The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

March 2, 2017 Comments Off on The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death


Jesus is condemed to death (1)

Artist: Joan Goodman

Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”


-Matthew 27: 22-24

Condemnation is a choice, an action. Yet Pilate washed his hands of his political action. Pilate had the power of his Roman position, prophecy from his wife having been warned in a dream of Jesus’ innocence, and truth in knowing the motives of the chief priests who brought Jesus to trial. However, Pilate chose political expediency over truth. Furthermore, he relieved himself of the consequences in condemning an innocent person by shifting blame to those over whom he had power.  We do not need to look far to see political parallels in our own time.

In this Lent, what will we choose? We might look to Jesus as an example of how we choose to radically love.  Jesus rejected the violence of the Roman state by becoming love in action event to the point of death.  How might we imitate that radical love this Lent?  Perhaps when it seems as though injustice, oppression, and death are winning, we might choose to speak truth to power, courage over comfort, love rather than fear so that, as Lutheran pastor Tuhina Verma Rasche writes, “in this true abiding with God, death can go to hell.” We shall overcome.

– Nicole Hanley

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

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

February 19, 2015 § 1 Comment

Then thStation 1 (2)e assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate.  They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”  Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He answered, “You say so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”  But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” Luke 23:1-5

Part of the difficulty of this Station is that I already know the answer on the other side of Lent. Personally I can breeze through this narrative, assigning the characters into either the “good guys” or “bad guys” camps. The actions of Pilate and the crowd seem to easily be in the wrong camp, while Jesus’s innocence shines through to be in the right camp. As I view Simon’s depiction of the First Station – Jesus is Condemned to Death, my breezy interpretation is interrupted and I am seeing important nuances, just as Simon has layered light upon light while blurring the shadows so that we have an image of condemnation where we can feel that dead, blurred silence under the light of judgment.

As I look anew on the characters in the Luke’s narrative, I am reminded of the Bob Dylan song, “With God on Our Side”. The lyrics are here and video is below:

The song suggests that everyone seems to think that God is on our side, the right side, of course, and that whoever we are fighting clearly does not have God on their side. The song further suggests that this belief of God on our side justifies whatever violence we do to that other side:

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side

I’ve learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side

In having heard this Scripture passage so many times, I did not stop to fully consider the justifying motivations of these other players. Perhaps Pilate may have thought that while sacrificing one person’s innocence was not desirable, it was a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of keeping order. Perhaps the chief priests and people were just too afraid that Jesus was just too much of a trouble maker who would bring greater harm to their already suffering group under Roman rule. Did they think too that God was on their side, or, of not God, than some kind of righteousness?

Underneath this narrative, I am seeing fear and cynicism at work. Pilate worries about condemning a man he sees as innocent but fears the crowd more. The chief priests and the crowd fear that Jesus is stirring up trouble for them, encouraging law breaking (not paying taxes and saying he is the king) and being blasphemous (saying he is the Messiah). And while I can easily see that this is  fear based and cynical, I can also easily see where I may be tempted to give into these fears, too. Indeed, this Station reminds me to ask, “Who am I condemning out of my fear while justifying it as ‘right’, as maybe having God on my side?”

Please pray with me:

Gracious God, in this Lenten season may we have the courage to be vulnerable enough to let go of our fears of never enough and reach out in solidarity both toward those whom we exclude and also toward our authentic selves whom we can alienate, so that we may richly build each other up for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.

– Nicole Hanley

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

March 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death by PilateYesterday, I went to church in the afternoon. I usually love Ash
Wednesday–thinking about life and death and preparing for this holy
season–I like the order and ritual of it all. I like nodding to people on the street who are also wearing ashes. But this year, I found myself lost in the privilege of Ash Wednesday. How many are
unable to take the time to go to church in the middle of the week? How many are ill? For whom is the reminder of death all too present, too imminent? Last week, my grandmother died. Yesterday, I held the prayer book she gave me for my 11th birthday in my hands and read psalm 51. The priest had just looked into my eyes and firmly, sternly reminded me, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It made me sadder than I had expected–it ushered me into a mourning I had not anticipated.

Today, we begin our journey through the stations of the cross.
Throughout the season of Lent, this blog will offer meditations on
this series of moments at the very end of Jesus’ life as depicted in
parishioner James Middleton’s paintings. So today, I face the outset
of this journey with ashes on my forehead, with mortality at the front
of my mind, with loss present and visceral. The stations of the cross
begin with, “Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate.”

It’s a plot point with which we churchgoers are familiar; we recite it
in the Nicene Creed each week. Still, I couldn’t figure out what I was
looking at in the image–faceless bodies holding spears and a seated
body washing his hands in a stream of water–until I turned to
scripture: “when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that
a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before
the crowd.” (Matthew 27:24) The deaths we begin with are complicated;
the mortality we remember at the beginning of this season of Lent is
not simple. Even a ritual as small and seemingly innocuous as washing
hands–what our priests do before every Eucharist–is called into
question as we start Lent.

It is a reminder that we are all called to death, and we are all
called to life. The two go hand in hand, just as the water that washes
us pours through our fingers. And in this liturgical season, the
miracle is that life comes after death. This is why we celebrate Holy
Communion after our imposition of ashes; this is why we can forge
through these 40 days with the promise of Easter on the horizon. As we
begin our journey through Jesus’ stations, may we marvel at the
incomprehensible promise of life which will come out of death.

– Julia Stroud

The First Station: It’s Called The Way of The Cross For a Reason

March 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

The station for my reflection is the first in The Way of The Cross: Jesus is condemned to death. Jesus actually gives us instructions on condemning our old selves to death in the Gospel of Matthew:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘…those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

There’s actually a nasty little bit right after a similar passage in Luke which says, “… those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels”. Following Jesus is not for the faint-of-heart and it’s not a some-time thing. The Way of The Cross is a daily exercise. Jesus isn’t kidding around about this stuff. He wants us to live out loud and He wants us to give the work of following God everything we have, even death to our own self.

If you’re new to the Episcopal Church you’ll find that we LOVE to talk about our Baptismal Covenant because it frames our common life together in service to God’s mission for our individual lives. That’s a pretty powerful thing we’re promising. The vows and blessings in that Covenant call us to live a life supporting and sustaining one another, not only socially but spiritually, not only within the walls of our sanctuary but the sanctuary which is God’s entire creation “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ“, and it calls us to the service of GOD’S mission for our lives … not our own desires for our lives, but the perfection our lives can attain through the recognition of God’s perfect will for us, if only we will ask, if only we will lay down our lives, if only we will listen, if only we will hear and obey.

There is such an enormous difference between believing in God and living for God; between finding lovely passages in the Bible to please our ear and having its precepts mold our lives; between identifying as a Christian and living actively as a follower of Christ. There is also a difference between going to church every Sunday like we’re going to a concert in a beautiful environment with a lovely soundtrack and pretty vestments versus the work of going to church every Sunday when maybe we’re too exhausted or maybe we’re angry at another congregant or maybe we’re in an dry season in our practice of public worship but we suck it up because we realise the importance of coming together to empty ourselves of “coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship [God] in spirit and in truth“. God calls us to experience a Transfiguration “by the mercies of God, to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship … transformed by the renewing of [our] minds, so that [we] may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect“.

There’s an interesting arc in the “reality” show Bethenny Ever After (stop judging me) where Bethenny is overwhelmed with her new station in life.  We met her many years ago on two other reality shows (I don’t get out much) as a single lady with estranged parents and few friends, an entrepreneur who was living the Big City Life and working the dating scene and surviving. Now she has the package of a new husband and a new a baby at once. Her husband is an only child, having lost his brother years ago, and his parents are very present, very dear, very involved, very first-time grandparents and this guy also has a slew of bestest friends he grew up with who are all still actively involved in one another’s lives. Oh, bombshell? Those people all live three hours away in the suburbs. Bethenny is being forced to absorb all these people and all their needs and all their schedules in her new existence as wife and mother and now daughter. To me, it speaks of one of the reasons I believe many of the friends I’ve had in my life don’t want to be partnered and don’t want to get married: they don’t mind the company of a relationship and may even want a long-term coupling but they certainly don’t want the reality of being burdened with all the inconveniences of combing two lives in to one existence. In my experience and the experience of many of my married friends, we didn’t marry just one person, we both joined to form one entity which comprises an intricate web of friends and family members and all their baggage and all our baggage and the responsibility of juggling it all, especially at those times when we don’t want to. Many people don’t find the rich blessings I do in that sort of accountability.

Perhaps, too, many people see a relationship with God like that: “God, really great job, I’m a big fan, love your work, but I don’t want all that family stuff you’ve got clinging to you.” Our Baptismal Covenant charges us to be actively involved in one another’s lives and to look after one another as we promise to live lives of worship, forgiveness, proclamation, service, and justice-making. I know a lot of people in my life, myself included for a time, who only want to go to a huge church where they can get lost in the crowd or be a church hopper so they can remain somewhat anonymous or sneak in and out of regular services like they’re stealing something (which they actually may very well be doing). I think it’s because people don’t want to get involved … it’s just too expensive. Getting involved would encroach upon their privacy, their personal time, in essence, their selfishness. Belonging to a Church is also very hard work … it’s actually a Lifestyle. Howard Gally reminds us how much work it is when he says that the Church, referring to the Christian community, is <not an assembly of likeminded persons. There are members who quarrel (Phil. 4:2), who promote factions (1 Cor. 11:18-22), and who hold different opinions (Rom. 14:2-6). It is, moreover, a body that does not exist for its own sake, but is a people called by God to “make disciples of all nations” ( Matt. 28:19), and to live in love and unity so “that the world may believe” (John 17:21)>.

Let’s take this Lent to shake off a very subtle disease, the one which The Church of Ephesus was accused of in The Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ: that of losing its First Love. Let’s condemn our selfishness to death and rejuvenate our spirits with the innocent, fresh and giddy love we once had for the joy of being loved by God, the beauty of all God’s creation and the love we feel for God in return and combine it with the excitement of belonging to such a rich community of God-loving people and a willingness to serve them. I know it will, in turn, replenish us to be sent out into the world in witness to God’s love.

– dasch

(Image: St. Luke in the Fields, mudpig via creative commons)

The First Station: Who are we condemning?

February 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

This first step on Jesus’ journey to the cross might be the most disturbing: we’re forced to confront the finality of Jesus’ condemnation and consider our role in this scene. While Pilate’s name is forever associated condemning Jesus to death, the mocking crowd is right there too. “Crucify him, crucify him” (John 19:6) they scream.

Who is our crowd condemning today? Who have we given up on and handed over? Are we raising our voices with the rest of the group? Pray for illegal immigrants, those who have lost their jobs, people who can’t read, children forced to labor in factories.

It is easy for the Stations of the Cross to become rote. These familiar stories can become almost transparent. It would be easy to look right through Lent to Easter. As we begin this walk of the stations again, pray that each of us finds something new.

– Chris Phillips

Image: Sacro Monte di Varallo, Valsesia, Italy via Renzodionigi

The First Station: Jesus is condemned by Pilate

February 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate.  They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”  Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He answered, “You say so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”  But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” Luke 23:1-5

We are eternally grateful to you, Brother Jesus, for your rabble-rousing.  You laid the foundations for us to build upon in working together for a better world.  You teach us daily, if we will only listen, to be all-embracing as we strive towards the liberation of God’s beloved people.  You show us ways both large and small to do this, and you give us courage to carry out difficult tasks.

We thank you, Lord of Peace and Justice, for teaching us to challenge the authority and control of those who wield harsh and sometimes brutal power.  We shed a tear as we meditate here upon your condemnation by those in authority.  But then your quiet and always loving power sends us forth to oppose the injustice and oppression we see around us.

Where would we be, Compassionate Friend, without the standards you set for us in caring for the least, the last, and the lost?  You have invited us to follow in your footsteps as we struggle to make changes in our political, economic, and social systems in the interest of all our sisters and brothers.  You are our model for standing tall, looking our persecutors in the eye, and laboring on towards the common goal.

Continue to reveal yourself to us, Our Messiah and King, as we seek to change the hearts of oppressors everywhere. Fill us with justice and mercy, forgive us when we falter, and guide us forward to the peace of your perfect kingdom.  Amen.

Roxane Gwyn

Image: Brandon Hudson

The First Station: Jesus is condemned by Pilate

February 18, 2010 Comments Off on The First Station: Jesus is condemned by Pilate

James Middleton painted the Stations of the Cross for the Church of St. Luke in the Fields. Learn more about this series in his artist’s statement.

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