I first saw this rendering of Jesus bearing the cross from a distance. I was on a side road outside Princeton, New Jersey. It was about sunset and looking across a field of tall grass I told my friend, “I think I see a cross over there.” Squinting I could only see the shadow of a crossbeam and a figure who seemed to be carrying a cross. Several times I drove down that road and always looked for the cross. Later, back of the Trinity Episcopal Church on Mercer Street in Princeton I stopped and stared. It was the sculptured piece I had seen in that field. Someone had moved the large rendering to the back of that church. A metal Jesus carried a wooden cross and the outstretched arm called all who saw to come and follow. I spent many summers on the Seminary campus there—and I always looked forward to my visit behind that church.
When we come to this Second Station of the Cross—the rigged trial is over. Soldiers dragged him away and beat him and left his naked back in shreds. Crowds followed and spat and yelled out their hatreds. This was the setting for the prisoner Jesus to take the heavy wooden cross- beam and carry it to his place of execution.
What does this second stopping-off place mean? I think it means that here Jesus is one with us and one with all those through the years who have borne pain, suffering and injustice. He was one with the daughters of Jerusalem and all those other daughters who have carried their crosses of abuse, derision, divorce and destitution. He is one with whoever it is that has ever walked their own way of sorrows. Saying goodbye to children or other loved ones with cancer, suicide, drug overdoses, depression or the terrible Alzheimer’s. He is one with us all—this man of sorrows acquainted with grief.
Does he beckon us forward, too? To do something besides sing our hymns and read our creeds and go through the motions. To bear our own crosses—but more—perhaps he calls us to do something about all that pain up and down our streets and over in that run-down neighborhood and in that heartbreak just two doors away. To find some way to study war no more. To give those little children in Iraq or Afghanistan or Africa who have known nothing but fear and loss and hunger all their lives a hope they have never known.
This second station is our station. It goes to the heart of a very troubled world. And he who came and lived and died—stands with us still. How—I do not know. But it is always an unfinished business. And that outstretched arm still bids us to come.