Easter is different in the fact that the good news of Christ’s resurrection cannot be fully appreciated until we have come to grips with His death. There can be no resurrection from the grave without first dying and being put into a grave. I sometimes wonder if we evangelicals have missed a significant piece of Easter by glossing over the horrible suffering associated with Christ’s death. A Palm Sunday service is filled with celebrations of praise as we commemorate Jesus entering Jerusalem. A week later, Resurrection Sunday is filled with celebrations of praise as we commemorate Jesus rising from the dead. But, what about those dark days of trial, beatings and crucifixion in the middle? According to the Passion details given in all four Gospels, it would seem that the gospel writers did not want us to overlook this event as well. If all that matters for post-Pentecost Christians is Christ’s resurrection, why include such gory details of His suffering? The answer is that resurrection power is only half of the story. In Luke 9:23 we read,
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” And then in Luke 14:27, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
The sufferings of Christ are much more important than we realize. Not only did His suffering provide the substitutionary atonement for our sins we could not accomplish for ourselves but His suffering became a blueprint for our lives to follow. Just as Jesus bore a cross, so must we. The cross we are called to bear is not a cross helping us earn God’s love but a cross revealing that we have God’s love. And when we take up that cross daily, we can expect resurrection power waiting for us on the other side. Jesus gives us more insight in John 12:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Resurrection power is available to all believers this side of heaven, but only in proportion to the degree we die to self and live for Christ. A seed has to die in the earth before it can bear fruit. Where there is little dying there is little fruit. Where there is much dying, there is much fruit. This is the way of the cross and the way of the cross comes before the way of an empty tomb. We should celebrate with full hearts the resurrection of Christ from the dead. But we should not forget that His cross models for us our own journey with God. Something has to die before it can be resurrected. So let me ask you, what needs to die in you this Easter season in order for you to live?