The Way of the Cross

As we journey the Way of the Cross
we can enter into the reality of Jesus’ last journey.

We pray the fourteen ‘stations’ …
in horror, in amazement, in solidarity and in thanks:

  • In horror at the terrible suffering of Jesus;
  • In amazement that this suffering was caused by men and women, like us;
  • In solidarity with those who suffered with him;
  • In thanks for what he has done for us.

We pray the fourteen ‘stations’ …
in horror, in amazement, in solidarity and in thanks:

  • In horror for the terrible suffering of Jesus in his people today;
  • In amazement that this suffering is being caused by fellow human beings;
  • In solidarity with the millions who suffer hardship in life today;
  • In thanks for those who still give their lives for the betterment of others.

1 Jesus is condemned to death

Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.’

Matthew 17.22-23

Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, but he handed him over to the people – a weak ruler swayed by a violent crowd.

It made little difference to Pilate whether one Jew lived or died, and it enabled him to obtain from the crowd the affirmation that they had no king but Caesar.

So, Pilate handed him over to them.

We may like to think that we would not be part of this crowd, and yet in each one of us is the voice which cries: Crucify him! for every time we fail Jesus we join our voices with those of the angry crowd.

Lord, you have mercy on us and forgive us.
Help us to be the people you have called us to be. Amen.

2 Jesus receives his cross

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted.

Isaiah 53.2-4

The procession to the execution began, and Jesus, though weak from continuous questioning, mocking and beating, was made to carry his own cross.

He was led away as a common criminal to suffer one of the most degrading forms of execution ever invented.

But the burden that Jesus had to carry was much greater than the physical weight of the cross, for he also had to carry the sins of us all.

Let us offer our sorrow for the times we have added to this burden.
Lord Jesus, help us not to fail you anymore. Amen.

3 Jesus falls for the first time

In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22.44

Weakened by the unbearable torments that he had already gone through, the added weight of the cross was too much for Jesus, and he fell.

As he lay there the cry of anguish that he was later to utter cannot have been far from his lips, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We sometimes feel alone: that God has forsaken us and does not answer our prayers.

But we, like Jesus, must know in our hearts that however far away God seems to be, he never forsakes us … he is always faithful.

Lord, help us to know that you are always with us. Amen.

4 Jesus meets his mother

Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.

Luke 2.34-35

Mary had brought up her son through many hardships, and cared for him as a loving mother. Now she sees him being led to his death.

Was this really what he had meant when he said, Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?

Certainly this was the sword that Simeon had predicted would pierce her soul.

But … Mary, unlike most of the disciples, did not desert her son in his time of need, but stood by him to the end.

Let us ask that we too may have a faith like Mary,
to stand by Jesus whatever the cost.

Lord, help us to love you as Mary did. Amen.

5 The cross of Jesus is carried by Simon

A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, Son, go and work in the vineyard today. He answered, I will not; but later changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, I go, sir; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?

Matthew 21.28-31

Jesus was so weak that the soldiers were afraid that he may not reach the place of execution, so they forced a passer-by to carry his cross.

Simon no doubt tried to refuse, but in the end he did carry the cross.

Only the day before the disciples had insisted that they would remain faithful to Jesus whatever happened, but first they fell asleep in the garden, and then after the arrest they ran away.

How like the parable Jesus had told, where it was the unwilling son who in fact did what his father wanted. Words and empty promises are not enough.

We, like Simon, must take up our cross and share in Christ’s passion in our daily lives.

Lord, help us to take up our cross and follow you. Amen.

6 The face of Jesus is wiped by Veronica

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Matthew 25.40

In a great act of kindness a woman stepped forward from the crowd and wiped the bloodstained face of Jesus.

A few days earlier another woman had anointed Jesus with costly perfume.

A few hours later a man would give Jesus his tomb.

All of these were acts of love and charity to the Lord.

We can perform similar acts of charity to Jesus, living now in our brothers and sisters in need.

For whatever we do to help one another we do it for Jesus.

Lord Jesus, you care for all your people;
you ask us to love one another as you have loved us.
Lord Jesus, help us to see you living in others. Amen.

7 Jesus falls for the second time

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

Psalm 69.1-3

A little further along the road Jesus stumbled and fell again. He must have felt so utterly exhausted and desolate that he could not possibly go any further.

But he had to go on to fulfil his Father’s will, and so again he struggled to his feet and carried on.

Sometimes we too feel that things are hopeless; that we cannot go on.

But we have God’s work to do, and we too must continue with trust and faith in the power of Jesus working in us.

Lord Jesus, you perfectly fulfilled the will of your Father.
You call us to live our lives in your service.
Lord Jesus, help us not to give up. Amen.

8 Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate.

Matthew 23.37-38

Some pious women began to weep for Jesus, and tried to console him, but he told them not to weep for him, but for themselves and for their children.

Jesus was in agony, and yet he refused their consolation, not through ingratitude, but because he knew the agony that they and others would suffer because of their rejection of him.

When we feel rejected or badly treated, we must remember this example of Jesus.

We must still remember others who are suffering, perhaps more than we are, and who need our help and compassion, and not let ourselves become caught up in self pity.

Lord, you came to serve, not to be served.
In your compassion you come to us in our need.
Lord Jesus, help us to show love and compassion to others. Amen.

9 Jesus falls for the third time

Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Luke 22.31-32

Three times Jesus resisted the temptations of Satan.
Three times Peter denied Jesus.
Three times Jesus fell on the way to Calvary.

Just as Jesus forgave Peter even that threefold denial, so he will forgive us if we turn to him in penitence. No sin is too great for Jesus to forgive, so long as we are truly sorry, and are prepared to rely on his love and forgiveness rather than on our own efforts.

Even after this third and heaviest fall, Jesus once again struggled to his feet and continued.

And so must we – even in the moment of our greatest fall we must not lose hope, but get up and continue with faith in our Lord’s merciful love.

Lord Jesus, you love us whatever we do,
and you forgive us whenever we fail you.
Lord Jesus, help us to rely on you. Amen.

10 Jesus is stripped of his garments

For we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.

1 Timothy 6.7-8

The journey was over – they had arrived at last at the place of execution.

First, they stripped Jesus of his clothing, and so he ended his life as he had begun it – with nothing.

We have clothing and enough food, and many other comforts which we rightly enjoy, but we must not become so involved with things of this world that we lose sight of what really matters.

We must keep our sight firmly fixed on God, and be ready to accept whatever comes to us in his name – even to being left with nothing.

Lord Jesus, you have given us everything we have.
Lord Jesus, you gave your whole life for us.
Lord Jesus, help us to give our lives in your service. Amen.

11 Jesus is nailed to the cross

Then Peter came and said to him, Lord, if another sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18.21-22

Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross in a gesture of forgiveness for the whole world.

Before he died, he had time for two further particular acts of forgiveness.

First, he forgave his executioners even as they hammered in the nails;
then he forgave the penitent thief who was crucified with him.

Just as Jesus forgave them, so he always forgives us when we sin;
and so also must we forgive others who wrong us.

Lord Jesus, you came to bring reconciliation to humankind;
you are always ready to forgive us.
Lord Jesus, help us to forgive others as you forgive us. Amen.

12 Jesus dies on the cross

We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1.23-24

Jesus hung on the cross for only a short time – the mental and physical torments he had suffered had taken all his strength.
He commended his spirit to his Father and died.

It was all over …

But, of course, it was not all over – it was only the beginning.

Christ had to die so that we could live.

As the soldier pierced his side, out flowed the blood and water that was to seal the new and everlasting covenant between God and the world.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name; 

thy kingdom come; thy will be done; 
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; 

but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, 

for ever and ever. Amen.

13 Jesus is taken down from the cross

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12.24

Jesus hung dead on the cross, and so now did the two thieves.
The crowds had gone home.
Silence had descended on Calvary.

The body of Jesus was taken down from the cross and laid in Mary’s arms.

Now she carried her son’s lifeless body in her arms, as once she had carried his unborn body in her womb, for his death was the prelude to new life.

Lord Jesus, your death brought life to the world.
Lord Jesus, you are our life and our hope.
Lord Jesus, raise us up to new life in you. Amen.

14 Jesus is laid in the tomb

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6.3-4

The body of Jesus was placed in the tomb – but not even the power of death could hold him.

Christ had to die and be buried before he could rise again.

In the same way, we too have to die and be buried with Christ in the waters of baptism, so that we too can rise again to new life with him.

Let us then try to live that risen life here on earth, so that when our time comes to die, we may pass through the gates of death to new and everlasting life with Jesus.

Lord Jesus, you give us new birth in the waters of baptism.
Lord Jesus, you wash us clean in your blood.
Lord Jesus, lead us through death to eternal life with you. Amen.

Conclusion …

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the cross of Christ my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down;
did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown!

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748)

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6.9-11

We have meditated on Christ’s journey from condemnation in Pilate’s palace, to death on the cross, and burial in a stranger’s tomb.

We have considered what it means to us;
we have expressed sorrow for our sins;
and we have promised to live closer to Christ in future.

Now, we must join those first disciples in their watch on the first Holy Saturday, as they waited to see what the future would hold for them.

They waited in desolation and fear; but we wait in expectation and hope, confident in the resurrection that we know has happened.

Eternal God,
in the cross of Jesus we see 

the cost of our sin 
and the depth of your love;
in humble hope and fear 

may we place at his feet
all that we have and all that we are,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.