The Power of The Resurrection
THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
It is March Madness again. I hope your has survived the gauntlet thus far. And I hope you carry your umbrella here in Indiana since I am told by Jerry Hartman that unexpected thunderstorms are part and parcel with March Madness here in the Hosier state. Maybe it is simply the collective psychic energies of all the basketball fans here in Indiana that stir up the weather patterns and cause lighting to be released from the sky. Team Spirit can be a powerful thing and basketball has a powerful sway here in Indiana.
Me I am not a huge sports fan though I always appreciated being asked over to watch a game. But recently I discovered a competition that in my completely unprofessional opinion might give the Final Four a run for its money. Of course, I am talking about the World’s Strongest Man Competition (WSM). For those of you who don’t follow WSM let me explain how this complicated competition works. The technical explanation is that strong men lift heavy things. Events in the WSM competition include the Fridge Carry, where a contestant carries two refrigerators suspended from a cross bar on his shoulders, the giant log lift ( speaks for itself), the giant dumbbell press, and the Atlas Stone, which is a 352 pound spherical rock that contestants have to lift onto elevated platforms. Humanity, particularly men, have always been obsessed with power. And perhaps the World’s Strongest Man competition takes that obsession to its most absurd conclusions. But all of us have that desire for power. That’s why we like sports, owning a firearm, trying to make as much money as we can, running for office, voting in elections, being popular, or just enjoying when we get our chores done and our kids behave. Power is simply the ability to get things done, to be in control, and we like to be in control. No one likes to be powerless.
There are lots of different types of power. Political power, military power, financial power, the power of an influential personality, the power of a good reputation, the power of family and social connections, the power of our gifts and talents. But there is another type of power. It is the power that the Apostle Paul talks about in his letter to the Philippians. It is the power that caused the guards at Jesus’ tomb to quake in fear and become like dead men as the Angels announced that the Romans guarded the tomb of a man who was no longer dead. The power we are talking about today is the power of the Resurrection. Today I want us to understand four things;
- The power of the Resurrection Orients our lives towards Christ
- We experience Resurrection power in the Fellowship of Suffering
- Resurrection Power is hope for the future
- Sometimes we experience Resurrection Power today.
If Paul were to interview for a job before his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road I would think the interview would go something like this. The interviewer would ask that infamous interview question, “What’s your greatest weakness”, and Paul in all honestly would reply, “I have none.” In our text from Philippians today Paul is laying out his credentials. And basically he is saying he was a super awesome religious person. He has got the right family pedigree, the right education, and great job experience persecuting a heretical Jewish sect called Christianity. According to the flesh, that is according to what he can achieve under his own effort, Paul was a pretty high achiever. A take no prisoners sort of fella, a mover and shaker, I am sure he would have done well in one of today’s high powered law firms. He was a details and results oriented type of guy and when you didn’t live up to his standards he would be first to rock your world by organizing a crowd to stone you.
But then something happened to Paul. He met the Risen Lord. To quote Luke in the book of Acts Chapter 9, “ Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Paul’s own words, “ Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
The power of the resurrection is in knowing the one who said, “”I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”( John 11:25). Knowing Jesus changed the balance sheet for Paul. It didn’t matter how much money he spent, how far he had to travel, how many beatings he took, how often he was rejected, whether he converted one person in a town or a thousand, it was the power of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord which eclipsed everything that had come before. Paul tells us that everything that came before he counted as rubbish. The word here isn’t as nice as garbage. Fecal matter or excrement would be a closer translation. Elsewhere, Paul prays that the church of Ephesus may, “ have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” How can we know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge? Paul is getting at an almost mystical experience which he believes is available to every believer. I have often wondered what happened to Paul. You can feel the impact of the change he underwent whenever you read his letters. It reshaped him as a person. In some ways he was the same man, which if you read his letters he can be a little grumpy at times, not exactly the life of the party, but in other ways Christ transformed him and compelled him to cross boundaries that he never would before. His love for Christ compelled him. Last weekend, with your help, I raised $196 for Bowl For Kids Sake. On my bowling team was a woman who was absolutely in love with Jesus. She was so full of joy that I couldn’t help but be joyful myself. I want to know Jesus like that and I want to share him with other people. Don’t you as well? Don’t you want deep to cry out to deep in your own hearts? Often I ask myself why am I, so timid to share about the Jesus whom I love? I believe if we want to share Jesus like Paul did the Lord will provide us the means to do so.
Second, Paul tells us that knowing the power of the resurrection means sharing in his suffering. Perhaps a better translation would be “fellowshipping in his suffering” or “the fellowship of suffering”. Not exactly the best recruiting tool if you ask me. The invitation to, “join us in the fellowship hall” is a lot more inviting than inviting people to “join in the fellowship of suffering”. What we learn here is that we can’t experience the power of the resurrection alone. It requires fellowship. As Paul says in Galatians 6:2, “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” How willing are we not just to pray for one another but to bear each others burdens? How willing are we to be vulnerable with one another, to be willing to be wounded for the sake of love. For that is what it means to share in Christ’s sufferings, to be wounded for the sake of love.
Third, Paul tells us that the power of the Resurrection brings us hope for the future. Resurrection is essentially bringing dead things back to life but it isn’t bringing what killed us back to life. What does Paul tell us in this passage, “ forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” What Paul is saying is that while we may be raised from the dead the past will not and should not be raised with us. All the sin, and all the death, all the pain, all the tears, shall be whipped away. The power of the resurrection is not just that we get to go to heaven, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, but one day we shall have glorified bodies like Jesus. One day funeral directors will be out of a job for death itself will die. Today what it means for us is that we have to let go. Let go of our own mistakes and the mistakes of others. We need to forgive ourselves and forgive others. Maybe we won’t be able to forget. But forgiveness means that Christ doesn’t allow the offense to separate us from him so we should do the same for others. When we hold onto the goal of knowing Christ we can get out of the hole that our hurts have trapped us in.
Finally, we should note that sometimes God gives us a glimpse of the future today to encourage us to keep the faith. That’s what Jesus’ resurrection was about. Most Jews at the time believed that there would be a resurrection of the dead at the end of time but no one expected that one man would rise before the rest. 1 Corinthians calls Christ the first fruits of the Resurrection. Jesus’ Resurrection is God’s preview of his glory. And Romans 8 tells us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the Dead, the Holy Spirit, lives in us. That same power is with us still.
When I think about the Power of the Resurrection I think about a friend of my mom works with named Zin. Zin is a Vietnam War veteran. And like many veterans from that and other wars Zin suffered from PTSD. He would relive the war with all its death in his home with violent outburst that threatened his family. It threatened to destroy his marriage and his life. But one day he saw a flyer to a revival of sorts. He wasn’t planning on going but in that moment a voice spoke to him. The voice said, “if you don’t go you will miss your blessing.” So Zin went to this church meeting. The evangelist or pastor picked him out of the crowd at random and called him forward. He laid hands on Zin. Zin described a fire, like hot oil covering him, and when it was over he was cured of PTSD. He was in his late fifties at the time. After that he recommitted his life to the Lord and he has never been the same sense.
My friends I want you to know that there is power in the name of Jesus. A power that can set the captive free. A power that can break every chain. I have seen it in my own life and I believe if you are open to it you can see it in yours as well. I know it is hard to believe. There are days I have my doubts as well. But at the end of the day I pray that we may know the power of the resurrection, sharing in the fellowship of his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.