Walking the Via Dolorosa: Meditations for Good Friday
- Eva Marie Everson
- 2003 4 Apr
"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.
Let us remember that when people see us, it is not our faces that should be reflected, but the face of Christ. His light should shine so brightly within us, that it radiates through us.
Jesus Falls the Second Time
The intention of remembrance of this traditional site is that as Jesus endured the "painful way," we must also endure the pains and sufferings we experience as His followers. Did the people mock Him as He fell? Did they laugh and call Him names? Do those who watch our Christian walk do the same? Jesus continued forward, keeping His face turned toward the Father's will. Let us do the same, even as those around us mock us and call us names.
Jesus Meets the Holy Women of Jerusalem
Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children." ~ Luke 23:28
As Jesus reminded the women who faithfully followed Him to Calvary, let us not weep for Him, the One who chose to sacrifice. Rather, we should weep for ourselves as we continue to pray for ourselves, for our children, and for the coming generations who will-who must-continue to carry the message of the Gospel forward.
Jesus Fall the Third Time
The intention of this site-this Ninth Station of the Cross-is to remind us to preserve even within our own faults. What are your faults, your weaknesses? Have you laid them before the footstool of the God's throne? Jesus yielded his physical weakness to the will of the Father. So must we do the same.
(From this point, as you travel the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, you will enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.)
Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ~ John 19: 23
He wore a seamless garment, as did the high priests, for He is our High Priest. He does not merely lay the sacrifice on the altar. He is the sacrifice. He is naked and yet it is not He who should be ashamed, but us, for He is clothed with our sins.
Jesus Nailed to the Cross
It was the third hour when they crucified him. ~ Mark 15:25
Jesus had expressed such sacrificial love before when He said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" and "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 3, 14-17; 15:12,13) Now He has exemplified that kind of love.
Jesus Dies on the Cross
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. ~ Luke 23:44-46
On the hill known as Golgotha, Jesus breathed His last. His last breath brings new life to us. A life changed. A life renewed by the Spirit and bound for Glory by the shed blood of Jesus.
Jesus is Placed in the Tomb
Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. ~ Mark 15: 43, 46
Are we like Joseph? Do we go boldly, letting all about us know that we belong to Jesus? That we have "partaken" of His body? As we reflect on this final Station of the Cross, let us also remember that while the tomb remains, the glorious Son of God has risen.
He has risen, indeed.
Whether or not the Stations of the Cross are accurate in anyone's guess. But do the exact locations of the events of Good Friday really matter? Or is it more important that we simply remember?
Eva Marie Everson is an award-winning national speaker and author blessed to have walked the Via Dolorosa in June 2002. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at [email protected] or you can visit her website by clicking here.