Philippians 3:10-11 “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Several years ago Christian writer Rachel Evans wrote an editorial piece for CNN online explaining why young people are leaving the church, and what it is that they are looking for. Some of the things she says they are looking for should make us listen, because they are good and biblical. Some of the things she mentions indicate we have some teaching to do, because they aren’t changes the church could make without losing its soul. But one thing in particular caught my attention, because it is the heart of the matter: “Like every generation before ours, and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”
Deep down, we long for Jesus. Can you argue with her? But why do we want this? Paul frames an answer to that question in his letter to the Philippians. He connects it to Jesus’ resurrection, and our longing for life after death as well.
Jesus’ resurrection involves power. Of course, there must be immeasurable power, indescribable power, unearthly power to bring a man back to life after he has been dead for three days. But the power of Jesus’ resurrection does not work only on Jesus. It works on us, too. It’s why Paul wanted to know Christ.
The power of Jesus’ resurrection is the power that makes us spiritually alive. A dead Christ inspires no faith. It can inspire fear. That’s the effect it had on Jesus’ disciples. They locked themselves behind closed doors because they were afraid they would be the next to go, the next to be arrested and executed. It can inspire grief, depression, hopelessness. Poor Mary Magdalene weeps alone at Jesus’ tomb. She is beside herself because not only is her Friend and Master dead. Now they have desecrated his tomb and taken his body away and she has no proper place to mourn her loss.
At most, maybe a dead Christ can inspire curiosity. I once visited the Vatican, and there you can see the mummified remains of four popes on display, each one kept under a glass case inviting the stares and the photographs of millions of visitors every year. I was curious to see the centuries-old bodies, too. But my interest was like the interest a person takes in the sideshow at the circus. It is true that during their lives these were some of the wealthiest, most influential, most powerful people on earth. But their dried and shriveled remains inspired no desire to know them, to trust them, or to follow them anymore.
Without a living Christ, this is what we are left with in this world: Fear of our own death and the sin for which we have to answer ourselves; grief, depression, and hopelessness over a life filled with losses beyond our understanding or control; and the occasional curious sideshow to distract us from the misery we live today, and the misery we fear will follow.
A Christ who takes my place under God’s judgment, dies on a cross for my crimes, and then walks out of his grave alive three days later with all the power and promise of heaven–that invades my soul and takes over my heart! Here is someone who invites more than my admiration or imitation. This is a man who deserves my complete trust and utter dedication. More than deserves it, he creates it: inserts it right through my ears and eyes and plants it deep inside my mind and heart. I want to know Christ because today, right now, his resurrection has the power to make me spiritually alive. It fills me with faith, and from that faith flows a new life full of love, and hope, and joy.
And don’t think the resurrection is merely an inspiring story to make us feel or act better. We are confident Jesus’ resurrection is the way we “attain to the resurrection from the dead.” This is and needs to be the main focus of our faith. The life you and I live now is important, and it can be useful for serving and saving others. But even if we make a complete mess of this present life, yet we manage to cling to Christ in faith until we take our final breath, and the Last Day finds him raising us to eternal life, we will have all eternity to know Christ better and better.
Which is the one thing we wanted all along.