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Have you ever walked and prayed through the Stations of the Cross at a retreat center? Or done a virtual “prayer walk” using the stories and prophecies of Christ’s passion that go with the ancient Stations?

I have. Many times. It’s truly unforgettable. Divine mercy has flooded into my body and soul. The Gospel scenes are branded into my brain. Today I’m closer to Jesus and more like him because of this journey.

I invite you to come along with me…

First, righteous Jesus is condemned to death by the religious and civil leaders. He doesn’t defend himself — he’s silent. How does he stand silent, secure, and confident? Right away I’m magnetically drawn to this Heavenly Man.

As my Lord takes up his cross and carries it through the streets of the Old City (John 19:17) I feel the weight and stagger with him. I wince at hearing the insults. I flinch at the crack of the whip. It’s too much for me and I start to shut down emotionally.

But then I find comfort in the endearing exchange between Jesus and his mother Mary. (Inferred from Luke 2:34-35.)

Still walking right behind Jesus, I cry out when he falls to the ground under the weight of the cross. (See Psalm 38:6, 10 and 119:25.) I think about how often I fall down. I fall in pain. I fall in sin. I fall in failure and discouragement. Jesus never sinned, but he feels my temptations, my limitations, my struggles.

Three times Jesus falls! I want to help him, but I feel so helpless.

But Simon of Cyrene comes to help Jesus carry his cross (Mark 15:21) and Veronica gives him a cloth to wipe the sweat and blood off his face. (The story about Veronica is a legend, but it demonstrates a precious truth that comforts us deeply.)

I realize that it encourages Jesus when I take up my cross and follow him. It blesses my Lord when I offer a simple act of kindness to someone for his sake.

Then Jesus is stripped. He endures more insults and abuse. He’s nailed to the cross. He cries out in pain. He’s suffocating. (Mark 15:16-32)

It’s dark. He seems alone and abandoned. The few of his followers who are watching from a distance are in despair. I feel despair too. (Mark 15:33-34)

But then Jesus connects his beloved mother and disciple to be as mother and son. I recall that Jesus is one with the Father. Strengthened in this loving intimacy, he cares for everyone around him — including me — and invites us into their oneness! (John 10:30, 17:21)

He forgives me of my sins and reconciles me to God. He wants this for everyone — and so do I! (Romans 5:8-11)

He’s showing us that by relying on his grace we too can learn to have joy, peace, and power in our trials and to love our enemies.

Next I see Joseph of Arimathea place Jesus’ body in the tomb. I enter the tomb. I reflect on my death that could come anytime. (Mark 15:42-47)

Thankfully, our journey doesn’t end with Good Friday. Sunday is coming! The tomb is empty and the angel sings the Gospel: “Christ is risen!” (Mark 16:6)

Our Lord and Savior has overcome sin, death, and hell! He has brought us new life for all eternity!

With Jesus you are Unforsaken!

 

Bill is a psychologist and ordained pastor, specializing in ministry to pastors.  He was personally mentored for many years by Dallas Willard and Ray Ortlund Sr. 

As a Spiritual Formation Pastor, he’s served in a mega-church and a church plant. He’s also trained over 1,000 lay counselors and taught courses in Christian psychology and spirituality at the graduate school level.  He and Kristi train pastors and other men and women in ministry in their Soul Shepherding Institute and Spiritual Direction certificate program.

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