Standing before Jesus were twelve men who stood to lose it all. Listening to Jesus’ words they were suddenly struck by a blow of reality that told them the stakes were high, the cost great and the work difficult. Jesus spelled it out for them, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

He was right, of course. The disciples saw it as they followed Jesus around. They saw Jesus rejected by his own hometown. They saw the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being the devil. They saw Jesus earnestly preaching about the kingdom of heaven and all the people wanted to see was a magic show, “Give us another miracle. Entertain us! Feed us!” Rarely in Jesus’ ministry did he come upon someone who believed. It saddened him deeply. And when Jesus mounted the foal of a donkey on Palm Sunday and road into Jerusalem amid shouts of Hosanna, his disciples saw their master moved to tears as he wept over a people who had rejected him. He longed for them to believe, but they were not willing. And so it was. So it had to be. Jesus drew the sword and let it fall. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Were those words ringing in the disciples’ ears as Jesus wept over Jerusalem?

Jesus was crucified on the hill called Golgotha. The scene is perhaps very familiar to you: three crosses, Jesus in the middle, people all around. Some people are weeping, others are hurling insults, some look on in amazement. And we look on, too. It is a bittersweet moment because we know it was our sinfulness that put him there. But we also know that his suffering has taken away our suffering. But one thing that sometimes escapes our notice is what lies on the other side of the cross. John chapter 19, “At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” That new tomb is where Jesus’ body was laid. And three days later he rose. Three days later we see an empty cross, and beyond it, an empty tomb.

That’s a nice picture for how we bear the difficulty of following Jesus. When Jesus carried his cross up to Golgotha he knew that through that severe trial he would pay the price for sin. And he also knew that on the other side of the cross there would be an empty tomb. He would be victorious over sin and death and Satan. As we carry our crosses, we look for the blessings which lie on the other side. On the other side of the cross is a garden and in the garden is an empty tomb. We take up our crosses and we follow Christ. We follow Christ into the garden and right into the empty tomb and right into eternal life. As Christ rose so we too will rise and step into paradise. Because on the other side of the cross is the reward of faith. On the other side of the cross is the crown of life.