Cross Points 12.11.20

Discipleship Afoot:  Walking the Via Dolorosa

There’s a place we did not visit when in Jordan during 2018.  We never crossed the Jordan River to the west, never set foot in modern day Israel, the Promised Land.  Like Moses, we viewed it from Mt Nebo.  From there we could almost see Jerusalem.  They said on a clear day you could, but there was a light fog in the air this day and although you could see the hills rising from the Jordan Valley up from Jericho as we looked across the northern tip of the Dead Sea, you could not see the city.  If we had gone to Jerusalem there is a path there known as the Via Dolorosa – the way of pain, the way of suffering.  Who would want to walk such a pathway?  In fact, many do.

The Via Dolorosa is the path Jesus took, carrying his cross the best he could, from the Praetorium where he’d been beaten almost senseless by the Roman soldiers, to Golgotha (the place of the scull), where they nailed him to this cross and killed him.  Every step was filled with pain, with intensive agony.  Uphill.  Carrying a heavy cross, the instrument of his own execution.  The soldiers had scourged Jesus with leather thongs, filled with metal and bone chips, cracked across his back and side, tearing his flesh.  His head was bleeding too, from the crown of thorns and fists that struck him as they blind-folded Jesus, put a purple robe on him (the color of kings) and took turns striking him, mocking him as “King of the Jews”.

“It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10).  Why?  “He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, 6).  After being abandoned by most of his friends and disciples, after being unjustly accused of things they made up, after being beaten almost beyond recognition (probably the reason his disciples struggled to recognize him after his resurrection, there was no way he could look “normal” again after what happened to him, was there?), after all this, he drags this cross uphill as the crowd yells insults.  Eventually he needs help carrying the cross, he is so exhausted, so near death.  But death will only come from the cross as he endures our punishment for sin. He will cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Another prophecy (of many) fulfilled (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46); Jesus is abandoned by God the Father as the full weight of our sin’s rest on him.

He will rise from the dead, resurrected to provide our hope of resurrection if we trust and follow him!  Meanwhile, many people want to associate with the pain he felt on our behalf, walking, sometimes carrying a cross, up the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.  They go there, to Jerusalem, to walk where Jesus walked on this terrible day.  But people well acquainted with life know, this is not required for us to suffer.  We all have issues, some much worse than others, but we all do.  At some point we experience pain, sometimes physical, sometimes mental, sometimes spiritual, sometimes because of our sins, sometimes because of the sin of others.  When this happens its comforting for the Christian to know Jesus understands, this “man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.  A high priest who empathizes with my weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15).  He has walked where we walk, successfully, but as a result he knows what we feel, and he simply asks that we keep walking, going where he asks us to go.  Will you walk with him?
Cross Point: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded us his spirit.  And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matt. 27:50, 51). 
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