Palm Sunday Lesson: The Stations of the Cross

This statue of Veronica represents the traditional 6th station. Although not recorded in the gospels, the Catholic church honors Saint Veronica with a feast day. She is also depicted in The Passion of The Christ. In bullfighting, the matador waves his cape in a move called Veronica, named for this pose.
Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  Matthew 21:8-9

The scripture, above, is about the day we call Palm Sunday. It is the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was the first day in a very long week — the most important week in the Christian faith.

Our Holy Week ends with a celebration of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Scripturally, the week of the Passion happened during the observance of Passover. In 325AD at the Council of Nicea, Emperor Constantine separated Easter from Passover, to avoid confusion with the Jewish religion, and placed the holiday on Sunday. Eastern Orthodox churches did not choose the same method of calculating dates. Although they continue to call it Pascha (Passover), it is not always the same as the modern Jewish celebration or the same day as the Easter we celebrate in the West.

Scholars can’t even agree on the day of the crucifixion, with Wednesday being the leading candidate, but none of that really matters. The important thing about Holy Week is the Resurrection of Christ.

As we go through this week, let’s take some time to reflect on what Jesus did for us. In many church traditions, people reflect upon the stations of the cross. The practice began with people taking pilgrimages to visit Jerusalem. They wanted to visit each spot along the path where Jesus carried the cross to Calvary. The traditional stations of the Cross are:

  1.  Jesus is condemned to death.
  2.  Jesus is given His cross.
  3.  Jesus falls down for the first time.
  4.  Jesus meets His mother Mary.
  5.  Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross.
  6.  Veronica wipes blood off of Jesus’ face.
  7.  Jesus falls down for the second time.
  8.  Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
  9.  Jesus falls down for the third time.
  10.  Jesus is stripped of His clothing.
  11.  Jesus is nailed to the cross – the Crucifixion.
  12.  Jesus dies on the cross.
  13.   Jesus’ body is removed from the cross – the Deposition or Lamentation.
  14.  Jesus’ body is placed in the tomb.

9 of the 14 stations are marked today along the Via Dolorosa. The remaining stations are commemorated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Stations 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 are not specifically biblical and, as a result, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Scriptural Stations of the Cross in 1991. In the Scriptural version, each station is given a scriptural reference for believers to use as they reflect, or meditate, on the last hours of Christ’s passion.

The Scriptural Stations of the Cross are:

  1.  Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, (Matthew 26:36-41)
  2.  Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested, (Mark 14: 43-46)
  3.  Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin, (Luke 22: 66-71)
  4.  Jesus is denied by Peter, (Matthew 26: 69-75)
  5.  Jesus is judged by Pilate, (Mark 15: 1-5, 15)
  6.  Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns, (John 19: 1-3)
  7.  Jesus takes up his cross, (John 19: 6, 15-17)
  8.  Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross, (Mark 15: 21)
  9.  Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, (Luke 23: 27-31)
  10.  Jesus is crucified, (Luke 23: 33-34)
  11.  Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief, (Luke 23: 39-43)
  12.  Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other, (John 19: 25-27)
  13.  Jesus dies on the cross, (Luke 23: 44-46)
  14.  Jesus is laid in the tomb. (Matthew 27: 57-60)

I didn’t give you the whole liturgy associated with each observance, just the station and scripture. When followed in the Catholic church, the priest begins with a prayer then the congregation says “Lord Jesus, help us walk in your steps,” after each station.

There are some variations among protestants. One “alternate” version begins with the Last Supper and Ends with the empty tomb.

  1.     The Last Supper
  2.     The Garden of Gethsemane
  3.     Jesus Before Pilate
  4.     The Scourging and Crowning with Thorns
  5.     The Receiving of The Cross
  6.     The Fall
  7.     Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus
  8.     The Women of Jerusalem
  9.     Jesus is Stripped and Crucified
  10.     The Repentant Thief
  11.     Mary and John Below The Cross
  12.     The Death of Jesus
  13.     The Laying in the Tomb
  14.     The Resurrection

I like this alternative version because we are resurrection people. As a religion, I do not think Christianity would have survived without the truth of Christ’s empty tomb.

As you go through your Holy Week, take some time to reflect on the stations as you pray.

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