The First Station of the Cross: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

February 12, 2016 Comments Off on The First Station of the Cross: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

Jesus is condemed to death (1)

Artist: Joan Goodman

Jesus is condemned to death.

With this simple statement Jesus begins the journey of the cross, a journey that we are invited to participate in throughout Lent and especially as we observe the Stations of the Cross. The Stations, as they have been passed down through history, expand the narrative that we encounter in the gospel texts. Time is slowed down and we walk the journey incrementally. We move as if in slow motion: Jesus is condemned to death, Jesus carries the cross, Jesus falls the first time… and so on. No matter how many stations we observe, I always get the sense that we are opening up the gospel text accordion-style: there are more stories and senses embedded in a single moment than we could ever expect.

While the stations as a whole draw out the passage of time, I would argue that this first station is doing something completely different. Each of the gospels has a lengthy narrative of how Jesus is condemned to death, involving Pilate and dreams and symbolic handwashing. The text of these narratives is just as long, if not longer, than the text describing Jesus’ crucifixion. The first station doesn’t draw out time; it collapses it. The story of Pilate’s deliberation is summed up with the most important plot point—Jesus is condemned to death.

I wonder how different this first station would be if we were walking in Pilate’s footsteps, instead of Jesus’ footsteps. Pilate’s decisions have a lot to teach us, laid out in incremental form: Jesus is brought before Pilate, Pilate questions Jesus, Pilate is amazed, Pilate appeals to Herod (the story goes on…). We have been Pilate. As the prayer of confession says, we have sinned by things done and left undone. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have let those who are wrongly condemned suffer. We have been bystanders to islamophobia, racism, sexism, and all kinds of xenophobia—perhaps because we believe it is not our battle to fight, or perhaps because we are tired. Like Pilate, we wash our hands clean.

This Lenten season, we don’t walk the stations of Pilate. We walk the Stations of the Cross of Jesus. We don’t walk in the path of who we are, but rather the path of who we want to be.

Like Jesus, let us make the most of the time that is given to us. Each moment is an accordion: we have more opportunities to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God than we can never know. This Lent, take the time to slow down. Our lives are bounded by our contexts, our story, our mortality—but within those boundaries, the possibilities are endless.

– Heidi Thorsen

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