The Cruciform Life

Moderator, Rev. Neil MacMillan shares a message of hope on this Easter Sunday.

A stooped figure, huddled in the dark. He buries his head in his hands as the tears streak down his cheeks. His whole-body heaves in the deep shadows that engulf him as great sobs shake his frame. Grief, like nothing he has ever known sears through his heart. A thousand questions flash through his mind none of them stopping long enough for him to begin to even name them.  This is you, at some point in your life, shaken to the core of your being at an unimaginable loss. It is Mary and Joanna and Peter and John before the grave of Jesus; their world fractured, riven, destroyed in one brutal, awful, senseless night. 

Neil MacMillan
Moderator Rev. Neil MacMillan

The night, truly, is darkest before the dawn. How they cling on and keep going they have no idea. They stumble and fall through the coming hours, sleepless, agonised, agitated, exhausted, numb. They are cradled by the routines of loss. Burial, prayers, quiet conversations with friends, trips to the grave, preserving the corpse – the dead, lifeless shell that contained the brightest life to ever light this world…all too briefly.  

Sunday morning. Another sleepless night. Up early, too early, looking for something to do. A trip to the grave has been arranged, spices gathered and prepared; a smattering of friends, leaning on each other, walking with heavy steps towards the cemetery. 

This is our human situation in a fallen, unforgiving world. Suffering devours us as easily as we might swallow a few drops of water. But on this morning, the tomb is open, the grave is empty, the body is gone, and the Lord Jesus Christ is alive. Death has been swallowed by victory. The horrible sting of death is gone. “He is not here”, the angels declared to the horror-stricken women, and then men, who stumble up to the empty tomb and away again. “He is risen.”

Life from death, hope from horror, victory from defeat. The resurrection of Jesus flips all our categories and assumptions on their head. The subversive, upside-down kingdom has triumphed. We live now in a new age, the age of resurrection life. Living on this side of the cross and resurrection means that for us the night need never be as dark again. We will never be without hope if we will live in the light of the resurrection. We will face the same horrors and sorrows as others, but we know that they don’t have the final word for, “He is risen.” 

He is with us; he goes behind us and before us. He lights the way through the darkness and holds our hand to guide and comfort us. 

This is the cruciform life. Full of discomfort and yet even more fully charged with joy. It is the life where Jesus bids us, “Come and die”. As we lose our life, we find life. As we die to self and live for Him, we are new creations – the old has gone and the new has come. In a world of Putin and Mariupol and Aleppo and Auschwitz and so many horrors both great and personal we are often afflicted but we are not crushed, often perplexed but not despairing, often weary but always made new. Now our life is in Christ, the resurrection and the life. We move towards him with love this happy morning. We draw near to worship – for at his feet every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord. It is the confession that we hold to and that binds us together as the people of God today. It is this confession that causes us to face the world with joy and hope today.

We have good news, for all people.

Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed.