The Paper Pulpit
Every Christian who travels to the Holy Land has the opportunity to walk the route along the streets of the old city in Jerusalem called The Via Dolorosa — Latin for “the way of sorrow.” It is the route traveled by Christ from Pilate’s Judgment Hall to Calvary.
There are 14 stations along the route that have significance. Station one is where Jesus was tried and condemned by Pilate. Station two is where He received the cross and was told to carry it on His back. Station five is where He fell under the heavy weight of the cross, and where Simon from Cyrenia was forced by the Roman centurion to help Him carry it.
Station eight is where some women beside the route were weeping, and Jesus said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). These are significant words, for the following reasons:
They are the rebuke of a realist. There is a teary kind of Christianity which is both questionable and repulsive because it is based upon a sentimentalism that is superficial. It may easily be aroused by playing upon the physical suffering of Jesus. But it knows little of the tears issuing from a deep godly sorrow of the soul that leads to repentance. Little wonder that Jesus, who generally was quick to respond to the faintest show of sympathy, should be so quick to rebuke these weepers along the sidelines of His journey toward Calvary. Jesus had no use for shams. He knew and distrusted the short-lived religion of sheer emotionalism. The Hosanna-shouters of Palm Sunday would turn into hostile condemners or weak weepers on Good Friday.
They are the words of a conqueror. They are the strong words of One who was committed to a cause. In all that mass of humanity escorting Him to Calvary His was the only clear mind, for He knew what He was doing. He had said, “I am come to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). His life was not being taken from Him; He was laying it down of His own accord. He was not a victim of circumstances. On the contrary, He chose to die as He had lived: with an absolutely total commitment to the redemptive mission assigned to Him by our Heavenly Father.All through His life, Jesus was the master of every situation, and He was never caught off guard. While there is a side to the life and death of Jesus that is tragic and blood stained, there is another side which is masterful and triumphant. He met the enemy immediately after His baptism; He met him again in the Garden of Gethsemane; and He met Him while on the cross — but He always triumphed! That is why the earliest creed of the Christian community was “Jesus is Lord!”
They are the words of a servant. Israel was God’s servant, nurtured to bless the nations of the world, and this “peculiar people” often had reason to wonder why they were so favored, for time and again they passed through the fiery furnace of trouble. How grand is that 53rd chapter of Isaiah which sets forth the theology of the Suffering Servant.
At the age of twelve Jesus said to His parents, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). He would later say to His followers that He had not come to be served, but to serve. A strong sense of mission filled the entire earthly life of Jesus. He had been sent into the world to accomplish a task, and He would not stop until He had accomplished it. It is with that same level of commitment that He said, “He who would gain his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will find it” (Luke 17:33).
The cross is the supreme expression of servanthood. Because Christ was obedient unto death, He has been given a name that is above every name, a name before which every knee shall ultimately bow to acknowledge that He is both Lord and King. Let us shed no tears for Jesus, for He is going on and on. The question is: “Will we follow in His train?”
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.