This message was written for an Open Air meeting at the end of a 'March of Witness' in St. Paul's on April 13, Good Friday 2001.
The sketchboard picture is very basic - a 'Z' shaped hill with a stick man walking up on the left and carrying a cross, the cross at the top, and a zero ('0') to the right of the valley on the right, which turns into the door of a tomb, and an arrow up from the tomb for the resurrection. 'THE OFFER' on two rows top left ('offer' can be centred under 'the') and 'YOUR LIFE' centred over 'FOR HIS' on the top right.
The painting instructions are shown as: [MAN]. The rest is, more or less, the message.
What are we doing here? It's an odd thing to do, going for a walk, following the example of a man who went for a walk [MAN] on another Friday morning nearly 2,000 years ago.
We are doing it as a sort of demonstration that we want to follow this man, we want to say that He has done something for us. But what has he done?
This man is walking up a hill. Perhaps your life is 'on the up' - you are going somewhere. Your career is taking off. Life is good. If so, we'll come back to you in a minute.
Because if we look closer, we see [CROSS ON MAN] that this man is carrying a large piece of wood. It cannot be easy carrying all that weight. Perhaps you, too, feel that life is difficult, that it is something of an uphill struggle? He knows what that is like.
Because He is walking [CROSS ON HILL] to his death. Just like each one of us. It doesn't matter how successful you are, sooner or later your life will reach its end. Many of us are like Woody Allen when he said, "I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to be around when it happens." Sounds like a great idea, but I wouldn't like to bet on his chances.
Have you ever thought it was strange, that at the centre of Christianity, at the centre of the Christian life is a death?
This man dying on a cross, He seems to have nothing, but He [THE OFFER] wants to offer you a swap. Now, unless you have heard this story before, you will never guess what He is offering. Your life for his. What an offer! Your reasonably comfortable existence for a lingering death on a cross.
You would be mad to take up such an offer - unless, that is, unless you understood what was really at stake.
If you look at this 'reasonably comfortable existence', you will see that, without Jesus at the centre, it is empty, futile and meaningless. In fact, the most stunningly successful life you can imagine, is just as pointless without Jesus. Because, unless you are building for eternity, when you come to the end of your life, whatever you have achieved, you will discover you have nothing .
So maybe this invitation is not such a bad one. This man on the cross says, swap with me - your life for mine. And all you have to loose is an empty, futile existence, which you will have to give up anyway sooner or later.
And, if you make this swap, what you will receive is not just a share in His death. Because after death came [TOMB] burial, and after burial came [ARROW] resurrection. That is not just a piece of history - that's the way it always is. You cannot experience resurrection life until you first embrace death.
So that is the offer - your life for His. Everything you have and everything you are, in exchange for the cross and resurrection life. But remember - it is not your life which is resurrected, but His. The resurrection life is His life. You've done a swap, remember? You've changed places.
So, remember the way He always made time for people, even when it was difficult and inconvenient for Him? That's how you live, if you live His life. Remember how He embraced the social outcasts? That's the way he did it - that's His life. Remember how His wishes and desires took second place to social justice and the Kingdom of God? Remember how He laid down His life for other people? That's His life. If you accept the swap, that is what becomes yours: His way to live becomes your way to live.
Perhaps you have watched some Christians and wondered what it is that they have and you don't. They have the life of Jesus. There is nothing more to it than that, and nothing less. They have simply accepted His offer to swap lives.
Twenty-nine years ago, I accepted His offer. I would love to tell you about all that has happened since then. Maybe another time? At times, living His life has been harder than I could have possibly imagined. But I have never regretted it. I have never ceased to be amazed by His willingness to give me so much in return for so little.
Perhaps God has been speaking to you, and you know He is offering [YOUR LIFE FOR HIS] to exchange His life for yours. You can accept His offer here and now if you like. This is as special a place as any you will ever find.
If you are not sure about it, if you would like to find out more, I have some booklets here I would like to give you. I would be happy to talk and pray with you when the walk is over, as would anyone who has received this new life. Thank you for listening. May God bless you.