Falling Into The Bible: The Chapel At The Fifth Station
- Tuesday, October 29, 2002
In June 2002, author Eva Marie Everson toured the Holy Land as a journalist and photojournalist. For eight weeks Crosswalk.com is featuring articles taken from her journal, as a Christian who "fell into the Bible." Use them in your personal study time or as a group, reflecting on what it means to you personally.
It was Saturday, Shabbat, and our first full day in Jerusalem. Because it was Shabbat, our "observant" driver would be unable to drive us to our various destinations. Our itinerary for the day included The Western Wall, the Bethesda Pool, The Basilica of Saint Anne's (Jesus' grandmother), King David's Tomb, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa. We began by climbing Mount Zion, literally, with “I'm Going Up To Mount Zion” playing like a broken 45 in my head.
After visiting David's Tomb, and having one of the single most powerful moments of prayer in my entire spiritual life at The Western Wall (I must admit I still cannot talk about this without crying), we headed toward the Christian Quarter, which is clearly marked by rooftops bearing crosses.
We passed through the archway that is the only remaining portion of the ancient Praetorium where the governor's soldiers took Jesus for the purpose of abusing Him. This archway is now called "The entrance of the Flagellation Friary."
As we moved along Via Dolorosa, turning left on El Wad Street, then right again on Via Dolorosa, we were now directly next to the Chapel At The Fifth Station, or the place where traditionally Simon of Cyrene took up the cross for Jesus, and carried it all the way to Golgotha.
Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem (to celebrate the Passover) with His disciples in a manner fit for the King of kings. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." ~~Matthew 21: 8-11
Within a span of five days, he had spoken in the temple, eaten the Passover Meal (The Seder) with The Twelve, was arrested and condemned to die. Seized in the Garden of Gethsemane after an emotional and heart-wrenching conversation with His Heavenly Father, He was taken to the high priest, Caiaphas, then to the governor, Pilate.
Pilate, forewarned by his wife not to "have anything to do with that innocent man..." (Matthew 27:19b), and learning that Jesus was a Galilean, sent Him to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. In front of Herod, Jesus was tested, accused, ridiculed, and mocked. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. ~~Matthew 23:11b
Once again in front of Pilate, the Governor attempted to "get out of the situation" by reminding the crowd that during the Feast of the Passover, it was his custom to release a prisoner chosen by them. He gave them a choice, the notorious Barabbas, or Jesus, the man they had shouted Hosanna to just a few short days before.
The crowd chose Barabbas.
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!"...Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. ~~Excerpts from Matthew 27:22-26.
Flogging is a process by which the Roman soldiers would strip the accused, stretch and beat him with thongs of leather, on which pieces of metal were fastened. At times the beating was so vicious, the condemned man would die even before being led to his crucifixion.
Jesus was taken to the Praetorium, stripped, dressed in a scarlet robe, crowned with a crown of thorns, spit upon, mocked, struck on the head repeatedly, and led to Golgotha ("The Place of the Skull"), also called Calvary.
According to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), along the road leading to Golgotha, the crossbeam a battered and bloodied Jesus was required to heave up to the mountain where He would be crucified was forced upon a man named Simon of Cyrene.
Cyrene (modern-day Tripoli) was an important city in upper Libya, North Africa. Founded in 630 BC, Ptolemy (son of Lagus) later brought in one hundred thousand Jews to live there. By the time of Jesus, that number would have greatly increased.
No one knows for sure why Simon (which means "that hears and obeys") was in Jerusalem at the time, but the possibility of being there to celebrate the Passover is fairly probable. We don't know the attitude of Simon toward Jesus at the time, but we have some other insights to this man who was so honored to have done what he did.
According to Mark, Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:23). Theologians believe this Rufus may have been the same one mentioned in Romans 16:13, which reads: Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord. We know, also, that after the resurrection of Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost, "men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. (Acts 11:20)
In 1294, the Dominican Ricoldo da Monte Croce wrote, "There is a transversal road leading to the city, where Simeon the Cyrenian, coming from the countryside, was obliged to carry the cross." As we stopped at the Franciscan Chapel of the Fifth Station, I stuck my head into the small and shadowy room for a quick look-see.
What I found was not a chapel of serenity and comfort, but a place of obscurity and contemplation...a place where a man or woman would stop and think, "What would be it be like to carry the cross of Jesus?"
But isn't this the question we should already have an answer to? Jesus said, "Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:38, 39) Part of being a disciple-or follower-of Christ means not only hearing these words, but also obeying these words.
Carrying a cross is not comfortable. It requires great humility. It requires putting your agendas aside and taking up those of the Master. It requires declaring the Messiahship of Jesus to the bloody end, should it be necessary.
In his book, Be Loyal, Warren W. Wiersbe writes: To "carry the cross" does not mean to wear a pin on our lapel or put a sticker on our automobile. It means to confess Christ daily and obey Him in spite of shame and suffering. It means to die to self daily. If the Lord went to a cross for us, the least we can do is to carry a cross for Him.
The additional awesomeness of Simon of Cyrene's story is that he wasn't looking for this role in history, but obviously Jesus was looking for him. Jesus knew this Jewish man from North Africa would be right where he was, going about doing his usual religious requirements, without a single thought of what lay ahead. But just going about religious rituals does not mean we have "taken up the cross." Only "taking up the cross" means "taking up the cross."
Also, if the Rufus mentioned in Romans is the same son of Simon mentioned in Mark, then parents take note: what your children see you do will greatly affect their walk with God later in life. They will learn about taking up the cross by watching you as you carry yours.
Finally, could it be that Simon of Cyrene became one of those who ministered in Acts 11? If so, I can think of no better place to begin a ministry, than to pick up the cross of Christ, and follow Him to Calvary.
And this is part of what I learned when I fell into the Bible.
Photo by Eva Marie Everson. Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams & Summon the Shadows and an award-winning national speaker. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at Bridegroomsbride@aol.com
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