Stations of the Cross
From the very early days of the church, followers of Jesus have found it helpful to meditatively walk the steps of Christ as he made His way to the cross – from Pilate’s house to Calvary. They did this in order to remember and honor Jesus’ sacrifice but also as a way of entering into the story and reflecting on the ways it touches their lives. It was a way of rehearsing Christ’s call for his followers to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. As they literally followed Him on the way to Calvary in prayer, they sought God’s transformation of their hearts so that self-denial, cross-carrying and following would become their natural stance in the world.
Obviously, not everyone was able to make their way to Jerusalem to physically walk the “Way of Sorrow”, so many churches and traditions throughout history created “virtual” stations of the cross – through art and word – to give their congregants an opportunity to know Christ and walk with Him on his road to Calvary. In this practice worshipers participate in a series of 14 stations that represent different stages of the cross. At each station they stop for meditative Scripture reading, reflection, and prayer.
Below I have included one version of the stations of the cross that you can use to guide you through this time. Keep in mind that as you practice this that there is no point in speeding your way through the exercise. Give yourself enough time to work your way slowly and prayerfully through each of the stations. At the end of each reading stop for as long as you need to allow God to speak to your heart and to respond back to him. What catches your attention in the story? What is God saying to you about himself or about your life of faith? You might want to write in a journal what you are hearing from God or create a space for sharing with others what God is speaking to you at each station of the cross. I have found it helpful to end and transition each station with a short prayer of surrender: “Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me.”
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:32 - 26)
Reflection question: Where in your life do you feel the struggle to obey God’s will? What will it cost you to say to God along with Jesus, “Not my will, but your will be done?”
Jesus betrayed by Judas
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14:43 - 46)
Reflection question: How have you experienced the pain of betrayal from another? How have you betrayed others? Are there people you need to forgive or seek forgiveness from?
Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. (Mark 14:55 - 64)
Reflection question: How have you experienced the pain of unjust judgement or the deceit of others? How have you unjustly judged or lied to others? Are there people you need to forgive or seek forgiveness from?
Peter denies Jesus
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69 – 75)
Reflection question: Where have you experienced the temptation to deny Jesus through words or acts of disobedience? What are the true motivations and causes in your heart of this betrayal? What does true repentance mean?
Jesus judged by Pilate
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Then Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:11 – 26)
Reflection question: Whose voices are you tempted to listen to and follow even when you know they don’t stand for justice and the truth? When have you sought to please people (or the crowds) and not God? What will help you in the future to be a servant of Christ and a voice for justice?
Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. (John 19:1 - 3)
Reflection question: Who are those in your world who are mocked and bullied? How might you bring comfort and encouragement to them? Who are those in the world who suffer for their faith? Pray for them.
Jesus carries the cross
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 19:16 - 17)
Reflection question: Where are you currently experiencing the weight and hardship of life and following Jesus? Where do you need Christ’s help as you seek to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him? Pray for strength.
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross
As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Reflection question: What specific help do you need at this time to follow Jesus with perseverance? Who are those you could come alongside of to offer help and encouragement in their walk with Jesus?
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
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. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27 - 31)
Reflection question: What are the things in this world and your life that you currently mourn and lament? Bring these to Jesus. Who are those around you who are mourning and lamenting? How might you bring comfort to them?
Jesus is nailed to the cross
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews. (Luke 23:33 - 38)
Reflection question: Bring your sins to Jesus in confession and repentance. What does it mean to you today to hear his words, “Father forgive them”? Offer prayers of thanksgiving and dedication once again to Jesus.
Jesus promises the kingdom to the penitent thief
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39 - 43)
Reflection question: Do you believe that Jesus is leading you to paradise? Who is someone you need to share this good news with? Pray for them that they would accept this gospel message.
Jesus speaks to Mary and the disciple
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25 - 27)
Reflection question: Who are the people Jesus has put in your life to care for, love and encourage? Pray for them by name. How might God be leading you to serve them these days? What word might He be giving you for them?
Jesus dies on the cross
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 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. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
(Luke 23:44 – 47)
Reflection question: Are there things that you have yet to completely commit into the hands of God? What will it mean for you to pray “Father into your hands I commend my spirit”?
Jesus is placed in the tomb
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 15:46)
Reflection question: Are there any areas in your life where you feel hopeless or the pain of death? Bring these to God. As you come to the end of this experience what emotions are you feeling? What has made the most lasting impression on you? What do you believe God is speaking to you? What do you want to say to him?
Artwork by Nicholas Markell