"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."
--Hebrews 12:1-4 (NIV, 1984)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Station 5: Jesus dies on the cross | Reflection by Diana Ott

Luke 23:44-49 (NIV)
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 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. 
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.  
God knew the fate of man before he ever created us. He knew what we were going to do and still he pursued us—He loves us that much! That God is all-knowing is not a new thought for us as Christians, but contemplating what the Father and the Son went through because of my sin is almost too much to handle. That God loves us with a love that considers us worthy of the death of His one and only Son—How do I wrap my head around that?

On the one hand, I am embarrassed that someone had to clean up my mess; on the other hand, I am in awe of someone loving me to that extent. It is almost hard to breathe when I sit in the presence of that kind of love.

I invite you to sit with me and soak in the love God has for you. Yes, it is for all humanity, but in this moment I invite you to reflect on His personal love for you through His sacrifice for you specifically.

Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV).

Jesus was in agony in anticipation of bearing our sins in His own body, so much so that
 “…his sweat became like big drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:43, ESV). 
Can you imagine? His love for you is that great!

God too was in anguish—

Darkness came over the land from 12pm – 3pm; this was not a lunar eclipse. Darkness represents lament (Amos 8:9-10).* In the ESV Study Bible, it notes that the darkness is expressive of God’s displeasure and judgment upon humanity for crucifying His Son.** 

I cannot fathom the anguish the Father experienced in sentencing His only Son to death by crucifixion!

You are worth so much to God that He was willing to experience wrath, agony, and the feeling of separation from His Son and to allow His Son to experience an excruciatingly slow death for you (and me). I find it hard to soak in, but the account was written so that we might know the depth of His love for you and me.

Can you feel it? Do you know you are worthy, loved by the Father with an unfailing, never-ending love? Jesus died on the cross for you—ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your heart with a deep knowing.

Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." 
 Ephesians 3:19 (NIV)
...and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 
And finally—because He first loved us: 

… walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2, NIV).

* See note on Lk. 23:44-45, p. 2180, in the ESV Study Bible (Crossway, 2008).
** See note on Matt. 27:45, p. 2036 (Crossway, 2008).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Station 5: Jesus dies on the cross | "The Death of Jesus" - by Tabitha Blessum

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." 

John 12:23-24, ESV

Dying, though all are destined for it, does not seem natural. We are creatures built for living. Death is the unknown mystery. The unnatural stillness when breath stops and a soul departs. The loss of life.

The Roman Centurion orchestrated deaths for a living. He was a calloused man, familiar with the salty, metallic smell of blood in his nostrils, the daily normalcy of brutality and violence. His ears were acclimated to the moans, curses, and screams of dying men. These were not quiet deaths at the end of a good, long life.

His duty was to Rome. The people who cursed him quietly for a monster didn’t understand that even brutality can become normal when it’s part of your daily routine. He was good at his job, desensitized to the violence, and that’s what mattered. How could there be room for sentiment toward criminals of the state? Traitors to Rome were barely human anyway; they deserved to die.

But today was different. “Jesus, King of the Jews.” A fraud. A crazy, surely.

Yet, the King Jesus did not beg for mercy, like the other men. His eyes did not roll in fear. Wracked with excruciating pain, yet he seemed unafraid. He did not curse the Centurion, but prayed for him. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”*

How could it be? The Centurion, usually unmoved at the sight of death, found his eyes drawn back to this man over and over, seeing him anew. Metal rods driven through bones and flesh that were once beautiful, strong, healing hands. His feet—steady, solid, once anointed with tears—now a mangled mess bearing up the weight of his body, heaving for its next breath. A crown of needle-like thorns digging into his brow. Naked. Bloodied. Mocked.

Then the sky went dark. The earth shook. Tombs outside the city walls broke open.

Who is this man on the cross?

From a place of grief seeming to come from the very center of his spirit, King Jesus cried out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”** And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.

When he saw what had happened, the Centurion suddenly knew in a flash of understanding, “Surely, this man was the Son of God!”*** And then he and others with him praised God in awestruck wonder.

I wonder if he felt terror as well, thinking, “What have I done? Surely I am a dead man,” like one of the prophets when they encountered the living God. I wonder if he grieved over death for the first time in a long time.

When was the last time you considered that the glorious Creator of the universe—God Almighty—died? When was the last time you wept over the gospel?

Resurrection Sunday will come, but allow yourself to grieve the death of Jesus today.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 12:1-4, ESV

* Luke 23:34, NIV
** Matthew 27:46, ESV
*** Mark 15:39, NIV

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Station 5: Jesus dies on the cross | Reflection by Sterling Hernandez

Ever since I was a young child, I have believed in Jesus Christ. Up until I became a teenager, I had never heard anyone question the truthfulness of Christianity. As I encountered more people, I would hear some objections to the Christian faith. One common question I would hear would go something like this, “If God is real, then why is there so much suffering in the world?” Or, “If God is all-powerful, why does He allow suffering to occur?”

When I heard questions like this, I did not know what to say. The topic of suffering became very unsettling for me. I remember as a teenager being so shocked at seeing the tragic realities of our world, things like natural disasters, severe poverty, disease, birth defects, hunger, freak accidents, etc. I began to wonder myself how God could allow such things.

As we journey through the Lenten season, this week we take time to reflect on the death of our Lord on the cross. In Matthew 27:46, we see some of Jesus’ final words, in which He quotes Psalm 22:1. He cries out to His God in great angst saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (NRSV). Here Jesus expresses his utter vulnerability and the great suffering He experienced.

Some might interpret Jesus’ words as a sign of distrust in God. But it is actually quite the opposite. Dr. Leslie Allen of Fuller Theological Seminary reports that praying a prayer of lament (such as Psalm 22) “reveals an intimate relationship with God… And it shows an underlying attitude of contested, but continuing faith.”* CS Lewis illustrates this point quite well in The Screwtape Letters when he describes the growth in maturity that Christians undergo during a valley/trough: “[Satan’s] cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do [God’s] will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”**

Jesus’ praying of Psalm 22:1 presents a model for us in how to respond appropriately in moments of crisis. Often times when we encounter suffering, especially unjust suffering, we tend to hide from God rather than run straight into His arms. I propose that being vulnerable before God, even being angry against Him, can be a sign of profound trust in His faithfulness. Jesus, though suffering and expressing His frustration with God, trusted His Father in faithful obedience.

But what does Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross have to do with the great suffering in our world? God could snap His fingers and remove all the problems in the world if He wanted to, couldn’t He? I’m sure He could. But the good news is this: instead of choosing to remove our suffering, He has chosen to join us in our suffering. I do not know why God has allowed such widespread suffering to occur, especially in the lives of Christians. But instead of choosing to be absent from our pain, He has chosen to respond by taking our pain upon Himself.

God has not promised us that He will explain why we go through suffering, but He does promise to be present with us in the midst of suffering. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, He has proven to us that He loves us and He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). As we choose to be vulnerable with Him, even in our anger and frustration toward Him, He promises to be with us.

* Leslie Allen, “Leslie Allen Psalms in the Temple and Synagogue” (video), 2015, 5:27, accessed March 13, 2018, https://vimeo.com/114195828.

** C S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Pub., 1985), 37.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Station 5: Jesus dies on the cross | Reflection by Daniel Garcia

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
Philippians 1:29, ESV

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds...”
‭James 1:2, ESV‬

‭Joy and suffering often seem to be the two areas that draw quite a bit of confusion in the people of God. Both are biblically ensured as an inevitability in the life of those who believe in Christ and yet it is often that I see a misunderstanding of the two that leaves most either experiencing a superficial happiness that is confused for joy or a joyless angst that leaves some at the brink of giving up. ‬

‭What I think is crucial for the believer to see in order to fully experience what, as Paul would say, is granted to us and see what James says should produce joy in the believer, is to view the two as somehow working in sync with one another rather than them being mutually exclusive as is the common case.‬

‭It is difficult to imagine that Christ had any sense of joy in his final moments. As is the common Lenten reflection, we are drawn to remember the sufferings that Christ endured. What if those sufferings, though extreme as the Gospel writers record, had an underlying joy that would make Jesus’ last words on the cross, “It is finished,” more than mere rhetoric but an announcement that included expectant, assured, and even joyful implications?

‭What would be even more of a controversy to our expectations is that these sentiments of joy and strength in no way minimized what he was enduring in the lowest point of his life. See, it is not that joy reduces, disqualifies, or even replaces our sufferings; rather it empowers, qualifies, and strives side by side with our sufferings to form in us a character that James would claim is “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas. 1:4, ESV). It’s hard to imagine the crucified Christ breathing his last breaths with a smile on his face, since chances are that he didn’t, but what is described in the text of Scripture is much more than that. It is a type of joyful steadfastness that was certain to even leave some of the Roman guards trembling at the knees. It was certainly a connection with telos, or the things, purposes, and finalizing that was to come.‬

Escapism, elated optimism, and even cynical pessimism are never presented in the Scriptures as appropriate responses or remedies for suffering. Joy is not something experienced only when we get away from our sufferings. Nor are we to muscle a smile on our faces to convince ourselves and others that we have joy in the Lord. And certainly giving up on the notion of joy does not seem to be the answer either.

Though seemingly contradictory, joy remains the means by which the church should embrace difficulties. If we can learn to suffer well, then, and only then, will we be able to be "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

It may be that joy is an attitude that finds itself outside the frame of time. It may have an eschatological nature that ties us into the fabric of not only what was and is, but what will be.

Joy is the product of surrendering from the tyranny of our wants. Our desires can be so cunning that we become blinded in them, not seeing that they are in fact not what we want (Rom. 7; 2 Cor. 4:3-6).

H‭aving even our deepest wants be so manipulated by sin and deviation, it is up to God to present us to what our hearts truly long for. Him. Christ. This I have been not only the witness to in small fraction in my own life, but in those who have come before and around me. There is a certain confidence in the believer who has come to realize what it is that truly matters having had suffered “various trials.” It is a kind of maturity that would be so bold as to be willing to endure and even boast in their sufferings simply because it in some mysterious way is setting them free to see the very depths of the Kingdom of God. Let’s face it, it’s either the apostles were crazy for boasting in and embracing hardship or truly they were seeing something that we have yet to see.‬

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Station 5: Jesus dies on the cross | "A Word from the Cross: Luke 23:44-49" - by Jordan Jarvis

The sky was dark. It should have been light, but the sun's light failed. I could see him... or more I could see a limp, mangled body clothed in blood. The centurion, the crowd, people who praised him only days before now threw their insults and mockery in his beaten face. Three hours passed, and he still hung there. Why? I thought. Why would they do this to you? Don't they know who you are? A knot twisted in my stomach. Hot tears stung my eyes. I closed them, no longer able to look at all that surrounded me.



A loud noise pierced the air. The curtain of the temple was torn in two. I looked to the cross.

"Abba," he said. I could hear him.

He cried, "Into your hands I commit my spirit!"

And he was gone.

I could see the centurion and all the crowd wail in realization at what just happened. They beat their breasts and went home.

The guards pierced his side. I flinched at the flow of blood that rushed from his body. "Rabboni," I breathed. We stood at a distance, all his acquaintances and my fellow women who followed him from Galilee, and we watched the death of Yeshua.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

"Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:1-4, ESV)

Let us not grow weary. Let us not grow fainthearted. Some days life seems more than we can bear. Our burdens weigh heavy on our hearts and minds. The enemy of our soul whispers lies designed to discourage and destroy. Yet Jesus showed us the beauty of persevering through tribulation. He gives us a promise to be our strength. Our part is simply to keep our eyes on Him. When life would bow our heads in shame, Christ lifts our heads and says, "Do not grow weary, I am here."

Yeshua did not consider the shame of the cross, but for the joy set before him he endured, and he is risen. Therefore, let us look to the cross today. Go into a quiet space, just you and the Spirit, and enter a time of reflection and prayer. Consider what Christ endured, what his disciples witnessed, and how his final hours changed your life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Station 5: Jesus dies on the cross

Matthew 27:45-54 (ESV)

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up 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. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Station 4: Jesus is stripped of his clothes | "The Sound of Pure Grace" - by Janet Calhoun

The first Christian music I purchased was Sandi Patti’s Finest Moments. It was the first time I heard the song "Via Dolorosa." After listening to it, I wept. I wept because I felt true sacrificial love for the first time. After nearly twenty years, Ms. Patti’s anointed voice can still transport me to the streets of Old Jerusalem where I was blessed to walk that same road.
Down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day
The soldiers tried to clear the narrow street
But the crowd pressed in to see
The man condemned to die on Calvary
Those narrow streets are so very narrow and the stone so hard and cold. I can feel the angry crowd and the tension of the soldiers trying to clear the road so the three condemned men can reach the city gate.
He was bleeding from a beating
There were stripes upon his back
And he wore a crown of thorns upon his head
And he bore with every step
The scorn of those who cried out for his death
Stumbling to the ground, the cross he is dragging falls to the side. Unable to pick it up again, the soldiers force a man from Cyrene to carry the cross to the top of the hill.
The blood that would cleanse the souls of all men
Made its way through the heart of Jerusalem
Lamenting women following the drops of blood, crying tears of pity, are stunned as this broken man, even now, speaks truth to their souls.
Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King
And he chose to walk that road
He chose this? He chose to walk down this road...why would someone do this?
Out of his love for you—and me
Down the Via Dolorosa all the way to Calvary
And I weep all over again. No one has ever loved me to the point of such sacrifice. No one except God. That love is overwhelming; it is consuming, and it draws me in so close. My heart breaks when I can hear the scorns, see the clenched fists, feel the sin. The sin He is taking on for me...for us.

He is stripped and I turn away unable to endure any more. The sound of hammering wood penetrates my core before the silence. And then, the sound of pure grace…

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34, KJV).


"Via Dolorosa" was written by Billy Sprague and Niles Borop and published by Meadowgreen Music Company/Word Music, LLC. Sandy Patti first released her version of the song in her album Songs from the Heart (1984).

Source for lyrics used here: “Via Dolorosa Chords and Lyrics.” Kidung.com, 25 Mar. 2010, www.kidung.com/2010/03/25/via-dolorosa-chords-and-lyrics/.