A few years ago, while living in Exeter, I had the opportunity to participate in a walk of witness and a passion play on Good Friday in the city centre. A vast number of people gathered to witness the spectacle of an actor, playing Jesus, being hoisted onto a cross on the Cathedral Green in order to re-enact the crucifixion. As it happened Easter had fallen quite early that year and the weather on the green was unusually cold for that time of the year. With only a loin cloth to protect his modesty the actor bravely battled through his lines. However it soon became apparent that the re-enactment might actually result in injury to the actor as he shivered and started to turn a distinct shade of blue. When the play was complete the actor was carefully removed from the cross and volunteers rushed to him with blankets in order to warm him up. At that moment it seemed that we had just glimpsed into Christ's own experience on the cross and it was horrific.
In Matthew's Gospel Jesus encourages his disciples to "if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). This can be a very intimidating passage as it suggests that we too must be prepared to share in Christ's crucifixion. Yet it is also written, earlier in the same Gospel, that Christ said " For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew, 11:30). How is it
possible for both of those statements to be true?
Key to understanding these passages is Jesus' command to self-denial. In order to follow Jesus, we have to die to ourselves and be born again in Christ. This is not an easy thing! Yet it is also an action that enables us to truly live. For when we deny ourselves we realise that we must accept Christ's lordship in our lives and draw all of our strength and support from him. Relying on Christ's strength we then find
that the yoke is easy, as Christ helps and ministers to us through our tribulations through the Holy Spirit. Christ is always present to help and support us every step of the way and on that we can depend.
In relying on Christ, we have to put aside our selfish desires and practises that lead to our unnecessary suffering. Our old selves are put to death so that new life can be found in the resurrection. A resurrection that reveals the glory of God and the new life granted to all believers. As Paul writes " and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." ( Galatians 2:20). For some this might involve huge acts of sacrifice but for
others in this new life we carry the cross one small step at a time, one spiritual discipline at a time, one act of generosity or sacrifice or love at a time. So, may God help us in that journey as we celebrate the Easter resurrection and all the joy and comfort that it brings.