A Brief History:
In past years, when people visited the Holy Land, they were, of course, eager to visit all of the places where Jesus had visited during His three years of ministry. This was a very real connection to the life of Christ. Over the years, some of these sites became almost impossible to reach and villages and cities all across Europe began creating replicas of the way of the cross. These replicas became the set of the fourteen Stations of the Cross and were placed in almost every Catholic Church in the world.
Other denominations also observe the Stations of the Cross, as does my former denomination, the Charismatic Episcopal Church. In their sanctuary, the Stations of the Cross are displayed pictorially around the room in chronological order. Each station represents a time during Holy Week. For me, it is another visible and participatory way of understanding how much God sacrificed because of His love for you and for me.
The First Station: Jesus is condemned to die
On the Mount of Olives, Jesus prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” God did not remove this action of love from Jesus, and Jesus submitted to God and placed His life in God’s hands. Now, He has been beaten and tortured. But that is only the beginning. There is much more He will endure before the end. He has been wrongfully charged and condemned to die. He endured the beatings, the torture and the condemnation because of His great love for you and for me.
Jesus’ love for us is vast and unconditional.
The Second Station: Jesus Carries His Cross
The soldiers and guards made Jesus carry His own cross. This cross must have weighed more than one hundred pounds, but to Jesus it felt so much heavier. This cross represents the weight of our sin. With every step, the cross becomes heavier as He begins to experience the humanness of the world. Our sins cause the cross to grow heavier and heavier.
But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 Amplified Bible
The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
The weight of the cross has become unbearable. Jesus falls to His knees. Sweat is rolling down his back, His legs. Blood mixes with sweat as it rolls down His face. His body is growing weaker. The heaviness of human sin, misery, and sorrow prevents Him from rising. But the soldiers make Him rise and continue on the journey.
The weight of my sin—and yours—causes Jesus to fall from the burden.
The Fourth Station: Jesus Sees His Mother
I cannot imagine how it must have hurt Jesus’ heart for His mother to see Him in this condition. Not that He was too proud; but that He loved her so much He did not want her to see Him suffer. I think of Mary, His mother. How her heart must have shattered into pieces—seeing Him broken and bleeding—and not even realizing the worst was yet to come. Even comprehending just a small amount of Jesus’ suffering for us, I cannot fathom Mary’s grief. As a mother, I would not be able to walk that path.
Jesus’ heart broke for his mother, but it broke for us as well.
The Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” (Mark 15:21) The cross has become so heavy, and Jesus is so weakened, the soldiers have no choice but to draft someone. That someone was Simon. I wonder what was going through his mind. Chosen randomly out of the crowd, did he know it was Jesus? Did he feel Jesus’ love for him, even as he assisted in the ultimate end?
Would we have accepted the assignment, knowing the outcome?
The Sixth Station: Jesus’ Face Wiped
As Jesus continues through the streets with Simon helping Him, a woman leaves her home and meets Him as He passes by. She offers Him her veil to wipe His face of the sweat and blood that continues to trickle down from His head. When Jesus returns the veil to her, His face is imprinted on her veil.
How compassionate, how courageous this woman was, risking the wrath of the Roman soldiers as she offered her veil to Jesus.
The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time
Although Simon continues to help him, Jesus falls a second time. The exhaustion is bone-deep and He experiences the disability, aging and disease that is experienced by humans down through the ages.
Not only did Jesus bear our sins, but also our diseases and our disabilities.
The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
The Daughters of Jerusalem, as they are named in the Bible, come to see Him, mourning and crying. But Jesus tells them not to weep for Him; rather weep for themselves. He knew that the days and months ahead would be harder than those in the past.
Just as Jesus loved the Daughters of
Jerusalem, He loves us equally as much.
The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time
The last time Jesus falls is the most injurious of all. He can go no further for He has no strength left. Only the strength of God will see Him up the hill. I pause here to wonder what was going through the onlookers’ minds. Were they afraid to help Him? Afraid of the soldiers’ retaliation against them? His friends and supporters had abandoned him – in fact, many had turned against Him. But how can any person with even an ounce of compassion watch this cruelty and not speak out? Had I been there, would I have spoken out? Would I have tried to assist my Lord? Or would I have abandoned Him? Denied that I knew Him?
Jesus unconditionally loves us, right where we are in our lives.
The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
As if being publicly crucified wasn’t degrading enough, those to be put to death in this manner were also stripped of all but the most essential garments. What humiliation our Savior must have suffered. Not only is He stripped of His clothes, but also of His dignity. The wounds on His back that had begun to close were ripped open again as his clothes were ripped from His back.
Jesus understands our pain, our sorrow, our humiliation because He bore all of that and more on the cross. And He did that because He loves us, without reservation.
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
The cross is laid on the ground and Jesus is made to lay on it. Soldiers grab each arm and stretch them across the wood. They line his feet up. And the terrible noise of hammers hitting spikes begins. BAM! WHOOSH! BAM! WHOOSH! With every hit of the hammer against the spike, the ears of the bystanders ring. As the hammer is lifted, one can hear it fly through the air as the soldier raises it high, only to bring it back down to drive the spike further into His hands and feet. When the sounds finally stop, sobbing can be heard throughout the crowd. The soldiers take long white strips of cloth, wrap it around the cross, raise it, and drop it into the prepared hole. With every jerk of the cross as it is being lifted, the nails bite into Jesus’ flesh a little more. I cannot imagine the agony that flowed through His body.
Even in the midst of pain and agony, WE were
on His mind. He bore all of this because of His great love for us.
The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Before dying, He pardons the sins of one. He sees His mother standing at the foot of the cross and John standing close by. He gives John the task of taking care of His mother. With His earthly responsibilities discharged, He breathes His last breath. Imagine how Mary must have felt. Grief that her Son was no longer on earth, but relief that He was no longer suffering.
Jesus did this because He loves you, just like you are, no strings attached.
The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Accompanied by Nicodemus, the two men lovingly wrapped Jesus’ body in strips of white linen and herbs – aloe and myrrh. Some of their tears of grief mixed with the aloe and myrrh. What an act of service and love and sacrifice. Just like Jesus.
Jesus sacrificed His all for us because of His great love for us.
The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
Jesus is laid in a tomb that Joseph and Nicodemus thought would be His final resting place. The huge stone that was rolled in front of the tomb, sealing it off completely, was the final sign of Jesus’ death.
This not-so-final station was part of God’s plan all along. Jesus was crucified, bearing the sins of you, me – all of humanity, so that we will have eternal life with Him. This is part of His plan of salvation.
(Romans 5:6-11) “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7) Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9) Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10) For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11) Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (emphasis mine)
Re-read verse eight – over and over again.
Knowing we were sinners, knowing we deserved only death because of our sin, God
STILL sent His Son to die in our place. And He did it because He LOVES us –
unconditionally, extravagantly, recklessly, beyond our comprehension!
If you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, may this Easter season be the time you become His child. If you do know Him, take this season to deepen your relationship with Him.
God is not angry with you. He has not forsaken you. He has forgiven you. He loves you.