Imagine being an eyewitness to Jesus’ final days on earth: his entry into Jerusalem, his celebration of Passover with his followers, his trial, death, burial, resurrection, commission, and ascension. Try to put yourself there as part of the crowd or one of his followers or even one of his detractors on the dusty streets of the Holy City.
In this issue, we provide nine character studies of people who witnessed these historic events. None were the main characters in Jesus’ passion, but all were vital to the story.
As you read, imagine you are in the sandals of the men and women who came face-to-face with Jesus. Their participation in these events surely affected them enormously. Picturing the events through their eyes might affect you, too, as you experience, through them, Jesus’ humble strength and sacrificial love.
This Easter season, as you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion, put yourself in the story. What might it have been like to be the owner of the house where Jesus and his followers celebrated the Passover meal? Imagine inviting Jesus into your home. Envision being in the upper room with Jesus and his disciples. What do you see and smell and taste and hear? Take in Jesus’ unwavering words, servant attitude, and resolute actions.
Imagine being Malchus, the servant of the high priest, that night in the garden. You’re caught up in a melee not of your making and end up losing an ear. But then the one you came to arrest looks in your eyes as he touches your ear and immediately heals you.
Each person in the story witnessed something—Someone—extraordinary. They beheld the miraculous, the transcendent, the transformational. They experienced perfect, unconditional love. We can learn a great deal from these people, because we’re not very different from them, and the days in which we live have many similarities to theirs.
Like them, when we come into the presence of Jesus, we are changed and we want to know him better. Nothing else in the world compares to knowing him. As the apostle Paul said, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9, my emphasis).
Paul’s deepest desire is mine as well. It’s the desire of every sincere Christ follower. “I want to know Christ,” he said, “yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (vv. 10-11).
I want to know Christ and the power of the resurrection like Mary Magdalene knew, like John and Peter and Thomas and the rest of Jesus’ earliest disciples knew. Yet there’s much more. Like Paul, I haven’t “arrived” yet! So I keep pressing on, day by day, year by year, through pandemics and politics and my own pesky sin problems. Thank God for the sanctification process! No, I don’t yet know Christ as I want to, nor the power of his resurrection, the fellowship in his sufferings, or conformity to his death. But I’m growing, and I notice that the closer I get, the further I still have to go.
As I grow closer to Christ, I also see more clearly the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and commission. In all four Gospels, a commission is given shortly after the resurrection narrative in the same chapter. Although there were 40 days between Easter Sunday and Jesus’ ascension, the writers placed the events very close to one another. I think they did that for a reason.
The resurrection leads to the commission. It also provides the power necessary to accomplish it.
I want more than to know about Jesus or about his resurrection. Rather, I want to experience them and live them out in my life. They have become a part of me through my faith, having been activated at baptism, through the gifting of the Holy Spirit. Everyone who comes in contact with me should then experience Jesus and his resurrection power through me. The Christian life is a life of overflow. (I haven’t arrived at that goal either, but I’ll keep straining toward it.)
The early church that witnessed Jesus’ life and teaching could not help but go and tell others. The power of his resurrection compelled them. May knowing Jesus and the power of the resurrection do the same for all of us!