This Way of the Cross is a modern adaptation of an old Christian tradition dating back to the fifth century. The fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross mark the passages from the moment Jesus was condemned to death until his burial in the tomb. The Way of the Cross was originally developed and used by Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, and it came to be identified with the Lenten season to prepare the people of God for the season of repentance that Lent represents — although it can be used at other times of devotion.
The “Way of the Cross” as a devotion slowly lost its place as a form of prayer in protestant traditions. This resource is an adaptation of one developed by Bethel United Methodist Church in Pulaski, Tenn. The congregation developed the resource to help re-establish this rich experience of Christian prayer and participation in the moments of Christ’s passion. This devotion is intended for individual use but may also be used in a small group or service with multiple readers participating. The artwork selected to accompany each station was chosen to help express the bleakness and suffering of Jesus and to provide exposure to varying forms of artistic expression of the scriptural account.
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First Station: “Jesus Prays Alone” — Luke 22:39-44
Consider, if you will, how you would feel if you were faced with the absolute knowledge that all you ever loved was about to be denied to you. Jesus prayed in the garden alone, knowing that his death was about to take place and knowing that his beloved disciples would abandon him in his most dire need.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my forgetfulness and the times I take you for granted. Help me to be mindful that in my sinfulness I have offended you and grievously hurt you. Have mercy and forgive my shortcomings.
Image: The Agony in the Garden – El Greco
Second Station: “Jesus Is Arrested” — Matthew 26:47-56
Think about how Jesus must have felt, having had compassion on so many and having healed so many of their infirmities, only to be met with angry, cursing people who intended to repay his goodness with harm. A betrayal from a trusted friend became an additional torment.
Lord Jesus, so many times have I abandoned your teachings in favor of expediency. I have left behind all that you taught so many times and have neglected my duty to love others as you have loved me. Forgive me and bless me with your strength.
Image: The Taking of Christ – Caravaggio
Third Station: “The Sanhedrin Tries Jesus — Mark 14:61-64
Think of how Jesus must have felt being tried by the very spiritual leaders with whom God the Father entrusted his Holy Word. We might at least have called them hypocrites, but Jesus never said a word in his own defense. Instead of an angry outcry, his loving heart forgave them for their deceit and lack of love.
Lord Jesus, sometimes I find myself confronted by unjust accusations from people I considered to be my friends. The pain I felt was so terrible at this betrayal; yet in your case, you forgave them before they did you harm and attempted to defame you. Teach me how to be humble and forgiving, but most of all how to love so completely.
Image: The Judgement of the Sanhedrin – He is Guilty! – Nikolai Ge
Fourth Station: “Pilate Tries Jesus” — John 18:33-37
Consider how Jesus must have felt being abandoned by his own people and turned over to heathen unbelievers for judgement. Jesus was not guilty of anything, yet he was being tried by one who knew nothing of the Scriptures or of the Heavenly Father. Think of what it must have felt like to be accused by liars and deceivers before someone so unjust and so unforgiving as the Roman governor from a foreign land.
Lord Jesus, sometimes when I feel I have been let down by those I care about the most, I want to abandon them and go my own way. I have no right to be this way nor to feel as I do. Teach me always to be just and compassionate if ever I am in a position when I must make a decision concerning someone else.
Image: Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) – Antonio Ciseri
Fifth Station: “Pilate Sentences Jesus” — Mark 15:6-15
Consider how Jesus, after being scourged and crowned with thorns, was unjustly condemned by Pilate to die on the cross.
Lord Jesus, it was my sins that condemned you to the cross; and I ask you by the merits of this sorrowful journey to assist my soul in its journey toward eternity. Never permit me to separate myself from you again, and help me to grow in my love of God the Father and appreciate your sacrifice for me.
Image: Bas-relief artwork at Sisters of Charity of Nazareth cemetery, Kentucky
Sixth Station: “Jesus Wears a Crown” — John 19:5
Consider the pain of having sharp, hardened thorns shoved violently onto your head. Consider the blood flowing freely down your face and burning your eyes, blurring your vision so you cannot even see your tormentors. Remember Jesus’ last commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Lord Jesus, open my eyes when I am troubled so I don’t lose sight of the suffering of others. I have never thought about how it must have felt to be tortured as you were: beaten, scourged, and forced to wear a crown of thorns that ripped into your scalp. I could never bear the pain as you did without a cry of pain, let alone forgive my tormentors and continue to love them. Help me, Lord, to learn your perfect love so that I may be one with you in all that I do.
Image: BBC Creative via Unsplash.com
Seventh Station: “Jesus Carries His Cross” — John 19:17-18
Consider how Jesus, in making the journey with the cross on his shoulders, thought of us and offered for us to God the death he was about to undergo.
Lord Jesus, I accept all the tribulations I will have to endure for the rest of my life. I ask you, by the merits of the pain that you endured, to grant me strength to endure and carry my cross through life with patience and resignation. I repent of my sins and ask that you help me keep from separating myself from you ever again.
Image: Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness series – Mary Button
Eighth Station: “Simon Carries the Cross” — Luke 23:26
Consider how the religious leaders and fickle crowd, after seeing Jesus weaken with each step and fearing that he would die before he was crucified, recruited Simon of Cyrene to help carry the cross behind our Lord.
Lord Jesus, I accept the cross I have to bear. You died out of love for me. Grant me strength to live for you; and if I die, let me die for love of you. Help me with your grace that I may be aware of your will for me always.
Image: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus – Bruce Onobrakpeya
Ninth Station: “Jesus Speaks to the Women” — Luke 23:27-31
Consider how those women wept with compassion at seeing Jesus in such a pitiful state, streaming with blood, weakened and scorned by onlookers as he walked along. Consider Jesus words, “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Lord Jesus, I weep for the sorrows I have caused in my life and for the offenses I have committed against God. You have loved me so much; and it is that love that causes me to have such great sorrow for my sins. Forgive me, Lord, and strengthen my resolve that I may never offend you again.
Image: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem stained glass at Church of the Annunciation, Clonard, Wexford (photo: Patrick Comerford)
Tenth Station: “Jesus Is Crucified” — Luke 23:33-34
Consider how Jesus felt being thrown down upon the cross, ripping open the wounds of the scourgers whips. Consider how he extended his hands, allowing those terrible nails to be driven blow by blow into his outstretched hands. Consider those awful nails being driven into those feet, those feet that walked so far and tirelessly, bringing the good news of salvation to a hurting and hungering world. Jesus offered to God the sacrifice of his life for our salvation. His captors fastened him with nails to the cross, raised the cross, and left him to die in anguish and great suffering.
(No prayer, at this time, just silent individual meditation.)
Image: What Our Lord Saw from the Cross – James Tissot
Eleventh Station: “Criminals Speak to Jesus” — Luke 23:39-43
Consider the pain and anguish that Jesus must have felt being hung between two criminals and being ridiculed by the very people he loved so much and to whom he had so many times extended compassion and healing. Consider the courage he had to forget his pain and minister to the criminal who asked for forgiveness, promising the man that he would be in paradise that day.
Lord Jesus, so many times I have been so selfish in my pain that I forgot how others too feel pain. Sometimes I have forgotten to help out when I could have, and I violated your final commandment that we love one another.
Image: Ulvike Franz via KidsTalkAboutGod.org
Twelfth Station: “Jesus Speaks to Mary and John” — John 19:25b-27
Consider the pain in a mothers heart as she beheld her son nailed to a cross amid a crowd of jeering spectators. Consider her pain in seeing those cruel wounds from the scourges whip, the crown of thorns embedded into the brow, the terrible nails holding the hands and feet that she had bathed as a baby. Consider the guilt of the beloved apostle, who once ran away in fear, standing at the foot of the cross and looking up at his dying friend and Lord. Get a sense of the enormity of Jesus love as he forgives John by granting him the privilege of caring for his mother. Consider forgiveness given in the midst of great pain and anguish.
My Lord Jesus, by the sorrow you experienced in this great meeting, grant me the grace of a devoted love of your mother and your beloved apostles. Let their example of devotion become my own; let their goodness in life become real in me. Forgive me when I turn away from you, and grant me strength to return to you humbly.
Image: The Crucifiction – Kelly Latimore
Thirteenth Station: “Jesus Dies on the Cross” — John 19:28-34
Consider how Jesus — after three hours of agonizing pain on the cross — consumed at length with his anguish, abandoned himself to the weight of
his body, bowed his head in submission and died.
My dying, Lord Jesus, I embrace devoutly as I behold the cross you died on for me. My sins have merited for me a miserable death; but by your death, I have hope. Let me die embracing your feet and burning with a love for you.
Image: Christ of St. John of the Cross – Salvador Dali
Fourteenth Station: “Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb” — John 19:38-42
Consider how the disciples of Jesus carried the body of Jesus to bury it. Consider the grieving mother, who arranged the body in the sepulcher with her own hands. As they closed the tomb and withdrew, they carried a burden of pain deep within their hearts.
Lord Jesus, you rose again on the third day. I ask you by your Resurrection to make me rise gloriously with you at my last day. Let me be always united with you in heaven to praise you, love you, and glorify you forever.
Image: Fusilamiento – Oswaldo Guayasamín
Copyright © 2002 Bethel United Methodist Church, Pulaski, Tennessee. Used with permission
Originally posted at Discipleship Ministries. Congregations and other church bodies are welcome to copy and use this service of prayer for a one-time worship or educational purpose as long as they credit Bethel United Methodist Church, Pulaski, Tennessee, using this credit line:
Copyright © 2002 Bethel United Methodist Church, Pulaski, Tennessee. Used with permission.