October 20, 2017

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time

Scripture

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 NIV).

“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10).

(With references in the Meditation to Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 23:2-4, Matthew 26:36-44, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10, Philippians 2:5-11, Hebrews 4:14-16.)

Meditation

Jesus is reeling in the street, struggling through the gauntlet of human flesh and sweat and dust and hurled abuse. Simon is there, carrying the cross for him to Golgotha just ahead. Yet, it hardly matters. Jesus can no longer walk – no longer feel his feet touch the stones of the street. Weakness so pervades his body that even his agony is blurred by numbness. He is nearly empty of everything – of blood, of pain and of his whole being.

The clamor of the crowd stills for a moment as Jesus stops moving and the procession halts. Those near hear the rasp of his ragged breath, watching him sway in slow motion and collapse. Impact forces the air from his body in a sharp groan. Then it is quiet.

The crowd peers at him with a low buzz of speculation starting to rise. Is he already dead? The rabbi’s chest heaves and the people start shouting again.

While the cacophony gains momentum, Jesus opens his eyes and studies them, the heat from the street renewing his consciousness of pain. He has been pressed to the ground by their guilt and staggered under their load of suffering. Now he is with them in profound weakness, pierced by the paradox of the circumstance. Burdened beyond bearing on the one hand and left void on the other, he is both filled up with sorrows and empty of strength, inadequate for further existence.

Yet, he knew it would come to this. He left the Father, risking everything to enter humanity. He laid aside his prior place to be with his people and knew there were only two ways to return. Both would regain his position, but only one would make him their Savior. He had submitted and served and suffered for them and he would not return to his Father without the completion of these things. He would not take his place again by force, by a bold grasp of what was rightfully his. He would arrive there humbly, obediently and submissively – poured out of all that could be poured out, altogether abandoned, perfected in his partaking of human sorrows.

The enemy had tried him … to see if he would depart without the payment. The temptation to return by the easier path had come in Gethsemane. “My Father, if it is possible may this cup be taken from me …” But the cup would bring the consummation of the course. The cup would make him the Christ. And it was only as Christ he could make this people his brothers, sons and daughters of God.

Now, Jesus feels the soldier’s foot prod him to move, but he cannot. This weakness is part of the cup. This weakness is theirs, but they don’t know it. Each of these people around him is helpless, without power and without life before God. But he, having shared the nature and glory of equality with his Father, is being emptied out for them. He is feeling the devastating drain of his own power and life before God. This is not a fraction of the world’s weakness. It is all of it. The void being left in him is measureless.

Yet, it is the way of perfection. There would never in all eternity be a weakness he would not comprehend. His people would always find his sympathy as they approached him and he would speak to his Father for them with infinite compassion born out of infinite suffering.

That he is now bearing their guilt and sicknesses and embodying their frailties means they will be free. His words to them in the towns surrounding Galilee have not empty ones. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” These people have tried to keep the law, but the requirements are tiresome and impossible. Their teachers have done nothing to help, but continue putting the heavy loads of more law on them.

But no more. By his perfect living he is atoning for them. By his present suffering he is identifying with them. By his imminent dying he is purchasing their peace with God. Once and for all, he is fulfilling the law that they have labored under. He is plumbing the depths of their weakness in human flesh and with divine understanding so that he might welcome these profoundly weary people into his yoke. So that he might make their burdens light. He is drinking the last dregs of the cup that will make them whole.

This time the soldier reaches down and hefts the almost dead weight of Jesus. “Come. We’re almost there.”

Action

I will not despise my human frailties, but anticipate the opportunity they provide to see Christ’s life manifested powerfully in me. I know I can boldly approach God with every weakness because Christ is at his right hand interceding with a perfect compassion that comes from perfect understanding. As I stand there, I will expect what has been promised – mercy and help and Christ’s strength coming to rest on me.

Prayer

Jesus, forgive me for so quickly seeking to escape weakness, for panicking when it invades my life. When I am confronted with my frailty, I am often like Jonah and take desperate measures to flee it. Thank you that I cannot outrun your love or your compassion or your desire to be my help in times of need.

Help me to see my most fragile moments as chances to know the fullness of fellowship with you and experience the flow of your life and power that longs to rush into my empty and weak places.

Chorus

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Comments

  1. There would never in all eternity be a weakness he would not comprehend. His people would always find his sympathy as they approached him and he would speak to his Father for them with infinite compassion born out of infinite suffering…….and LOVE.

    Thank you IM (and Lisa) for these words. These posts.

    Thank You Jesus. I am in awe.

    • Yes, LOVE … it’s who he is, isn’t it? Writing these has been good for me. I’ve had to slow down, meditate on Scripture and use my imagination to ponder out the details. That we can go through these stations at the same time puts us on the journey together and I like that so much. Thank you Rebekah Grace.

  2. Yes, my name really is Michael McChesney.

    I’m a curious non-believer, and much enjoying this series on the stations, fascinated with the concept of faith in general. I understand the idea that Jesus’ suffering is meant to relieve all of us from punishment from our sins. Or something like that, it’s not the core of my question, which is this: where in scripture do we learn that this is the case? that J’s suffering is propitiation? Does he say it directly somewhere?

    Thanks.

    • Hi Michael, I’m glad you are reading this series.

      I think Jesus’ suffering (the effects of sin such as guilt, weakness, sickness, brokenness and death) is primarily for the purpose of identifying with us in our humanity. Philippians 2 tells us that Christ is “in very nature God” and that he willingly left his place to take on the nature of a servant. It was by plan that this happen. In doing so, he both entered into humanity in a sympathetic way, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14-16) and demonstrated a proper relationship with the Father, one of submission to his authority (Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus was perfected or completed by suffering according to Hebrews 2:10. He entered fully into every human experience and so could be our Savior.

      Jesus, at his last supper with the disciples, speaks directly about what his dying is about to accomplish. You can read the account in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24 and Luke 22:19,20). He says that he is giving his body for us and that his blood is being poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

      It is his blood poured out on the cross that atones for sin. He is the ultimate Passover Lamb. John the Baptizer recognized him this way in John 1:29. Christ’s death reconciles us to God. (See Romans 5:10) The reconciliation is a once and done event. When we trust him as our Savior, we are made acceptable to God. This passage further says that it is by his life (resurrection) we are being saved. This is a continuous action and the salvation indicates healing or wholeness. So, we are made acceptable to God once and for all and we are continuously being restored to wholeness.

      God longed to restore the fellowship we broke with him and this is what he was willing to do about it. He’s telling us He can’t do without us.

      I hope this is helpful Michael. Thank you for writing.