Walking the Via Dolorosa: Meditations for Good Friday
- Friday, April 04, 2003
"Down the Via Dolorosa..." begins a popular, contemporary song (made famous by artist Sandi Patti) "...called the Way of Suffering."
Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa, according to tradition, is the road or path Jesus took from the place of His condemnation to where, having been crucified, He was placed in the tomb. Along the way are 14 "stations," or sites marking the events of Good Friday. Some of these are biblically based. Others are based on tradition. The last five stations are within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built in 325 A.D. by Constantine (though it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since.) The stations were determined during the Crusades when the Franciscans assumed guardianship of the Holy Land. In their way of thinking, it was important for Christians to remember the faithfulness of Jesus as the Christ.
Jesus Condemned to Die
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked.
They all answered, "Crucify him!"
"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!" ~ Matthew 27:22-23 NIV
In the place marking the condemnation of Jesus, we remember that Jesus was the willing "Lamb of Sacrifice." As He stood and listened to the crowds shouting their sentence, He understood above all else that this was the way of salvation for all mankind. Being condemned to die, He would eliminate our separation from the Father and eternal condemnation.
Jesus Takes Up His Cross
"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). ~ John 19: 15b- 17
At the Second Station, let us remember the words of Jesus when He said, ""If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). As He was willing to deny His rights as Creator of the world and carry His cross, so should we also be willing to daily do the same.
Jesus Falls For the First Time
This is a traditional site. There are not any scriptures that reference Jesus falling a certain number of times. However, we can imagine that He might have done so. At the very least, after the Roman beating (scourging), He would have been weak and would have stumbled under the weight of the crossbeam of the cross. (Those condemned to crucifixion carried only the crossbeam.) Therefore, let us remember the totality of what He suffered on this day.
Jesus Meets His Mother
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." ~ Luke 2:21,22,25,34,35
Simon of Cyrene Takes Up the 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
Seeing that Jesus was too weak to take another step under the weight of the crossbeam, and no doubt wanting to hurry things along, the soldiers pull a stranger from the crowds who observed the death march. He was ordered to carry the cross for Jesus. As we remember this, let us also remind ourselves that we must never be "ordered" to carry the cross for Jesus, but should count it a privilege and honor to do so.
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Traditionally, a woman named Veronica removes her veil and wipes the blood and sweat stained face of Jesus. When she later looks at the veil, she sees that the imprint of His face remains on the cloth used to cover hers.
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