That I may know him in the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

                                                                                                                  Philippians 3:10


Notice that the record of Jesus' resurrection does not read like this:


"And behold there was a great earthquake. While an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it, other angels were dispatched throughout Jerusalem. One was sent to the bedroom of Pilate who woke him out of troubled sleep and told him to get dressed. Another aroused the household of Caiaphas. Another led Annas up to the temple at the break of day.


Every soul who participated in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus was herded into the outer court of the temple by a messenger of God. Suddenly the risen Christ appeared in blazing splendor. A heart-rending cry swept through the crowd as they fell on their faces to the ground and confessed, with the earth trembling beneath them, that Jesus is Lord."


If the story had gone like that you and I wouldn't be gathering again and again to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


- That would have been the end.


- That would have been judgment.


If Jesus had appeared in the power of his resurrection to those who rejected him, there would have been no age of grace. When the Christ, who rose from the grave, shows himself to this arrogant human race that will be it. There will be no time for repentance.


Before the risen Son of God manifests himself in splendor to the world at large, this world must first be given a chance to receive the benefits of Jesus' death. For Jesus did not die on that cross in order to rise up and destroy the people who did him in.


He died to save,

to forgive,

to take away the sins of the world.


So, Pontius Pilate went on sleeping Easter morning as best he could. And while the high priest and the Sanhedrin were troubled by rumors of an empty grave they were spared having to see Jesus.


When Jesus rose from the grave he manifested himself only to those who wouldn't be destroyed by seeing him. And who were they? In every case they were people who were able to appreciate the one thing Pilate the High Priest and the blood-thirsty mob failed to admit their need of: the people to whom Jesus manifested himself knew their need of forgiveness.


Mary Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out. If there was anyone in all the earth who saw Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world it was she.


Peter, who had lost his nerve and pre­tended he didn't know Jesus. How that man's conscience had tortured him since Thursday night. To see Jesus alive from the dead meant only one thing to Peter: forgiveness.


Or the apostles who forsook him and fled.


''Peace be with you,'' he said, because he knew how guilty they felt.


And why did Jesus manifest himself to these people?

So that they could be blessed while the rest of the world rotted and went to Hell?


No. So that through these broken souls who hungered and thirsted for forgiveness, and received it, the rest of the world might have a chance to be forgiven too.


While the people of Jerusalem would be destroyed and damned if they saw Jesus alive from the dead .... if the people of Jerusalem see these transformed saints who have received forgiveness and hear them proclaiming the gospel of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus, many will be stirred to repentance and will be saved.


So Jesus takes these people to whom he appears after his resurrection,

lifts them out of themselves,

brings them into his forgiveness,

incorporates them in his Body,

and they become the means by which men and women, near and far, find their way to him.


Mary, Peter, the apostles, received his forgiveness, lived his forgiveness, died his forgiveness. The gospel of the cross wasn't just on their lips, it con­sumed their whole lives.


And now, what Jesus did with those men and women to whom he appeared at his resurrection, he wants to do with us. Jesus will no more manifest himself in splendor to some cynic on Main Street, U.S.A. than he manifested himself to Pilate. But Jesus will reveal himself to any man or woman whose heart longs for forgiveness, who is willing to go Jesus' way of forgiveness. And through this man or woman Jesus will speak to the cynic on Main Street too.


If our town is to hear an authentic gospel, spoken with authority, it will have to come from men and women who have met Jesus alive from the dead just as surely as Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, or Saul of Tarsus met Jesus alive from the dead.


When we really meet,


walk with Jesus of Nazareth alive from the dead, the cynics on Main Street, Third Street, Twelfth Street, River Road, and Route 66 will soon know it.


And whether Jesus manifests himself to us hinges on ex­actly the same issue that decided who met Jesus that first Easter: are we willing to go his way? Which means, are we willing to live utterly by his forgiveness?


Paul makes clear in Philippians that Jesus' way is three­fold.


That I may know him in the power of his resurrection,

 the fellowship of his sufferings,

becoming like him in his death.


l. Jesus' way begins with a forgiven life.


"That I may know him in the power of his resurrection" as he comes to me and forgives me and gives me life. As I bow in repentance before him.


If you aren't living a forgiven life right now,


- it's not because God doesn't want to forgive you,


- it's only because you haven't asked for forgiveness.


There's a man who will read this and will say in his heart, "But how can God forgive me for what I've done?" That's like asking how God made light out of darkness. how God does these things is God's business.


What man can explain how the blood of Jesus washes away sin? But it does. And whatever you've done or been, if you turn, repent, and cry for the Lamb of God to forgive you, he will. And you will know he did. You will have his peace.


There is no excuse for one soul reading these words to continue with the stain of sin still on their life.


Come to the fountain and wash and be clean and go on your way rejoicing!


2. His way continues with a life that forgives.


"That I may know him in the fellowship of his sufferings."


To live a life that forgives, my friend, is to suffer. Get rid of this delusion that to forgive is painless. When you start walking with Jesus, you're going to taste everything he went through.


- You're going to be rejected.


- You're going to be forgotten.


- You're going to be slandered and belittled and despised.


And, you're going to go right on forgiving.


Maybe somebody reading these words is saying, "I'm following Jesus, but I haven't tasted any suffering." Have a look and see how many people you've dropped from your list, pushed out of your mind,

cut your ties with, rather than forgive them. You start forgiving and you'll have fellowship with Jesus sweeter than a hundred mountains of transfiguration. You will have fellowship with Jesus in his sufferings. He'll teach you from within to for­give and forgive and forgive.


3. Jesus' way ends, in this world of flesh and blood, with a forgiving death.


"That I may become like him in his death."


The Spirit gives strong indication that, near as our Lord's return is, many of us will pass through death before he comes. Not only the older ones among us, but many young ones, and before too long.


- Some of us will die violently.


- Some of us will die in isolation and loneliness.


- Some of us will die so accused and disgraced by the world we'll hardly know who we are.


- Some of us will die of things that will be hard to understand and harder to accept.


But the question that will be of utmost importance, at the moment of our death, will be this: are we still for­giving? Or have we turned bitter?


"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."


Will we still have fellowship with this Jesus as we pass out of the world?


If it's our desire to die a forgiving death, every day we live, as we approach that death, will be somehow cleansed and refreshed by our coming cross.


The gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations — then the end will come. And who will preach this gospel?


- Not name-brand preachers.


- Not big-time evangelists,


but an army of nameless people who care about only one name: JESUS' name.


- People who have decided to leave their own way to follow Jesus' way.


- People who count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus

   their Lord.


- People who want only to know Jesus in the power of his resurrection,


- a forgiven life,


the fellowship of his sufferings,


- a life that forgives,


and be made like him in his forgiving death.


                                                - a death with all bitterness swallowed up in forgiveness.


Jesus is present right now to manifest himself in the power of his resurrection to such people.