As Easter approaches, my thoughts return to the Scriptural accounts of the “Great Getting’ Up Morning.” The Resurrection! Chances are that most who read my blog have some idea about how Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give their accounts of how the Resurrection occurred. On the other hand, few of us have probably paid much attention to the Apostle Paul’s view. It’s quite different from the Gospel writers’ approaches.
As an example of what I’m considering, Paul speaks of the Incarnation in a completely different way than the accounts recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In his letter to the young Church at Philippi (Philippians 2:5-22), he writes about what I call “The Great Descent.” No mention is made of Mary, Joseph, the over-crowded inn in Bethlehem, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, or the foolish religious and political leaders who completely mis-read the Message God sent.
It sort of follows Paul’s pattern of reasoning that he would handle the Resurrection in a different way. Accepting it as a fact, Paul just says “above all else, I want to know this Christ, this power, and I want to experience it in my life, personally.”
So, as honestly, thoughtfully and carefully as I am capable of being, I’ve been pondering his statement. I’ve tried to weigh each word. The first thing I tried to do is grasp the terms Paul is using. At the risk of sounding like a “nit-picker,” I wanted to be sure I had an understanding of what he meant by what he said.
So, the first thing I did was try to define “KNOW.” It seems very clear to me that Paul is not speaking here of the act of simply accumulating factual information. He’s not trying to educate. He’s speaking obviously about having a relationship. It sounds more to me like he’s attempting to become intimately acquainted with someone and understand the importance and implication of facts. Flowing naturally from that search is the complete dedication of Paul to introduce his Friend to anyone who’d read or listen to his words! Knowing Christ and introducing Him to others was the driving force behind his life and his death.
I “know” a lot of people. But have had little contact with them. Once I shook hands with Gerald Ford. But he never contacted me after that moment. I know a lot about Billy Graham, but he hasn’t the remotest idea of who donkimrey is. Somehow, I would not feel quite comfortable walking up the hill to his house, ringing his doorbell and sitting out on his front porch, sipping tea, looking at the scenery and discussing theology or world politics or chatting about the NCAA finals. I’m not even on his Christmas card mailing list. I know about him. But I don’t know him.
And he sure doesn’t know me.
How can you know Christ? One of the best ways is by reading about Him (the best source for that is in the Bible.). The Old Testament has a great deal to say about a “Messiah” (a Divinely chosen, or appointed leader.) who would come from God to heal and liberate His people. That is usually referred to as messianic prophecy. The New Testament speaks of the fulfillment of that prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth. The only source I have for such information is the Bible. So, if I really want to know about Jesus…and eventually hope to know Him better…it follows logically that I’ll become familiar with the primary source of information about Him.
Think about the things He said. And what He did. Consider how he treated people, even His enemies. And especially little children. In a world which viewed women as possessions, who has done as much as He to establish and respect their worth and identity? What has Jesus contributed to this and other important issues? What kind of influence has he exercised over his close associates, and anyone else?
In one of Paul’s references to Jesus and His exit from the borrowed tomb, he declared that his objective his life’s most important assignment, was: “That I may KNOW Him, and THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION.” In another place I write about what I believe “power” is. In this case, Paul speaks of the Resurrection as being one of the greatest displays of God’s power. The word Paul uses in his letter to the Philippian Church is the same word Jesus used when He told the Disciples they’d receive “power” after the Holy Spirit came upon them.
That I may know THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERING That sounds painful. Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t even try to hide the high cost of discipleship. Once, when he was inviting some folks to join Him, He cautioned: If you really do that, you’d better consider the consequences. If you’re serious, you must be prepared to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow.” At that very time He was heading toward the Cross.
As we celebrate Easter, I believe it’s important that we thoughtfully consider the significance of that eternal event. The facts about Jesus’ life and great love have been reported and recorded by more credible witnesses than many historical events which we’ve read about and believed all our lives. We don’t have to defend its impact on the world. It has long been considered almost universally as one of the “hinges of history.” Anyone who writes the date 2012 A.D. is acknowledging the entrance and exit of Jesus and the continuing influence His birth, life, teaching, death, burial and resurrection have on mankind.
The evidence is clear that the Jesus has entered human history and changed it forever. That is a universally accepted fact.
If that’s the case, Paul was correct in his decision to really know what that meant for him, personally. Universal is one thing. Personal is quite another.
The questions I ask myself in this kind of situation is also the question you may ask: “Whom do I really know? What effort or sacrifice am I ready to make so that I may personally, intimately know Christ?”