Meditations on the Cross, 9
In my previous post, I considered the two men who hung on crosses on either side of Jesus. In my study of the passages in all four Gospels, I saw the words "cross" (stauros) and "crucify" (stauroo) occurring over and over. Luke also uses the word for "hanging" (23:39). But one word struck me - a word used 3 times of these two men. Matthew (27:44), Mark (15:32) and John (19:32) use the word sustauroo of them The word is a compound word - the verb stauroo "crucify" with the prefix sun, which means "with" or "together with." Perhaps we could translate it "co-crucify." They were co-crucified with Christ.
Our English translations don't bring this out and this little word study wouldn't seem to be that important. A search of my lexicons, concordances and commentaries showed nothing of importance in the word.
Except for a few matters I noticed. First I found no uses of the word outside of the New Testament, not in ancient Greek literature, not in the early church fathers, and not in modern Greek. Was this a word just made up by the Gospel writers or their sources? And then abandoned?
But the word does reoccur two times in the writings of Paul. The first is in Paul's letter to the Galatians, which is believed by many (myself included) to be Paul's earliest letter (49 AD?) and possibly the earliest of any New Testament literature.
He says in Galatians 2:19, 20: "For I, through the Law, died to the Law, that I might live to God. With Christ I have been co-crucified. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And what I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and handed Himself over for me!"
What does Paul mean by this statement? Is he identifying with those two who hung there alongside Jesus? Most scholars claim the Gospels weren't even written when Paul wrote; but perhaps they were; perhaps Paul had at least read the rough drafts.
Years after he wrote Galatians, Paul wrote another letter - to the Romans, in which he uses the word again in similar fashion. In Romans 6:6 he says " ... knowing this, that our old self was co-crucified that the body of sin might be rendered ineffective, so that we should no longer serve as slaves to sin!"
What I believe Paul is saying is that God considers the one who has faith in Christ as having somehow (spiritually? mystically? metaphorically?) died when Christ died. My old self is seen as hanging there with Him, with all my sins, just as those two terrorists were.
The death of Christ was more than a sacrifice for our sins, as great an accomplishment as that is. His death was our death to what we once were and His resurrection is ours (Romans 6:8). Our salvation is not only in the future; our salvation is ours right now.