This Easter: no confusion please

I’ve heard the Easter story so many times, sometimes it’s easy to miss the point. But what does it really mean to pick up our cross and follow Jesus?

I’m confused. With Easter nearly here, I’ve been thinking about the verse in Matthew 16:24, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’

I’ve heard the Easter story so many times, sometimes it’s easy to miss the point. But this year, I really want to grapple with what Jesus is saying. What does it mean to pick up our cross and follow him?

Let’s start by unpacking the events of the Easter weekend.

Jesus’ walk through the angry crowds, stumbling along, carrying his cross to Golgotha. This was just the beginning of the events that would unfold and the pain that Jesus would suffer. Yet, despite it all, Jesus never gave up. He persevered. And he did it for us.

When Jesus calls us to pick up our cross, he’s calling us to persevere.

Perseverance is about being totally committed to whatever is in our life, right now; if it’s studying for exams, if it’s completing a dissertation, if it’s rebuilding a broken relationship. Don’t give up.

During that exhausting walk to Golgotha, as Jesus collapsed on the floor, he was helped by Simon, a man from Cyrene. Simon picked up the cross and walked beside Jesus, helping him carry his cross, all the way to Golgotha.

When Jesus calls us to pick up our cross, we can do it in the knowledge that we’re never alone.

Whatever we’re facing in our life right now, Jesus is walking beside us, carrying the troubles that are weighing us down.

Jesus’ death was a scene of humiliation. He suffered the most cruel and shameful punishment available. And yet, it was all about love. As he hung on that cross, Jesus was taking away all of our sin, forgiving us in one fell swoop.

When Jesus calls us to pick up our cross, he’s calling us to forgive.

What’s that one thing that you just can’t forgive? That comment someone made, or the situation you found yourself in, that was no fault of your own. This Easter, as you think of Jesus on the cross, listen out for his quiet voice, calling you to forgive and move on.

From the moment Jesus was taken from the Garden of Gethsemane, his journey of mockery and humiliation began. He was spat on, beaten, his clothes were ripped off. He was the image of shame. Yet, through it all, he didn’t focus on what others thought of him, instead he focused on his higher calling.

When Jesus calls us to pick up our cross, he’s calling us to be a light in the world.

Picking up our cross means not being afraid of what others think about our faith. It’s means standing confidently for the God that we believe in and follow. It’s about focusing on our higher calling.

Perseverance, forgiveness, light. Wow, it’s not an easy ask. But I believe this is what Jesus is calling us to to, when he invites each of us to pick up our cross and follow him. And yet, remember, through it all, we are never alone.

 

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