(Today I am sharing a post edited from my archives expressing what Easter means to me this year. May God bless you this highest of holy days.)
Jesus told the crowds who followed him that if they would be his disciples, they must take up their cross and follow him.
As a cradle-Christian, these familiar words barely register, but to those who heard him firsthand, it must have horrified them.
Last year, I heard these words as if for the first time. The horror chilled me. They clung tight around my neck. Took my breath.
Take up your cross and follow me.
This is not free. Following Jesus costs everything.
I cannot look at my death without turning away faint. Knowing that one day I must cross over… into what? I fear death. I fear the pain, I fear the unknown after.
When I look at Almighty Father God, who asks me to give my life, to carry my death as I follow him, I tremble. God the Father, who redeems everything that happens, the punisher of evil, the avenger, the standard of right, terrifies.
I know in my head that I should love him enough to die for him. I must not love him enough.
Then I see Jesus. I see his nail-scarred hands.
And then I remember.
God is not exempt from pain and suffering, even death. God’s love for us was not safe for him.
To redeem me, one who still struggles to overcome fear of him, to trust him, to love him, Jesus suffered all the way to death, and then in a mystery equally as difficult to comprehend as God allowing evil, Jesus, the God-man, died. He crossed over the death line so that I no longer have to fear it. He doesn’t ask of me what He has not done already.
While I still struggle with how and why God allows suffering and evil to take place, knowing that he was willing to make the remedy through his own suffering comforts me.
I cannot not love God without Jesus. Jesus, the God-man. Jesus, crosser of boundaries created by men who needed ways to expand their power and express superiority. Jesus, the healer, the kind, the welcomer of women and children. This person of God I can love.
This Easter I praise God for Jesus, the one who has gone ahead of me into death, who rose again, promises to go with me when my time comes, and will raise me up one day.