|“Station III”, painting by Chris Gollon
Commissioned in 2000 by
St. John on Bethnal Green, London
Scripture Passage: Matthew 7:25
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.
The third station of this Way of the Cross is the image of Jesus falling under the weight of the cross. It is one of the non-Canonical stations and yet we know that the sheer exhaustion alone would be enough to make this a reality for any human. That’s right. Lest we forget, Jesus was human. God did not come to earth to live as a figure resembling one of our super heroes, above the fray, untouchable, undaunted by the difficulties of human life. No, God came as one of us, struggling and vulnerable. And as Jesus falls, we feel that vulnerability. It is uncomfortable for us. After all, if this one on whom we rely, in whom we place all of our hopes and our dreams, is vulnerable, what does that say about out own lives?
Maybe the crux of this Walk is that we ARE supposed to be vulnerable. Living a life of faith does not place some sort of impermeable bubble around us. Regardless of what many will tell you, walking this walk does not guarantee that you will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. If anything, it points to our vulnerability in the most profound way. As humans, we will at times experience sadness, despair, and the deepest grief imagineable. We experience those not because we are weak but because we are real. And Jesus experienced the same thing because he, too, was real. And, when you think about it, what kind of God is it who will plunge the Divine Self into the deepest of despair and the vulnerability? It is the kind of God that does more than pull us out of it but rather lays at the bottom of it all and cradles us until it subsides. But we will only experience that when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, when we allow ourselves to be real, when we finally allow ourselves to need others, to let them in to our darkness.
This depiction of Jesus falling under the weight of the Cross affirms that vulnerability is part of us. It also compels us toward the vulnerable, the hurting, the outcast, for it is there that we will find in ourselves empathy and compassion, and, finally, a Love greater than we thought we could have. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we will be able to see the same in others. We are not called to become a Super Hero; we are called to cross boundaries and be Christ for others when they need it the most and, perhaps with even greater faith than that, we are called to let others into our grief and pain. We are the ones who both lift the fallen and allow ourselves to be lifted. Sometimes we will fall. Sometimes life will hurt. But we are never there alone. But it takes great faith to know that.
Jesus will fall two more times on this Walk. Life goes on.
Grace and Peace,