Summary: Never has a death sentence been reversed after it was already executed so that the condemned was restored to life. This was the most unique event in history, and the power of it was awesome, and it changes everything.
John Scott Harrison was the only man in the history of our nation
who was the son of one president and the father of another. A man
of such distinction you would think would be treated with great
respect in his death, but the fact was, nobody was safe in 1878 when
he died. Body snatching was at a peak. The demand for bodies in
medical schools was so great that men became experts in grave
robbing. John and Ben were his two sons, and they were
determined that their father's body would be secure.
They had his grave sealed with brick and cement, and then had
large stones placed on top of it. They hired a watchman to check
the grave every hour. In spite of all these precautions the body of
John Harrison ended up in the Ohio medical college. The shock of
this lead the Ohio General Assembly, in 1881, to pass a law
permitting medical schools to use unclaimed bodies. This put an end
to grave robbing.
I share this bit of history in order to point out that men have
always had the power to break into the tomb. The ancient
Egyptians took elaborate precautions to protect the wealth they
buried with their Pharaohs in the pyramids. But to the great
disappointment of archeologists, thieves found a way in and
removed the treasures centuries before they found the way in. All
through history man has developed the skill to get him into graves
and tombs, and to take what the dead had to offer. What man
lacked was the power to break out of the tomb. Getting in was not
necessarily easy, but getting out was impossible. That is why Easter
is the special day that it is, for Easter is the day we celebrate the
discovery of the power to break out of the grip of the grave.
Many a tomb has been broken into, but the tomb of Jesus is
unique in that it was a tomb broken out of. It was truly an inside
job. Helen Frazee-Bower put this truth so beautifully in poetry.
One helped Him bare His cross up Calvary,
And there were those who placed Him in the tomb.
But when He burst death's bonds and came forth free
No human hands were in that narrow room.
No one but God could reach beyond the rim
Of death's confines and touch the dark unknown:
Though there were those who longed to do for Him,
When Jesus rose He did it all alone.
No one but God? Then truly He was God!
And is an will be evermore. And those
Who trust His grace sleep not beneath the sod:
They are not dead. Because the Savior rose,
These too shall rise. The tomb is open wide,
The stone was rolled away by One inside.
This makes Easter a day in which there was a display of
unprecedented power. Others had been raised from the dead
before, but by someone else outside the tomb. Jesus was the first
and only person to rise by His own power. Jesus said in John
10:17-18, "The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my
life-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it
down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and
authority to take it up again." No one ever before or since has had
that kind of authority. That is why, if you want to know the power
of the resurrection, you must know Jesus, for He is the only source
of such power.
Paul was a man of authority. He had great credentials, and was
a man of power in the Jewish community. He had the power of
prestige, which comes with a great heritage, good education, and
belonging to the right circles. Paul had the power to push people
around and persecute them if they did not conform to the values of
his heritage. He was a powerful man for he was not only a leader in
Judaism, but he was also a Roman citizen. But this powerful man
tells the Philippians that he did not know what power was until he
met Christ. In comparison, all of his other powers became mere
rubbish, and the loss of them was nothing compared to the
surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. It is in this context that
Paul makes the statement in verse 10, "I want to know Christ and
the power of His resurrection." We want to focus on the three
characteristics of this power that are evident in this passage.
I. A PASSIONATE POWER.
It is an emotionally compelling power. Passionate means fervent,
enthusiastic, and zealous. It is an intense power that motivates and
dominates. Paul is not expressing a craving for information. He