Since at least the fifteenth century, the “Stations of the Cross” have been central to the devotion of Christian believers during Holy Week, and especially on Good Friday. When Medieval Christians made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, they tried to follow the actual route Jesus walked as he carried his cross from Pilate’s judgment hall to the hill where he was crucified. As they went along the road, they stopped at various locations to pray and meditate over what Jesus experienced at that spot. Some of these “stations” were based on the Gospel accounts of the events of that day; others were based on traditions that developed during the early centuries.
By the time of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD), fourteen stations had become recognized:
- Jesus is condemned to death
- Jesus carries his cross
- Jesus falls the first time
- Jesus meets his mother
- Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls the second time
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls the third time
- Jesus’ clothes are taken away
- Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
- Jesus is laid in the tomb.
These same stations can be seen depicted on the walls of most Catholic churches today. Worshipers can walk along the sides of the church, praying appropriate prayers as they stand before each station. Many Anglican and Lutheran churches also maintain this tradition in Good Friday worship.
At ABC we have tried to value some of the liturgical practices that Baptists have historically rejected Two years ago Glenn Molina, ABC’s Director of Worship Arts, led us through a service of musical/visual expressions entitled “Stations: The Way of the Cross.” Through original music and art, Glenn and other ABCers helped us walk with Jesus on his last journey on earth. In the process, we were reminded that he walks with us through our own road of suffering.
In recent years there has been an effort in liturgical churches to revise the ancient list of stations by eliminating those that have no basis in the Gospel accounts (numbers 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 13 above) and expanding beyond the actual road to the cross. This new list, called the “Scriptural Way of the Cross,” is as follows:
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested.
- Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin.
- Jesus is denied by Peter.
- Jesus is judged by Pilate.
- Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns.
- Jesus takes up his cross.
- Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross.
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
- Jesus is crucified.
- Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief.
- Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other.
- Jesus dies on the cross.
- Jesus is laid in the tomb.
We will build our Good Friday 7 PM service around these fourteen facets of Jesus’ suffering for our sins, joining him spiritually on the way to the cross.
— Pastor George Van Alstine