The Way of the Cross
Written by Santhosh Vennamalla on 25-04-2019
We are still fresh from observing the Holy Week. And I would not be surprised if at the mention of the way of the cross, your mind went to Via Dolorosa – the path that Jesus is supposed to have taken while carrying his cross up to Calvary. We say ‘supposed’ because there have been many changes and additions to it, and it differs from one tradition to the other. The 2000 feet path has been marked with fourteen stations of the cross, each being significant in its own way (they are currently referred to as nine stations with five being clubbed as one inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.) We will come back to one of those stations a little later. The geographical Via Dolorosa is not the way of the cross that we will discussing here.
Many people use the common idiom ‘this is my cross’ when they refer to something that is considered a difficulty in their life – a strained relationship, a thankless job or even an illness that does not seem justifiable. The origin of the idiom lies in the act of Jesus carrying His cross, but it either skips the minds of people, or as I would believe, many do not even realise that the cross that Jesus carried was not ‘His’. The cross was symbolic of all the sins, problems and every hardship that belong to us. As a result of Christ going up on the cross, we have hope of eternal life (should we choose to believe in and follow Him). But if it is finished (John 19:30), then why do we need to think about the way of the cross?
Let us look at Luke 9:23 - Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Christ is asking His disciples to be willing to give up the good and enjoyable life, relationships, career, or to face criticism, ostracism, and even sacrifice of life itself. That is the probable cost of following Him. A sense of willingness to die to oneself has to be strong to follow Him. The price that Christ paid on the cross has eased our burden. But is that all there is to it? Are we to lie back and relax since our sins have all been paid for, and simply look forward to a guilt-free life in the now and a wonderful life in the eternal?
No. 5 of the Stations of the Cross is the point where Simon the Cyrene. We see in Mark 15:21 that Simon was forced by the roman soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross for a short while. How willing are we to carry somebody else’s cross for them? That is a question that can bring in a variety of responses – Yes, I am willing. Only if it’s a family member or close friend. Nobody helped carry mine, so why should I bother? Let us not forget that our cross was borne by Christ. Are we willing to extend the same benefit to those who are less knowledgeable or capable of understanding their needs and resolving them?
The way of the cross is the way of sacrifice. Jesus said in John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He not only spoke the words but demonstrated in action when he carried the cross and died on it. Are we willing to walk in the way of the cross – with its demands of sacrifice should we follow Christ or commit to loving others as He loved us? Should anyone ask us why we walk in the way of cross let us point to the one who walked it before us – Jesus Christ.