One the things that has become a tradition for us is the annual Good Friday Stations of the Cross here in Rock Hill. This year the event was held on the campus of the university in town. It is always a meaningful time. This year was more special than others.
This past year has not been the best for Jan and me. There have been some very good things happen, but also some things that are not good at all. This year has seen us experience the death of two communities of faith we were involved in, the second after only a few months. In the last three months we have also gone through the very messy death of what we thought was a close friendship. All of these things added to the usual stresses of life have been hard for both of us, but especially hard on me.
Today, I had the opportunity to help carry the cross from the first station to the second. As I was walking along, I could sense Jesus saying to me, "This is what I want you to do." I have read the verse where Jesus says that anyone who follows him must take up their cross, but this was the first time it had hit home that Jesus meant me. I am the one who is to take up my cross and die. It's a fine concept to think about, to debate, and to teach, but I'm finding that actually taking the idea and living it is not easy at all. In a sense, I have died a little bit this year. To be honest, it hurts. It is one of the hardest things one could go through.
As I continued on the walk this afternoon through the different stations, I was again struck by the realization that Jesus knows exactly what I have gone through, because he has experienced the same thing to a much greater extent. In Gethsemane, he agonized over the death he was facing, asking the Father if there was any other way. Recognizing that the cross was the only way, he faced it. Fortunately, that was not the end. After death came resurrection. Jesus conquered death and brought life. As he said, a seed must go into the ground and die before it can yield a harvest.
After the walk, as I sat at the foot of the cross and reflected on what Jesus had said to me, I knew that he has called me to come and die. But as the song below states, he "bids me come and die and find that I may truly live." There can be no joy on Sunday morning without the pain and death of Friday. There is no resurrection without death. There is no salvation without the cross.