Stations of the Cross: 4

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Station 4: Jesus Speaks to the Women

Luke 23: 27-31 (ESV)

The Crucifixion

27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

As Christ struggled along the road toward that awful place of death, He saw a group of women among the crowd following Him, already grieving at His impending death. He had heard this wailing many times before at funerals and tragic events. But now, they mourned for Him.

Christ had always shown equal compassion to women He had encountered across the years. He had always seemed to understand the unique burdens that women bore in a world and a culture that pushed them to the margins of society. So here, as He bore the most unimaginable pain of body and heart, He stopped to speak to them.

Christ was about to die, and yet He was more concerned with others than with His own suffering and death.

But His words were strange and seemed out of place on this road of sorrow. They had a prophetic ring to them as if He was still trying to tell people something important they could not quite grasp, or that perhaps they did not really want to hear. Christ spoke of even darker days, of far worse things to come upon the people. How could things get worse?

Jesus often spoke of repentance, calling the people to turn from their wicked ways and accept the coming of the Kingdom of God. Many times He criticized the religious leaders and those who thought themselves righteous, warning they would bring destruction upon the people and the land. Don’t you remember that once Christ even spoke of the destruction of the temple? But no one really believed that was going to happen. God had always been with them, and surely Jesus would not let such a terrible thing happen to His people.

There Christ was on the path of sorrow stumbling toward His death.  No one had thought that would happen either. Maybe Christ understood more than we had realized. Maybe He saw something the people had refused to believe. Maybe they were not as righteous as they had thought. Maybe they rejected repentance, not because they did not need it, but because they needed it more than they dared admit.

Was that what Christ meant by these strange words? Was it possible that His death was only the beginning of things for which to weep? Was it possible that the people’s refusal to repent and change the way they lived caused these beginnings of sorrow? Was their own sin and refusal to confess really the reason Christ was on that path?

I would like to think that I would have repented.

I would like to think I might have confessed my sins and stood righteous before God. I would have rather played the part of the righteous follower. I would rather have wept for you, Jesus. I do not want to weep for myself and the pain I bring to others because of my failures and sin. Yet, how long has it been since I have shed tears for my own failures, for my own sins?

Have I really been honest enough with God about who I am?

Prayer: O Lord, forgive my unwillingness to repent, to confess all that I am before you.  Help me go beyond the repentance mouthed in words of false piety, to sweep away all the facades of who I try so hard to be before others, and recall who I really am inside. Help me once again stand before God with a bare and open heart. Help me not just to repent in words, but to put that repentance into action in everything I am and do. O Lord, give me the gift of tears to weep for my own failures, for my sins, for the pain I bring to others, and to live the fruits of repentance. How great are You Lord, that you would forgive me.

Song of Worship: Great Are You Lord

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
And all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord
*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 3

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STATION 3: SIMON HELPS CARRY THE CROSS

MARK 15:21

The Crucifixion

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

I can only imagine the awful weight of the cross Christ carried. Not only does the weight of beams of wood press down, but also the burden He carried for those whom He loved.  Christ came and offered them life, and yet they returned only death.

Can you imagine Christ falling from the crushing weight of pain and grief? I don’t know how many times He stumbled, but His physical strength had to be failing.  The soldiers must have recognized this as well because they forced a man from the crowd to help Him carry the cross the rest of the way to the place where He would be crucified. The man of Cyrene was just a bystander passing through on his way into town from the countryside.  And yet he bore the weight of the cross to save Christ’s strength.

I would like to think that if I had been there I would have rushed from the crowd and volunteered to carry that cross.

But would I have had the courage to face the Roman soldiers and risk being forced to join you on a cross? Would I have really been so eager to share your cross if it meant that I might have to die on one as well? Would I have been willing to risk everything to ease your suffering for a few moments?

I can already hear myself and my own selfish reasons for choosing to stay in the crows. I have my own crosses already…I have as much as I can bear without taking on the added burdens of others…What would people think of me if I were seen consorting with criminals and enemies of Rome in such a public spectacle?

What would I have done? Truly? I probably would have tried to become invisible in the crowd. And when the soldiers were looking around for someone to press into service, I would likely have looked away and pretended not to notice what was happening.

Sounds like me.

It is easy to pretend not to see the needs, the grief, and the suffering around me every day. It is easy to pretend not to hear the cries for help that come in many forms from those among whom I walk every day. It is easy to convince myself that I am too busy, or too tired, or have too much on my plate already to get involved in the lives of others.

And yet, I remember something that Christ said. Something about taking up my own cross and following Him. He said something about becoming a servant of all, of putting myself last and others first. Is this what it means to be a servant? Jesus, are you showing me what it means to be that kind of servant. Is this man from Cyrene modeling for me the path of discipleship?

Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone
And there’s a cross for me.

Prayer: O Lord, forgive me for becoming so preoccupied with myself that I have become deaf and blind to the grief and suffering of those around me. Forgive me for my indifference. Constantly remind me that I cannot love you without loving others as well. Help me always remember that to be a follower of yours means that I share in the burdens of others. Lord, show me someone whose cross I may help carry. Give us hearts of servants.

Song of Worship: Hearts of Servants

 

Jesus, You are
Jesus, You were
Jesus, You will always be

A perfect servant to us
A perfect servant to death
Even death on a cross

Give us a picture of Your face
Show us the measure of Your grace
Reveal the love of the Father

Put within us tenderness
Release from us all selfishness
We’ll consider them better

We are Yours
Give us hearts of servants

 

*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 2

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STATION 2: JESUS ACCEPTED HIS CROSS

MATTHEW 27:27-31 & JOHN 19:17 (ESV)

Jesus Is Mocked

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

I have several rose bushes in my yard beginning their journey back to bloom this Spring. Every pruning season, and despite my layers of gloves, I walk away with pricks and scrapes from their thorns. To think of Jesus, a crown of thorns on His head, I cringe at the pain. I cringe at the wounds.

But I am wounded far more deeply at the humiliation and degradation you suffered.

You came as a King that shepherds, one who takes responsibility for the care of your sheep. Your principles are faithfulness, justice, and righteousness (Isa. 11:3-4). that the very thing you came to offer us as a gift becomes a source of ridicule.  The crowds thought of a King in terms of military and earthly power.  But you came as a King who shepherds his people, who heals and teaches and loves through service, whose principles are faithfulness, justice, and righteousness (Isa 11:3-4). And yet, the people were not ready for that kind of King.

How did they miss who You are? I would like to think that I would not have missed seeing You are the King of King and Lord of Lords, one who has come to bring salvation, not military conquest. I would like to think I would not have missed following your call to live in a Kingdom of peace and love for one another.

But would I? Would I have been willing to yield my ideas of what the Kingdom should look like for the role of a servant? Would I so willingly have given up my human preoccupation with power and control?

Would I have accepted a different kind of crown than I was expecting?

You accepted the Cross in the midst of such mockery. You could have refused. What more could they have done to you? Yet you began this journey knowing full well where it will lead. I hear no words of complaint, no protestations of innocence, no cursing the injustice. And yet I am so prone to complain and whine about the most trivial things. Sometimes the things I face are more than trivial. Sometimes the troubles of life bear down on me. But I so easily fall into self-pity. I too often assume that I am the only one who bears a cross, or that my cross is larger and heavier than any others.

People all around me bear far more than I must bear. You accepted your cross without self-pity.

Will I follow your example?

Prayer: O Lord, forgive me for forgetting that in my weakness I am driven to trust in you and that in such trust my weakness becomes your strength. Forgive my attitudes of self-pity that make me more repulsive than loving. I do not ask for crosses to bear. But when they come, give me the strength to bear them as one who follows your example. You are my priceless treasure.

Song of Worship: Jesus, Priceless Treasure

 

Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me.
Long my heart hath panted,
Till it almost fainted,
Thirsting after Thee.
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb,
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Ask for naught beside Thee.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great pow’r guards every hour;
Earth and all its depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.

Hence, all earthly treasure!
Jesus is my pleasure;
Jesus is my choice.
Hence, all empty glory!
What to me thy story
Told with tempting voice?
Pain or loss or shame or cross
Sinful life, thy bonds I sever,
Leave thee now forever.

Hence, all thought of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whate’er we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!

 

*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 1

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Station 1: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die

Matthew 27 (ESV)

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves…26b and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.”

These verses have always bothered me. Why didn’t Jesus speak up? I wish He would have told them who He was. I wish He would have confronted the crowds…had a moment. Where were all those that could have spoken on His behalf? Were they there? Why didn’t anyone stand up for Him? Where were those He had healed from leprosy and blindness? Where were those who were fed with bread and fish on the mountainside?

In terms of humanity, Pilate was the powerful one and Jesus was the weak one. And yet, in light of the Kingdom, Pilate was never in control of anything, really. Pilate could not make Christ confess. Pilate could not find the courage to do what was right.

The powerful are not always the most courageous.

Have you ever been alone? Have you ever wished you could speak up and have made things right? Have you ever been falsely accused and felt the stab of betrayal? Have you been treated unfairly by someone in a place of power?

Perhaps you were the one who stood silently by and watched the innocent be condemned. Perhaps you did not speak up for others who needed a voice. I have been there and watched from a distance. Where was my courage?

Lord, forgive me for my silence.

I am quick to judge Pilate. Yet, have I ever given in to pressure from others? Have I ever chosen the easy path over the right path?

Prayer: Jesus, I see in your silence the quiet strength that reveals peace and resolve.  O Lord, help me deal with the unfairness of life without becoming critical of others.  Help me to be sensitive to the pain and feelings of others.  Give me the courage to do what is right without being swayed by the demands of others. Lead me to the cross.

Song of Worship: Lead Me to the Cross

Savior I come
Quiet my soul, remember
Redemption’s hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
You were as I
Tempted and trialed
Human
The word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you’re risen
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Why the Stations of the Cross?

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stations

This week I invite you to join me and walk through an adapted version of “The Stations of the Cross”. What is it?

The Stations of the Cross is the liturgical practice of studying selected events in the final hours of Jesus’ life as a structure for prayer and meditation. It is also known as the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross. These events encompass Jesus’ journey carrying his cross from the Hall of Pilate to the site of his execution on Golgotha (Calvary).

Early Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem retraced the route of Jesus as he carried the cross. Pilgrims began their journey at the place that originally housed Pilate’s Judgment Hall, now incorporated into the Ecce Homo Convent. It concluded at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher that marks the traditional site of Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus.

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Church of the Holy Sepulcher

By the sixteenth century, the route this pilgrimage took through Jerusalem came to be called the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow. Along the Way, certain points on the journey (stations) were associated with specific events recounted (or implied) in the Gospel accounts.

This act, or journey, has been preserved through the centuries, albeit the journey is taken different within different denominations. Its origins in pilgrimage, however, provide the shape and content of the practice. The Via Dolorosa and the Stations of the Cross are still a popular pilgrimage destination in Jerusalem. Each year during Lent and especially on Good Friday, thousands of Christians retrace the route of Jesus through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, many carrying small or large wooden crosses. Via-Dolorosa

This week, I am taking myself through the Stations of the Cross as an immersive experience in prayer and meditation. Though it will not be a physical walk through the streets of Jerusalem (how awesome would that be?!!), I hope to trace the steps of Jesus, and while thinking on His final hours physically here on earth, set apart time to honor and worship the Savior, repenting of my own sins at every step. The stations will be posted every day this week, with a few days having more than one station.

I hope you will join me.

O Death

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Death puts life in the right perspective. Death puts the important things front and center. Death brings celebration of life and more importantly, a longing for the life to come. Death ignites purpose and passion to keep the main thing the main thing.

My Pa’s earthly body fully stopped working a week ago. His earthly life was intricately entwined with God’s purposes and fulfilled in part through my Gan’s wisdom, diligence, persistence, and unwavering devotion for her family. They were a pair.

Both educators, their influence is astounding and overwhelming. But their influence in the lives of coworkers and students cannot be compared to their influence in our immediate family. That’s where influence often begins. Family.

Death does its best to snuff out purpose and legacy while boasting of finality. Death knows we struggle with our mortality. Death knows we can drown in fear and anxiety about our own deaths and the deaths of those we love.

But in Christ, we grieve with hope. We steal back what Death tried to steal. Death failed.

“Jesus rose and sank you to the grave. And in resurrection, I refuse to fear you. O Death you died and I’m alive instead.”

Don’t wait to grab hold of the hope promised in Christ. Death waits for all of us. It is coming. But we need not fear. We need to believe. Believe Christ is who He says He is. Believe He came for you. Loves you. Died for you and took your punishment. Believe in Jesus. Not a list of rules. Not a system. A person. The Son of God.

Christ brings purpose contradicting the empty threats of Death. Christ makes the present matter for the future. Death dies and we live on forever.

“Kill my body you could, but still I live on forever. And when I should breathe no more, louder than I’ll sing. For Death you are the wide door to where I’ll live on forever in the presence of my Savior.”

What would my Pa want you to know? He would want you to know what you see isn’t all there is to this life. He would want you to believe in the One who provided the Way.

O Death, where’s your boast?

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