Monthly Archives: March 2017

Stations of the Cross Six – Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

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Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.

This station is drawn from church tradition and isn’t found in the Gospel accounts of Jesus. In brief, the story is that Veronica, moved by the sight of Jesus suffering, used her veil to wipe the face of Jesus. We shall set aside the question of whether the event actually happened or not.

In the art pieces, the central figures are of course Veronica and Jesus. Also, take a look around and see the other faces and figures observing the scene. Who is sympathetic? Who seem angry? Who seems indifferent?

Let’s put ourselves into the place of Veronica. On one hand, what she did was a small thing. But in context, it was a big thing. If her action was taken with no one seeing it, Jesus would know the compassion in her heart. But her small deed of compassion was done in full view of people among which were people NOT sympathetic and even outright OPPOSED to Jesus.

Does this remind you of one of the teachings of Jesus?

Matthew 25:34-40
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (NRSV)

We are to extend kindness and compassion to those in need regardless of whether they could pay it back or even pay it forward. In the Matthew 25 teaching, in the second half of it, there is a group of people who say, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ (v. 44). The subtext of their statement is, we would have done those things if we knew it was you O king! To which the king replied, Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me (v. 45).

And what of Jesus? What did he do for the least of these … for us … for me. Jesus died for us … for me while we were … I was yet a sinner.

I stand amazed in the presence
of Jesus the Nazarene,
and wonder how he could love me,
a sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
is my Savior’s love for me!
— Charles H. Gabriel

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Station of the Cross 5 – Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

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Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.

Luke 23:26
When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. (NASB)

Jesus having been flogged is in a weakened physical state. We can only imagine how much the spiritual battle is taking its toll on him in addition to the pain from wounds. He is struggling to carry the Cross to Golgotha. The Roman soldier in charge of the procession sees this and looks at the crowd and presses into service Simon of Cyrene.

Simon is a common name. After all, there is Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot among the disciples. Among other Simon’s: one of Jesus brothers is Simon (Matt. 13:55), Simon a tax-collector (Matt. 17:25), Simon the leper (Matt. 26:6) and Simon a Pharisee (Luke 7:40).

Cyrene was located in Libya. There were a Jewish community there. Thus, Simon of Cyrene may have been Jewish and had arrived in Jerusalem for some reason perhaps for a Passover pilgrimage. Whether he was originally from Cyrene and a convert to Judaism or he moved there from elsewhere we don’t know.

But why was he picked out by the Roman soldiers?

Probably he looked like a person of sufficient strength to help Jesus carry the Cross. In the art work above, the artist portrays him as a physically imposing individual.

What did he experience carrying the Cross? Was he aware of the stories of Jesus prior to this spectacle of his impending Crucifixion? Might he have been a follower of Jesus already at this point?

We do not know. However, we know there was Rufus and Alexander sons of Simon of Cyrene Mark 15:21 whom the initial readers (likely in Rome) of the Gospel of Mark would know and Paul extends greetings to Rufus and his mother in his letter to the Romans Romans 16:13. Thus, it would seem that the experience of meeting Jesus and carrying the Cross set in motion something that dramatically impacted Simon and his family!

Have you considered this Jesus?

At this moment, there were onlookers. The responses could range from indifference – Romans killing another Jew – to dispair – when is this kind of thing going to stop?

But the key is to see more than just the Cross. Do we see and seek the Jesus who carried it, to look into the life, teaching and deeds of Jesus before the Cross and to marvel at the Resurrection after the Cross?

This Jesus, who with a word, a mere thought, could have shattered everyone involved into pieces but did not. Instead, he endured the Cross. He allowed Simon of Cyrene to enter into his suffering changing Simon’s life.

Have you considered this Jesus?

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
look full in His wonderful face
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace”
— Helen H. Lemmel

Stations of the Cross 4 – Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother

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Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.

What was it like to be mother Mary’s during the day Jesus died on the Cross?

In this painting aside from the central image of the Cross born by Jesus, the eye is drawn to the left to the sad figure of Mary. There appear to be three others who share her sorrow but only one has a “halo” like Jesus and Mary. Make of that what you will; perhaps there is a difference between sympathy for what Jesus is experiencing in comparison to a deep commitment to Him and appreciation for what he is doing.

We know that Mother Mary was there when Jesus instructed disciple John to take care of mother Mary just before he breathed his last. From this we can infer mother Mary may have been in the crowds as Jesus carried the Cross to Golgotha. This speculative part of the story was well told in the film the Passion of the Christ.

As she watched these events unfold, would her mind go back to his birth …..?

Luke 2:7
And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger ……

Luke 2:16-19
So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. (NASB)

The shepherds would tell Mary what the angels told them: Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

Would Mary have thought that carrying a Cross to his death would be part of what it meant for Jesus to be a Savior, who is Christ the Lord?

Treasure this thought. Ponder this thought. Carrying a Cross. Enduring the scorn. Suffering intense pain. All a part of the plan for Jesus to be our Savior, our Christ, and our Lord!

Stations of the Cross Three – Jesus Falls the First Time

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Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.

Jesus falls for he first time.

The traditional station number three is Jesus falling while carrying the Cross to Golgotha. Biblically there is no specific verse in the Bible describing this. However, what can we say about Jesus condition by this point?

We know at Gethsemane, Jesus was in prayer and described in the various Gospel accounts as: “sorrowful and troubled” (Matthew 26:37) and “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:34). At Jesus arrest, “they seized him” (Luke 22:54) and “seized Jesus and bound him” (John 18:12). Probably it is not a stretch to suspect that “police brutality” was not unknown in those times either. While at trial before the Sanhedrin, “the men who were holding Jesus mocked and beat him” (Luke 22:63). While before Pilate, “plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head … took the reed and struck him on the head” (Matthew 27:29-30) and “having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Mark 15:15).

Sketch of Roman scourge instrument, a wipe like weapon with bits of metal embedded in strips of leather.

flagrum9.jpg Image source: http://www.bible-history.com/past/flagrum.html

In the artwork, almost all people’s eyes are on Jesus. Undoubtedly, a mixture of impressions in the minds of the people. Some see Jesus as getting what he deserves. Others maybe puzzled as to how come such an extreme punishment for someone who doesn’t seem like any kind of military threat. While still others are saddened because they have been following Jesus or at least intrigued by what he was teaching. In all cases, they see him suffering – they see him fall down.

As Christians, we often focus on the divine power of Jesus in his healing of people and miracles. However, there is also the humanity of Jesus. How easy is it for us to skip over verses like “So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well.” (John 4:6). Jesus got tired and thirsty. And now as he carries the Cross to his death he is tired. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say he fell down while carrying the Cross but it would hardly be surprising. He prepared for this ordeal by praying the night before in Gethsemane. Undoubtedly, he is praying to the Father as he goes through it.

As so when we face difficulty, we too can pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus who fell down – who knows our frail humanity, helped by the Spirit who dwells within us.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
— Joseph Medlicott Scriven

Stations of the Cross 2 – Jesus Takes Up His Cross

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Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.

John 19:16-17
Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha ….. (NKJV)

Jesus bears the Cross. His eyes are focused on the task at hand. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8).

The majority of the figures in this scene have helmets and spears suggesting they are part of the armed contingent carrying out the order to execute Jesus. Jesus was opposed by the powers that were. And today, Jesus is opposed by the powers that are.

Did you notice the mysterious dark image of a horse in the top center of the picture. What could this mean? Perhaps, one or more of the members of the military squad assigned to the crucifixion of Jesus rode on a horse. But look at the horse. Interestingly, both eyes of this horse stare straight out at us. Could it be that this created being, this mere horse, saw truly that it was the Creator carrying the Cross? Meanwhile, the majority of the humans, the highest of God’s creation, were blind to the truth of this scene: the giver of life was going to die.

Yet ….. all is not lost. There are three people who do not have helmets but rather have what appear to be halos. The prominent figure, the woman dressed in red with the blue covering, presumably is mother Mary. The other two figures are not identifiable. By the grace of God, some see past the world’s power play and see in Jesus, the suffering servant, the one worthy of worship. They do not turn away but instead follow Jesus. They follow in the way of the Cross. Do we follow too?

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?
— Charles Wesley

Stations of the Cross One – Jesus Is Condemned to Death

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Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.

Matthew 27:24-31
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. (NRSV)

Pilate is the figure on the left giving the orders. The stripped Jesus is being beaten by several figures on the right.

What is your impression of the other figures?

One person, nearest to Pilate appears to have put his hands to his nose perhaps mocking the whole crazy scene?

Next to this man, to the right, is another man with outstretched hands, perhaps, he is making a solicitous gesture of obedience to Pilate’s instructions? Maybe praising Pilate for his “wisdom” in straddling the fence of giving the crowds what they want yet “washing his hands” of the whole scenario.

Notice the man with crossed legs, maybe his face would reveal indifference to the whole carnival atmosphere.

For those who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah, for those who do not believes Jesus is the Lord who suffered for us, the reaction to this scene could be scorn, could be applause, and could be indifference.

But for those who follow Jesus and seek to be his disciple and learn of him, this scene evokes a mixture of sadness and reverence. Sadness that Jesus would have to suffer this way for our sins. It is MY sins that had led him to this moment and to the Cross that would come later. Yes, the Jewish crowds demanded Barabbas be released. It was the Roman ruler and political powers that gave the orders. But, in the final analysis, it was the sin of all of us that led Jesus to this moment. Romans 5:8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. And so there is sadness over my sins. But there is also reverence. The suffering Savior is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love. God was not content to let us die in our sins. Instead, he has chosen the costly path of sacrifice. God has entered into the world to take upon himself our sins so that we would be restored to relationship with God.


O sacred head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, your only crown.
O sacred head, what glory
and blessing you have known!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I claim you as my own.
— Saint Bernard of Clairvaux