Monday, February 18, 2013

The Third Station--Jesus Falls

"We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned." 
      --Hebrews 4.15

"We all play hard knowing that we live in a haunted house."
                          --Carlyle Marney

Standing here before the Church’s third station look closely. As two spectators watch and a Roman guard stands by—Jesus falls.

This Station, I think, is a mirror. We’re the spectators aren’t we? Standing by watching as Jesus falls. The Lord Jesus falls! It’s scary, isn’t it? We don’t often think of Jesus exhausted, lying in the dust. Why the Gnostics, then and now, have tried to erase this dark picture. But they are wrong. All his energy and resources really are spent. Jesus falls.

Here he is as human as he will ever be. More than that wilderness day when he was tempted. More, even than that pain-filled moment when he moaned: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” This is the human Jesus. Like the old woman in the TV ad: “I’ve fallen down and can’t get up!”

We know this woman, don’t we? We fallers. All our lives we have had to deal with limitations and frailties and a very basic humanity. On hospital beds or shuffling with vacant, empty eyes down some nursing home hallway. Or sitting across the desk from the man in a white coat who says quietly: “I have the lab results.”

This third station really is a mirror. Like Humpty-Dumpty we all fall down. Sometimes it’s an addiction or a strange virus that winds its way through our bloodstream. Sometimes it’s a broken, fractured relationship. It’s being gay in a very straight church. Or being clumsy in an athletic community. Or just peering into the mirror and knowing the whispers, “God, she’s just homely” really holds some truth.

And so some of us refuse to accept what we see in this mirror of the Third Station. And so we wait in some doctor’s office for botox or plastic surgery or testosterone patches in the hopes that we can slip by this third station once and for all.  Exercising like crazy—trying to forget what really cannot be forgotten: the limits of our lives.

Some of us face this third station with bleak resignation. We are the defeated ones, never Number One—Number One. We are the losers and we just slip into the background, giving up the fight knowing the old poet was right: “There’s nothing but the night.”

But some of us accept the burden of our finitude. We have come to know, like Jesus that we can’t do it all or have it all. Like Adam and Eve there is a wall around our Garden, too. We know that nothing can hold back the lines around our eyes and neck, the exhaustion that overtakes us day after day or having to just make do with a back that hurts and a child you cannot reach Is it possible that we could learn to accept our humanity, hard though it may be

And so this Third station is our mirror, isn’t it? Jesus falls. “He had to become like his brothers in every way...”(Heb. 2.17) But sisters too, I think. And standing here before this third station we cannot ignore that we are human beings holding in our hands our limits, our frailties and the enormous losses of our lives.

But let us remember that the church said this is Via Dolorosa, this Way of the Cross is a long and winding journey. This third station is not the end--for Jesus or for us.  

(The renderings of the Stations are done by the African artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya.  His work is found is museums and galleries all over the world. His limited edition set of 14 linoleum-cut prints of the Stations of the Cross were produced in 1967 for the Saint Paul's Church in Nigeria.)

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