(This is an open air talk I gave during the Walk of Witness in St Pauls, Easter 2014.)
People all over the world long for success. They work for it, plan for it, scheme for it, but very rarely feel that they have achieved it.
Less than one week earlier, it looked to the world like Jesus had made it. He was successful. Massive crowds surrounded Him. Devoted followers were hanging on His every word. The city of Jerusalem came out to celebrate His arrival.
And then, on Good Friday, Jesus is hanging dead on a cross.
People rarely feel they have achieved success because there is a fundamental flaw in the whole success thing. Success, for most of us, means getting what we want, getting our own way - and the truth is that our own way stinks. We mess things up. We mess up the world, we mess up the people around us, we mess up the carefully planned life we are aiming to enjoy.
Is that what happened to Jesus? He aimed high and, like so many of us, messed it up?
For once, that is not the story.
From the start, Jesus called His disciples to follow Him. They had to take up their cross, just as He had to. The cross was not a mistake: somehow it was a necessary part of the picture, a vital part of God's plan.
Success, in God's eyes, is living - really living, living His way. The life that God wants us to live is not the sort of life that gets old and frail and dies. The life He wants us to enjoy is resurrection life. And the only way to experience resurrection life is to die.
Jesus calls us to die so that we may live - that we may live in Him and live for Him.
We mess things up. We don't know how to make things work. But if God really is big and loving, He knows how to make the world work.
He knows how to make our lives work.
Giving up, giving in to Him, and letting our own desires, schemes and plans die may not be the route to success you will find in the self help books. But dying gives Him room to live, and He knows how to live well.
He knows what success really looks like in your life and mine. And He is big enough and loving enough to achieve it, if we desire to live His life - if we are prepared to die to our own plans, live His way, and love people the way Jesus did.
When He gave up His own desires and died on the cross, Jesus turned what seemed to be the greatest defeat in the world into the greatest victory, and if we are prepared to follow Him, to live and to die the same way, God can and will do the same miracle in your life and in mine.