In our discussion on Wednesday night, as well as the online class, I have found David Lose’s words on “making sense of the cross” refreshing. I agree with him that the Gospels and the cross itself are not meant to be just history, a record of what happened for us to know, but the stories are there “to help shape an experience,” to bring the cross into our very lives.
Indeed, our gospel reading for today from the Gospel of John tells us, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
It is through our experience of Jesus that we will be saved.
This understanding permeates the way of the cross, for God so loved the world that he gave his only son, but instead of listening to him, following his way of care and love toward others, we turned his offering of abundant life into a death sentence, crucifying love on the cross.
But the story does not end there for God turns his unjust death into the means of our salvation and life. So today, we continue our walk on the way of the cross this morning as we move through stations 3 & 4.
Jesus Falls for the First Time – Station III. Jesus was like you and me. All the abuse, the torture, the brutality of the Romans has drained his strength and he falls. The cross he bears was too much, and onto his knees he goes down. He falls down for the first time.
One movie that depicted the Stations of the Cross, was Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ; I really liked how he naturally used the stations and brought them to life on the screen, we walked with him in that film through those stations. However, I still don’t like the superhero Jesus he had created, who in the midst of such brutality looked more like a cartoon superhero who would magically raise himself up and show his tormentors he could still best them, instead of the broken savior he was.
God was with us in Jesus, who just as we are, suffer and struggle, to raise ourselves up in the worst of circumstances. Jesus goes down because he is human like us. And just as he stood alone before Pilate, he is alone in his falling. Reaching up for someone to help…
And in the midst of such pain and agony, there was one watching for him against the hooting mob…
Jesus meets his mother, Station IV. We are reminded of the human cost to families. The loss families feel when one of their own goes through something horrible.
Mary, like so many mothers, look helplessly on as their child undergoes a terrible event. Mary sees the terrible wounds, the pain on his face. Jesus is in agony and so is Mary, watching her son suffer. Mary’s pain is echoed in others…
The mothers who watch their children battle cancer.
The mothers whose child has a mental illness and the struggle to find the right meds.
The mothers of the eight children a day who die in this country because of gun violence.
The mothers of the Plaza de Mayo whose children disappeared during the Dirty War of Argentina.
For in the midst of it, God is there with Mary and Jesus. God is there in our tears, wherever pain is had, or injustice rules, where the darkness of grief exists, God is there.
As we sit and reflect on this image, let us hear the words of the great poet, William Blake:
Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?
Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd?
Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!
And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief & care,
Hear the woes that infants bear,
And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast;
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear;
And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!
He doth give his joy to all;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He doth feel the sorrow too.
Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy maker is not near.
O! he gives to us his joyEven in the most painful of our experiences, even on the way to the Cross, God is with us…
That our grief he may destroy;
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan.
(On Another’s Sorrow)