Church Simplified

Walkway Online


Prologue

Most stories on heroes, fiction or real, devote their time developing the plot and character of their champions. They are typically laid out to highlight victories and accentuate the conquests of their subjects.

The gospels, however, use an unconventional approach to storytelling. They devote one-third of their accounts chronicling the last hours leading up to the death of their champion, Jesus. In a thorough, blow-by-blow fashion, the gospels describe to us the emotion and details surrounding his suffering and crucifixion.

But why provide so much detail on only that gruesome part of his life? Very little is recorded of Jesus’ childhood, in fact, only two out of the four gospels recount details of his birth. They breeze through Jesus’ first thirty years, even when it is the subject of intrigue and conspiracy theories. But when they finally reach the part of Jesus final hours, things all of a sudden slip into slow motion.

In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey writes that in human history before the time of Jesus, celestial beings have slipped in and out of our world.

The Torah tells of angels and even at times God himself making special appearances on planet earth. However this time, God crosses the threshold of time and space for a single purpose – to rendezvous with death.

That God would die seemed so offensive and counter-intuitive, that even nature convulsed at the thought of it – according to scripture the earth quaked and the heavens dimmed.

It is no wonder why the gospel writers go in to all the trouble to describe to us the events that transpired. These final hours of Jesus leading up to the cross was the whole point of the story.

Quoting John Howard Yoder:

The cross is not a detour or a hurdle to the kingdom, nor is even the way to the kingdom, it is the kingdom come.

In this In Study, we would like to present an on-line rendering of the installation exhibit Walkway: Reflections on the Stations of the Cross. Take time out from the business of your own life and ponder what Jesus went through to connect us to God.

1. The Garden: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus is afraid.

It’s dark. He knows the soldiers are coming. And His friends are asleep. It will be the last time He sees them before they abandon Him. He knows their betrayal is only minutes away.

But He doesn’t accuse. He doesn’t lecture. Instead, He chooses to pray. He prays for His sleeping friends, and for everyone who would believe in Him from that point on.

We also know that He begged for an exit. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” (Luke 22:42)
If He could have, He would have turned His head back on the whole mess. But He didn’t.

He didn’t because He saw you. Right there in the middle of a world that isn’t fair. He saw you betrayed by those you love—in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you, and He didn’t want you to be alone.

He had made His decision. He would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you.

Act

  • Think about the statement “Jesus was afraid”. How does that make you feel?
  • Think about the abandonment and betrayal that Jesus felt, can you relate to them?
  • Take some time to ponder on the fact that Jesus chose to endure what he did because of you.
  • Would you take these next few moments to stop and thank Jesus for this decision?

2. The Betrayal: Jesus is Betrayed by Judas

In economics, the value of an object is determined by how much an individual is willing to pay for it.

To Judas, Jesus was worth thirty pieces of silver: the equivalent of three months’ wages of the common laborer. You can say that he sold Jesus out for cheap.

Jesus, on the other hand, lets us know how much God values man—yes, even those who betray him:

He compares God to a woman who frantically stops at nothing till she finds her lost coin; (Luke 15:8-10)

He calls himself the Good Shepherd, the one who abandons ninety-nine sheep in search of the one that has wandered off; (Luke 15:1-7)

He likens God to a lovesick father who waits earnestly for his prodigal child to come home. (Luke 15:11-32)

If you still doubt how much you are worth to God, Jesus’ sacrifice settles the question once and for all.

Act

  • Are there voices in your life that devalue your sense of worth?
  • What do they say?
  • How do they affect you?
  • Think about the price Jesus paid to connect with you. He gave His very life for you to show how much you’re worth. Even just for a little while, would you allow this truth to eclipse all the other voices that say otherwise?

3. The Trial: Jesus before the Sanhedrin

Many bible scholars who have studied the trial of Jesus consider it an “illegal trial” for a host of reasons. Here are a few:

  1. Jesus was subjected to a secret preliminary examination at night. The law only permitted daytime hearings.
  2. The Sanhedrin by law could not originate charges. In this case the accusers were the judges.
  3. An advocate was required to speak on behalf of the defendant because the accused could not be convicted by his own testimony. Jesus had no one.
  4. The verdict could not be given the same day as the trial. Jesus’ trial was completed in less than nine hours, his execution within twenty-four.

The trial system of the Sanhedrin was one that took pride in how they erred on the side of mercy. However, all the principles of justice they affirmed and implemented were scrapped. They breached all their standards to condemn the one innocent man who ever lived.

Act

  • Do you have the tendency to pass judgment on people way before you’ve given yourself a chance to hear their story?
  • What forms of prejudice to do you tend to have?
  • Would you take this time to ask God to help you see people as he sees them?
  • Would you pray for a change of heart, a heart that is slow to judge and one that is willing to give people the benefit of a doubt?
  • Are there things that are wrong in your world that you have the power to make right, yet you choose to wash your hands off them? What are they?
  • Take this time to pray that God would give you the courage to stand for truth and righteousness, even if it is, oftentimes, the unpopular choice.

4. The Verdict – Jesus is Judged by Pilate

I find NOTHING WRONG with this man. (John 18:38)

I have found no basis for your charges against him. As you can see, he has DONE NOTHING to deserve death. (Luke 23:14-16)

What crime has this man committed? I have found in him NO GROUNDS for the death penalty. (Luke 23:22)

Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find NO BASIS for a charge against him. (John 19:4-6)

He took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am INNOCENT of the blood of this JUST person.” (Mathew 27:24)

- Pontius Pilate
Roman Governor / History’s Greatest Coward

Act

  • Are there things that are wrong in your world that you have the power to make right, yet you choose to wash your hands off them? What are they?
  • Take this time to pray that God would give you the courage to stand for truth and righteousness, even if it is, oftentimes, the unpopular choice.

5. The Whip: Jesus is Scourged

Scourging occurred as a preliminary Roman punishment in all instances of crucifixion.

A short whip composed of several single or braided leather thongs tied to small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were primarily used in scourging. Its intent was to weaken the
victim to a state just short of death.

A description of Roman scourging appears in an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association from 1986:

As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock.”

The prophet Isaiah foretelling the torture of the Jesus tells us,

But he was pierced for our rebellion, Crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Basically, Jesus was whipped so we could be healed!

Act

  • Take a few moments to thank God for the areas of your life he has brought healing. Then think about the parts that still need to be restored. Ask God to heal those areas because He wants to.
  • Remember that Jesus was beaten to make you whole.

6. The Curse – Jesus is Crowned with Thorns

In the Scripture, thorns symbolize the effects of sin. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden of Eden, the land got cursed:

the very ground is cursed because of you… The ground will produce thorns and weeds for you, and you will get food the hard way. (Gen. 3:17-18)

Because thorns are the fruit of sin, then we only need to step in to humanity’s prickly patch to feel a few thistles: Shame. Fear. Disgrace. Discouragement. Anxiety. Most of us know what it is to be weighed down by these emotions.

Through the crown of thorns that pierced his head, Jesus experienced the actual curse of sin. As a matter of fact, the sacred writings tell us that He became the curse for us. (Galatians 3:13)

Paraphrased from He Chose the Nails
by Max Lucado

Act

  • Think about how you have experienced the “effects” of sin in your life. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus bore the repercussions of our offenses?

7. The Cross: Jesus Carries His Cross

The Via Dolorosa or Way of Sorrows, according to tradition, is the uphill route that Jesus took as he carried the cross. Jesus arduously walked from the hall of Pilate up to Calvary, totaling
to about half a kilometer.

No one really knows the exact route Christ followed that painful Friday. But a bird’s eye view of the Scripture story tells us where the road actually begins. No, not from the court of Pilate. It didn’t start from the garden of Gethsemane either. Not from the journey into Jerusalem. It didn’t even begin in Bethlehem.

The journey to the cross began long before. As the echo of the crunching of the fruit was still sounding in the Garden of Eden, Jesus was leaving for Calvary.

Paraphrased from
He Chose the Nails
by Max Lucado

Act

Think about what Jesus went through that fateful day and remember that it was all for us.

Imagine His bruised and weakened body, the cross on His back the mocking of the crowds as he walked to an execution for a crime He did not commit.

Take a few moments to thank God for walking a road that should have been ours to walk.

8. The Two Simons

Simon Peter

And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:62)

Simon Peter fell from his high horse and flat on his face as he buckled under the weight of his guilt. In less than 24 hours, Peter went from declaring his loyalty to Jesus even unto death (Luke 22:33), to flat out denying that he knew the man. He had just denied his Lord. Not once, but three times.

Peter could have well earned the title, “History’s Greatest Flake”, but his story doesn’t end there. Decades later, he finds himself hanging on a Roman cross. Tradition tells
us that he requested to be hung upside down, feeling unworthy to even die the same death as Christ.

The charge? Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel for those who need a second chance – the gospel for flakes.

Simon of Cyrene

When the torture has taken its toll and the cross has become too heavy to bear, Jesus looks back and finds not a friend, not a disciple, not anyone from his inner circle… Jesus finds the help of a stranger.

He could have been left anonymous; records could have kept him unnamed. But the gospel writers don’t merely gloss over the detail that a foreigner helped Jesus carry the
cross. For this act, he is forever etched in history. The stranger is from Cyrene. And his name is Simon.

Act

  • Has there ever been a Simon in your life—someone who pulled through for you when you were in dire need and help was nowhere to be found? Thank God for that person.
  • Now, here’s a chance to be a Simon to someone else. Think of someone who you believe may be in need of something. Pray for that person.

9. The Crucifixion: Jesus is Crucified

The Romans perfected execution by crucifixion to an art. It was reserved for the lowest of criminals and carried out to inflict the maximum amount of pain before death.

The Romans did not tie the convict to the cross. They used tapered square spikes about five-and-a-half inches long and drove them through the wrist and feet, causing excruciating and intolerable pain.

Ultimately, one died by suffocation. To breathe, the convict was forced to push himself up on his feet to allow for the lungs to expand. As the body weakened and pain in the feet and legs became unbearable, he would eventually trade breathing for pain and exhaustion until the lungs collapsed and the heart finally failed.

Why choose such a horrible death?

Why would God allow His only son to experience what is probably the most gruesome way to die in all of human
history?

The sacrifice on the cross reveals how repulsive sin really is. But it also shows us the awesome magnitude of God’s love. God put your sin on his Son and punished it there, so that you would be free.

Why?

For moral duty?

Heavenly obligation?

Paternal requirement?

No. God is required to do nothing.

John 3:16 reads that,

God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only son.

The motivation was love. The motivation was you.

Paraphrased from
He Chose the Nails
by Max Lucado

Act

Be reminded that because of God’s love for you, you do not need to bear the gravity of sin in you anymore. Jesus died for them on the cross.

10. The Mother: Jesus Entrusts Mary to John

It is almost impossible to reflect on the events surrounding Jesus’ final hours with out thinking about Jesus’ mother, Mary. Tradition places Mary following Jesus as he trekked the road toward Calvary. And while most of Jesus’ friends had already abandoned him, we find the faithful mother at the foot of the cross until his death.

What memories flashed through Mary’s mind as she witnessed her beloved son’s torture? Did she replay Gabriel’s declaration of his birth, and that:

His kingdom will have no end (Luke 1:33)?

Did she think of the silent night in Bethlehem when her baby boy was finally born? What about the time, at age twelve, when Jesus traveled to the temple alone to talk about God? And who can forget Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana?

One thing is for sure: From Bethlehem to Calvary, Mary was there for her son. She loved Jesus. And Jesus, he loved her. He loved her so much that in the midst of his own suffering, he made sure to entrust her to the friend he loved.

Act

  • This is the time to think about your own family. How is everything?
  • Whether things are well or rough, would you take this time to thank God for your family.
  • If there are strained relationships within your family, would you pray for healing and restoration?
  • Would you pray for protection and success?

11. The Promise: Jesus Promises Paradise to the Repentant Thief

Two thieves hang on the cross on either side of Jesus.

One insults him:

You call yourself Messiah? Well, then come down from that cross. How are you going to save us if you can’t save yourself? (Luke 23:39)

The other one tosses up a confession with a desperate cry for forgiveness:

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

How could two men see the same Jesus and one chooses to mock him while the other chooses to pray to him? We don’t know, but they did.

And when one prayed to him, Jesus loved him enough to save him.

And when the other mocked, Jesus loved him enough to let him. He allowed him the choice.

He does the same for you.

Act

  • Will you choose to put your faith and trust in who Jesus is, and what he has done? It’s as simple as the thief’s prayer:

God, I know that I am a sinner. And I rightly deserve all of its consequences. But because of your love for me, you sacrificed your son, Jesus, to save me from my sin. Thank you for this. Today I place my trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Please cause me to be able to live out this prayer. Amen.

12. The Darkness: Jesus Dies

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)

A mysterious eclipse shrouded the hill of the skulls, the hill where Jesus hung. Darkness is fitting for this moment, for the Light of the world had been snuffed out.

John the apostle, referring to Jesus, did say that “the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it… The light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of the light.” (John 1:4, 8:9)

The darkness of Good Friday seems real. It seems permanent. Most of all it seems to contradict the promise of Jesus when he
said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.

“SEEMS” is the operative word.

Act

As you stand in this dark room, know that in this life, there will be times when darkness will surround you. It will seem to overthrow you. It will seem permanent. It will seem to have
victory over you. In these seasons, be strong and remember that “seem” is the operative word.

Before you leave the darkness, say a prayer of praise to God for sending Jesus. Go ahead, turn the curtain and let the light of Easter flood in.

13. The Cloth: Jesus Rises

Peter then saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up
by itself, separate from the linen. (John 20:6-7)

During Jesus’ time, there was one way a carpenter let a contractor know a job was finished. A signature if you will. When the final piece of a job had been completed, the carpenter would typically fold a towel neatly in half and set it on the finished work and walk away. Whoever would arrive later to inspect the work would see the towel and understand its simple message:

The work is finished.

On the first Easter, Peter crouched in to look into an empty tomb. He saw only the linens that Jesus had left behind.

Imagine that a smile crossed Peter’s face as sorrow was replaced by hope. He saw the wrap that had covered Jesus’ face; it had been folded in half, and left neatly on the floor of the tomb. The carpenter had left behind a simple message.

Paraphrased from
The Carpenter’s Cloth
By Sigmund Brouwer

Act

  • Praise God for the hope Easter brings to us! It reminds us that just as Easter completes the work of the cross, God will complete the good work he has for our lives.
  • And just as the Stations of the Cross reminds us that what Jesus did, he did for all of us, would you now do something for someone else?
  • Think of a person whom you feel has touched your life in a special way. Offer up a prayer of blessing for that person.

14. The Table: Remembering Jesus

The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,

This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.

After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:

This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.

What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt. (1 Corinthians 11:23-34, The Message)

Act

  • Remember that Jesus died and rose again for you. You are part of a family of Christ followers.

Have a blessed Holy Week!


Credits

Front page photo is an image of the nails and hammer used on Station 9 of Walkway.
We thank Mar Pimentel for this beautiful photo.

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