. The subsequent affirmation concerning ourselves is contained in this primary affirmation by Jesus about himself.
Karl Barth (1886-1968) was a Swiss Reformed theologian, the most influential leader of the Neo-Orthodoxy movement in twentieth century Protestantism. He is most famous for his emphasis on the grace of God, which he connected with a strong doctrine of election and divine revelation. This sermon is from a collection mostly preached to prisoners at the Basel city jail.