As Good Friday draws near, it’s natural for all of us who believe in Christ to reflect on the events of the crucifixion. The death of Jesus is one of the most significant events, not just for our faith, but in all of human history.
It still blows my mind that eleven Easters ago, I didn’t believe this—and more importantly, I didn’t care. That last Easter, I had, in fact, started reading the Bible. But it was in my quest to make fun of Christians for what we believe, not out of any sense of longing or desire to know Christ. What would happen if I told that younger Aaron that just a few weeks from then, he would believe what he sought to mock? What would he do if he learned that all his self-righteousness was worthless?
Honestly, probably that younger me would have laughed.
Today, I’m not laughing. I don’t look at Good Friday and Easter as days inconveniences due to all the stores being closed, but rad because I don’t have to work. I look at them as the gift they are—and with a similar sense of longing that I see in Paul’s words in Philippians 3:
But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11, HCSB)
When Paul wrote of his experience of knowing Christ, he doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t sugarcoat his past. He doesn’t put on any sort of pretense. He simply says, “Everything I had, everything I was, is nothing because of Christ.” He went from, by his own account, being a star on the rise among the Pharisees to one of the most hated men among the Jews of his time. Everywhere he went, he faced dramatic opposition, and was even stoned and left for dead (then he got back up and was preaching the next day according to Acts 14:19-20).
But he persevered because knowing Christ as Lord had (and has) value that far surpassed anything else for him. The accolades of the past didn’t matter to him, for he saw that the old Paul was the persecutor of his Lord (Acts 9:4). Now he had become Christianity’s strongest advocate. Everything he did was in pursuit of knowing Christ and making him known. And in making him known, he would experience excruciating suffering—suffering that was bearable only because of one thing:
The promise of the resurrection.
Sometimes people wonder if a literal resurrection actually matters. Would we lose anything if Jesus was raised spiritually or just in the hearts of his followers, some ask. Paul answers with a resounding yes! A Christianity without the power of the resurrection is no Christianity at all. If there were no resurrection, there would be no hope. If there were no resurrection, none of us would be able to endure anything. Paul knew the resurrection happened. He spoke with the risen Christ (though he did not, it seems, see him). And it changed everything for him. Imagine, if there were no resurrection,
- What reason would Paul have had to turn his back on his promising career among the Pharisees?
- What reason would he have had to say, “I…consider them filth”, or “rubbish” (ESV)?
- What reason would he have had to say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain?” (Philippians 1:21)
- What reason would he have had to endure beatings, starvation, imprisonment, character assassination and ship wrecks?
He would have had no reason at all. Instead, he would have been pursuing folly. Something utterly meaningless. Something for which he should have been pitied, not commended. And the same is true for us—for me.
Were I not convinced of the resurrection of Christ, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Were I not convinced, I probably wouldn’t be any different from the younger me who eleven years ago began reading the Bible only to mock Christians. Were I not convinced, I would be left with the rubbish of my own self-righteousness and the temporary pleasures of life—and I would be clinging to them as though they were my most prized possessions.
Without the resurrection, I would have nothing, though I would think I had it all. But because of the resurrection, I have truly gained everything. And that is good news, isn’t it?