Sharing in his sufferings

In Philippians 3:10-11 Paul writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship (with Jesus) in the sharing of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow (or “in one way or another”), attain to (or experience) the resurrection from the dead.” 

So, according to Paul’s wish, if we suffer and die like Jesus we can then experience being resurrected from the dead like Jesus too. Paul makes a similar statement in 2 Corinthians 4:10-11, that “Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”

And Paul was saying that from experience – on both counts, both the  suffering and death, and being raised from the dead – because in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 he writes: “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure. We expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

So Paul experienced very personally the suffering and death Jesus experienced, but also the amazing experience of being brought back to life when all seemed lost and his suffering had become unbearable.

And that put Paul very much in “fellowship” with Jesus. But what a place that is, because in Mark 14:33-34 Jesus was so “deeply distressed and troubled” that he reached the point of crying out, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” 

So even he, Jesus, was “crushed and overwhelmed beyond his ability to endure.” But not surprisingly, when he also knew what he was in for from Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. And here he was at the very point of having his “heart melting away within me” (Psalm 22:14) as he experienced the crushing weight of all evil suffocating the very life out of him (Isaiah 53:5, 8, 10).

But why on earth would Paul wish for that kind of suffering to happen to him too? Because when it happened to Jesus, Jesus experienced the power of God. When Jesus took the weight of all evil on himself and evil crushed and overwhelmed him, God raised him from the dead, enabling Jesus from that point on to deliver millions of people from the crushing weight of evil on them.  

And Paul wanted “fellowship” with that, so the same thing could happen to him. As he explained in 2 Corinthians 1:6, “If we are distressed it is for your comfort and salvation, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” Paul could say to people with absolute confidence that God would get them through their suffering, no matter how crushing and overwhelming, because that’s what had happened to him. He was as good as dead, but he experienced being raised from the dead too. 

Or, as he phrased it in 2 Corinthians 4:12, “death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” In other words, “we suffered so you’d have the confidence, seeing God raise us from the dead, that you could receive the same power too. And when other people see that happening to you, they might want the same thing happening to them.” 

That’s why Paul could say in Colossians 1:24, “I fill up my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.” In other words, what Christ suffered was meant to have a huge continuing impact on many other people, as they too feel they’re as good as dead in their suffering, but then experience being raised from the dead too. And Paul’s life was proof of it, so that others would pick up on it and want “fellowship” with it too. 

You might say it’s our turn now, then, that, in our suffering from the crushing weight of evil, the power of Jesus raising us from the dead can be seen in our bodies. Because that’s exactly what Jesus knew would happen from his suffering, that “He will see the result of the suffering of his soul, the light of life” (Isaiah 53:11). The result being, that many more people will experience “the light of life” and being raised from the dead and “knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection” too, just like Paul. 

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