As this week, known as the Passion for Christians, culminates with Resurrection Sunday, it occurs to me that I prefer resurrection over the crucifixion.
In short, I don’t like suffering. I like joy, peace, pleasure, comfort, forgiveness, grace… I don’t like to go through hard times in order to grow.
In 2008 I climbed Mt. Rainier with a group of friends from church, and the climb was killer, but the exhilaration of standing on the top of the world, was worth overlooking my pain in the climb. I still don’t like the pain, and I often complain about it to whoever will listen.
As I think about the weekend approaching, I recall that Jesus never complained about having to face the cross. Is there a Scripture I’m missing where Jesus focuses on himself and whines about the coming pain? Is there somewhere in the Bible where Jesus complains about walking everywhere, or not having something to eat, or not having any money on his ATM card, so he forgoes that caramel macchiato at M&M’s (Mary & Martha’s) Coffee & Espresso stand? I don’t think so. Then, why do I complain so much when things don’t go my way?
I’m just sayin’, I’d rather have the rewards of the resurrection, than the pain of the cross, and I think lots of Christians feel the same. Do you?
But, were it not for the cross, we wouldn’t have resurrection. I don’t mean just Jesus’ resurrection. We wouldn’t experience resurrection in anything of our own. Hope is missing if not for the pain of the cross. We have hope because Christ suffered a brutal death. We gain hope when we suffer, because hope is the dream for something better out there. Hope is the glory of the cross. If not for suffering, struggle, pain, absence, abandonment, betrayal, denial, doubt… if not for these things, we don’t experience hope to come.
Watchman Nee (China, 1903-1972) writes,
“God must bring us to a point – I cannot tell you how it will be, but He will do it – where, through a deep and dark experience, our natural power is touched and fundamentally weakened, so that we no longer dare trust ourselves. He has had to deal with some of us very harshly, and take us through difficult and painful ways, in order to get us there… But then at last it is, that He can begin to use us. We would like to have death and resurrection put together within one hour of each other. We cannot face the thought that God will keep us aside for so long a time; we cannot bear to wait. And I cannot tell you how long He will take, but in principle I think it is quite safe to say this, that there will be a definite period when He will keep you there… All is in darkness, but it is only for a night. It must indeed be a full night, but that is all. Afterwards you will find that everything is given back to you in glorious resurrection; and nothing can measure the difference between what was before and what now is!”
How have you been avoiding pain in your life due to your sense of control, or a need to maintain composure, or even your desire to “look good” in all situations?
How would it grow you to walk through your pain, rather than work so hard to avoid it, so that you might experience true resurrection?
There is a hope awaiting you in the future, but it takes “the way of the cross” for us to experience it fully.
Quick story to end: Someone came to our church, Crossroads Greeley, back in February of this year. After the service he came up to me and said, “Pastor, thank you for speaking truth to me today.” I welcomed him into our fellowship, met his wife and young baby. I didn’t hear from him for weeks and wondered if they were still around. Another friend told me that he turned himself into the police, after that Sunday, for a crime he’d committed and of which he wasn’t convicted, years ago. He’s now serving his time, as a new man of God. He’s going through the pain of his cross as a criminal (Jesus wasn’t a criminal), and he’s longing for the hope of freedom to come.
Again, I’m a wimp. I don’t like pain. I avoid the crosses in my life, and don’t like to endure hardship for the sake of the gospel… but God is asking us to long for the hope of resurrection only after experiencing the crosses in life. I’ll grow through this, if you’ll grow with me.