Who would teach their children that success actually starts with deadly failure? Not unpredictable failure or trial and error failure, but expected failure? Unbearable failure? Life taking failure!?
I see a crowd on the distance: men, women, children, rich and poor. They follow a man, longing for a better life. Maybe this man will bring freedom from their conquerors, feed their hunger, heal their wounds, bless their children and transform their lives. But this man's message does not sound very promising when he says: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
In those times, the only reason to take up a cross was if you were going to die. How can such a depressing message bring hope? How can success flourish from failure, deadly failure?
Regardless the doubts, the crowd keeps following him. He amazes them when giving sight to the blind, movement to the paralytic, food to the hungry, healing to the sick and life to the dead . He also states that he is the Son of God, therefore how could failure be part of God's success plan?
Three years have passed. I see another crowd on the distance: men, women, children, rich and poor. They rant loudly to crucify the man they once followed. The crowd has decided that their leaders are probably right, despite doing only good, this man is a threat. He was not their hero, after all.
Jesus takes up his cross. As he follows the path that will lead to his death, none of his previous followers are taking up their own crosses, at their own will. Not the blind with restored sight, not the dead brought back to life, not the multitude healed, not the thousands fed, not the little children blessed. No one. Zero.
Failure is knocking at his door. Life threatening failure. Sounds of mocking voices echo across the path, they bring up his failed message, failed followers, failed mission and failed life. Apparently, the Son of God has failed. Failed to make even one single follower pick up his own cross.
Yet, He is not surprised. He knows that more than any message, miracle or ministry, these people need a new heart.
Only a new heart will produce beating for life. Only a new heart can echo transformation. Only a new heart can move followers to pick up their own crosses, at their own will.
Nothing was a failure. It may have looked like one. But in that cross, and in his resurrection, Jesus transforms apparent failed followers into a multitude that no one can count, apparent failed message into the World's most read words, apparent failed mission into salvation to all humanity and apparent failed life into victory over death.
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the lord, or who has been his counselor?... For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever."
In that cross, He bled his own heart so that you could have a new one. His. Heart. Full. Of. Love. The only love that can carry crosses.