The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
March 27, 2014 Comments Off on The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). James Middleton’s Fourth Station dramatizes this moment of encounter between Jesus and these women of Jerusalem. We see just the hands of women reaching toward Jesus in various poses, various ways of trying to encounter Jesus. We also see just the hand of Jesus in both a gesture of stop and simultaneously a gesture of reaching out. Between Jesus and the women is the cross. What might this visual interpretation be suggesting?
The scriptural basis for this station comes from Luke 23:28-31. Interpretations abound, but one is that the “daughters of Jerusalem” were professional mourners, women who went to mourn on behalf of those men who were on their way to death. These women were attempting to visibly grieve for those who may have had no one else who might mourn them, and in that way hospitality was extended to the least, to the other, as a way to please God.
In light of this interpretation, Jesus’s response is an interesting challenge. It problematizes the outward practice of professional mourning for these criminals, the outcasts of society as a religious practice . It may be tempting then to see Jesus’s response akin to what many a parent may have thought during the tantrum of their child: “I’ll give you something to cry about.” I think Jesus, however, might be calling out the problem of inauthenticity, of grieving for show, without compassion, in the name of God for those perceived as less than. Underlying this may go something like, “this could never happen to me or people like me,” or “maybe they brought on their own suffering”, and “I’m glad I’m not like those people.”
Suffering, shame, death is not just for those “other people”, those people we do not consider part of our safe circle. I once had a conversation over a very dry martini with a retired NYC school teacher who would tell her third grade students when they started to bully or gang up on the weaker kids, “We all bleed, we all cry, and we all die.” What Jesus’s response suggests to me in this interpretation is that whatever suffering or shame is going on with me is also going on with you. We all bleed, we all cry, and we all die. We are all the “other”.
I like the way James has painted the cross in between Jesus and the women, the way it almost seems like Jesus is pushing, offering the cross to the women, and how it connects him to the women. The cross reminds us that we all have the human experience of suffering, of shame, of death. No human is exempt. And part of the mystery of the cross is that in authentically responding to our suffering and identifying the same suffering in others, we have an opportunity far greater than cheap pity. This opportunity of compassion, literally suffering with, brings with it redemptive grace, resilience, and resurrection.
– Nicole Hanley