stations_7-9

The Way of the Cross is a Via Dolorosa
Scriptural Stations of the Cross 7-9

By Wendell Barnett

Then [Pilate] handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. —John 19:16-17

 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. —Mark 15:21

 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. —Luke 23:27-28

 The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
—I John 2:6

 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.
—“Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone”
by Thomas Shepherd

 The Via Dolorosa is a Latin phrase that can be translated to “way of sorrow.”  Its normative use is as the name for the route that Jesus followed from the place of judgment to Calvary.  Scholars don’t agree on the historicity of the route, but the “where” Jesus walked isn’t near as important as the “way” in which he walked. Physically, psychologically, and spiritually it was a hard way that Jesus walked.

We won’t be called to suffer physically, psychologically, or spiritually to the same degree that Jesus was. We’re not capable of it. Part of Jesus’ suffering was that he took on the sins of the world. We can’t even bear up under the weight of our own sins, let alone anyone else’s. How then, do we take up our cross to walk as Jesus did?

It’s a basic requirement: A Christian must carry a cross, willingly or not. Unwillingly carried, the cross is a burden heavier than a mountain. For a cross forced upon a person is made from all the world’s junk: broken promises, broken dreams, broken lives, broken hearts. It has the weight of duty. One becomes obliged to do this, say that, be this way; in short, a slave. An unwillingly carried cross is a self-created burden. The more you strive to meet the duties of serving God, the heavier your cross becomes for as your love of God increases, your pain will also increase with the knowing that you will never do enough to be righteous and earn God’s favor. However, if we willingly take up the cross, an amazing thing happens. The cross becomes as light as a feather; the cross, in fact, carries us. Carrying the cross willingly opens yourself to God’s fathomless grace. The more die to yourself, the more you will live in God.

Not only must a Christian embrace the cross, that is, suffering; a Christian to walk like Jesus must also make it holy. Holy suffering is more than mere endurance. Suffering is consecrated, not by endurance, but by faith. Actually, suffering itself is not consecrated, but ourselves, in suffering, become consecrated to God. This is what dying to oneself means.

Another part of walking as Jesus walked is bearing each other burdens. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross for him when Jesus could do it no longer. It’s true that Simon was not a volunteer. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (Mark 15:21). Or maybe it was the right place at the right time. No doubt Simon thought it was the former when he was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus. But something happened as he journeyed with Jesus. Mark tells his community in aside about Simon that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. The way Mark does this seems to show that Alexander and Rufus were well known and in a positive light. Because Simon carried Jesus’s cross, at least Alexander and Rufus (the New Testament is silent about Simon’s relationship with the Way) appeared to have been followers of Christ. Whatever the case may be, Simon’s life was forever changed. Helping someone else deal with their burdens just may change your life too.

To walk the Way of the Cross is to not merely walk in our own suffering.  While the beloved hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” describes the Cross as an “emblem of suff’ring and shame,” the Cross goes way beyond that. The symbolism of the Cross doesn’t derive its power from suffering and shame. The power of the Cross doesn’t even come from knowing Who suffered on it. It comes from the Why Jesus suffered on it. The power of the Cross’ symbolism come from the fact that it is an emblem of salvation. Because Jesus became the Lamb of God on the Cross, taking away the sins of the world, we can cherish the Old Rugged Cross; we can find joy in our suffering.

Credits:

“The Royal Road” by Thomas A Kempis

“To Know the Cross” by Thomas Merton

 

© 2020 St. Luke UMC
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