What is the Via Dolorosa?

The Via Dolorosa literally translates to the "Sorrowful Way" or the "Way of Suffering" and is the processional route traditionally believed to be the path Jesus walked from His trial to His crucifixion in Jerusalem. The route is 2,000 feet long, beginning at Antonia Fortress heading west and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There are fourteen stops along the route called the "Stations of the Cross," the last five of which are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Each "station" represents an event traditionally believed to have occurred on Jesus' way to the cross. However, most of these events are not recorded in the Bible, but rather stem from Roman Catholic tradition. Furthermore, there is archeological evidence that Jesus' trial was probably held in Herod's Palace, which is west of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, rather than at Antonia Fortress to the east. So the Via Dolorosa is likely not the route Jesus actually walked on His way to the cross.

However, many Christian pilgrims find great benefit in taking the time to physically walk the streets of Jerusalem while contemplating the suffering of our Lord as He took on the sin of the world (John 1:29). His trial and crucifixion are detailed in each Gospel account. Jesus was so distressed that He sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). He listened to people falsely accuse Him before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:56). He was spit on, beaten, and mocked by the Jewish Council (Matthew 26:67–68). He was whipped by the Roman court and had a crown of thorns driven onto His head (John 19:1–2). Additionally, His close disciple, Peter, publically denied Him three times (Luke 22:54–62). Each of these acts of suffering Jesus endured before ultimately subjecting Himself to the agonies of His actual crucifixion.

The reason these sufferings are important is because they are the suffering we deserve, but Jesus bore them on our behalf. Isaiah 53:5 explains, "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." Through His suffering and death, we can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18–21). Hebrews 10:10 says, "And by [God's] will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Taking time to meditate on these great truths, whether by walking the streets of Jerusalem or by reading Scripture inside your own home, can bring a new awareness of our dependence on Jesus' work on the cross and a sense of gratitude for God's provision.

Related Truth:

What is the story of the Garden of Gethsemane the night Jesus was arrested?

What legal trials of Jesus led to His crucifixion?

What is the significance of the crown of thorns?

Why did Jesus pray 'Father, forgive them' from the cross?

Is the death of Jesus Christ or His resurrection more important?

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