Monday, April 14, 2014

Station Twelve: Jesus Dies on the Cross

photo by Contemplative Imaging/ flickr
"Christ nailed up might be more
than a symbol of all pain.
He might in very truth
contain all pain.
 And a man standing
on a hilltop
with his arms outstretched,
a symbol of a symbol,
he too might be a reservoir
of all the pain that ever was." 

--  John Steinbeck

As we come to the Twelfth Station we ponder the mystery--Jesus, God's son, died on the  cross. Nothing captures this Station more than a story that comes out of France. It was a Good Friday afternoon, three students stood and watched the crowds go in and out of the great Cathedral. A French Bishop swears the story was true.

One student said: "How can people be so superstitious to believe Christ died for our sins?" As they talked one of the young people grew bolder. "Are you afraid to go in and tell the priest what you just said? I dare you." The student nodded and all three went into the Church and found the priest.

"I have come," he said, "to tell you that Christianity is dead. I think all religion is just superstition." The priest looked at the young man ans asked: "Why did you come to tell me this--especially Good Friday of all days?"

The student said, "My two friends here dared me to do this. The priest looked into the faces of the other two. "All right," he said, "you took a dare from them; now take one from me. Go out into the cathedral. At the altar there is a large wooden cross with the figure of Christ with his hands outstretched. I want you to walk down the aisle, look up at the cross and say: "Jesus Christ died for me and I don't give a damn."

The young man dropped his eyes and did not want to do this. But to save face with his friends, he slowly went down the aisle to the altar. In a few minutes he came back. "Well, I did it."

The priest said, "Do it once more after all it means nothing to you."

The young man reluctantly went back to the cross. It was hard for him to speak as he looked up at the outstretched Jesus.. He finally said quietly: "Jesus Christ died for me and I don't give...a..." This time the student did not go back to the priest. He started for the door. But the priest stopped him."OK, just do it once more--and you can go." The two friends and the priest watched him. People kept coming and going but no one noticed the young man who walked back up the aisle. He stood at the altar for a long time looking up at Jesus on the cross. Suddenly he did the strangest thing. He dropped to his knees, bowed his head, and clenched his hands in prayer.

When people heard the Bishop tell the story, some said: "That sounds like a preacher story to me." But the Bishop always ended the story like this: "I know this story is true because I was that young man." *

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full at his wonderful face , 
And things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace."

*I am indebted to John Alexander McElroy who tells this story in Living With the Seven Last Words (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1961) pp. 18-19

                         --Roger Lovette /

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