Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.
For if we have grown into union with him
through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.*
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ,
raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
The apostle is preaching to a living audience, of course, not about a dead one. “Death with Christ” is the metaphor for baptism. This passage seems less about a human death than the believer’s death to sin. It’s one reason why the image of baptism by immersion (perhaps in a tomb-like font) is so much more powerful than the sprinkling baptism so many clergy and parents choose for adults and infants alike. A few drops of water dry up soon enough. But if you’ve ever been close to drowning, you never forget it.
The hopeful part of this passage is a reminder that Christ as suffered and died. We will follow. Christ, raised from the dead, reigns in triumph. Death cannot touch him. It is the Christian hope that we follow.
It’s a good reading for a stout believer, for a person known to have joined her or his life to Christ’s. And in choosing this reading, mourners and ministers will have a hard time with any preaching other than positive, and resurrection-focused. And for some people, that’s a very good thing of which to be reminded.
* This middle section, verses 5-7 may be omitted for a shorter reading.