God’s thoughts are not ours. For example, we wouldn’t normally link power with suffering–but God does. In fact, His power and wisdom are most clearly displayed in the abject weakness and foolishness of the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 1:18-24).
In Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, Tim Keller offers a few thoughts on the resurrection of Jesus, and the unlikely connection between resurrection power and suffering, based on Paul’s words in Philippians 3:7-11:
On one hand, the resurrection is a fact to be believed. On the other hand, it is an experience to connect with. If you have one without the other — if you believe in the resurrection as historical fact but never experience the resurrection personally, or if you think of the resurrection as a spiritual experience but don’t believe it was a fact — you come out with a form of religion with no power.
My question is: Do you know them both? Do you believe in the resurrection as a historical event, and have you also had that profound personal experience of spiritual resurrection? Christianity refuses to be stuck in either category. It is not all about rationality, nor is it all about mysticism. It’s both. On one hand, Christianity is about beliefs, proposition, and ethics. But that’s not enough. You have to experience him to know him. There has to be a real connection. And on the other hand, Christianity is not only a mystical religion. It’s not like Eastern religions with no rational content. Christianity has hard edges to it. It says, “This is true, and this is false. This will get you saved. This will get you damned. This actually happened.”
Does your Christianity have “hard edges to it”? If not, it’s counterfeit. Believe in Jesus, know him in his death and resurrection, and you will be saved. Reject him, and you will be damned. There can be no rounding of those sharp edges.
But knowing and experiencing the resurrection power of Christ creates a desire–an intense longing in the human heart–to be like Him, even to the point of sharing in his sufferings. Keller notes:
…There is one more thing Paul says here that he wants: “I want to know the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” Some would say this doesn’t make sense. To know the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings, what does it mean?
It’s perfectly logical. If you go out into the world resembling Jesus by his resurrection power within you — if you turn the other cheek, if you love people who are unlovable, if you always tell the truth — what will happen? You will find his sufferings reenacted in your life. People are going to be unhappy with you. You’ll be taken advantage of. People will be offended. If they were offended by Jesus, why wouldn’t they be offended by you if you resemble Jesus?
May you and I go out into the world today (and every day) resembling Jesus, gladly embracing both the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings. One glance at the cross of Christ is enough to dispel forever the foolish notion that the two could ever be separated.