The Stations of the Cross – What are they? What can we learn from the Scriptural Way of the Cross?
The Stations of the Cross, also called the Way of the Cross or the Via Dolorosa, is a series of representations of Jesus carrying the cross, beginning with His sentence to death and ending with His burial in the Garden Tomb. While variations exist, the traditional, Catholic form of the Stations of the Cross includes the following 14 stations:
1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus is given His cross.
3. Jesus falls down for the first time.
4. Jesus meets His mother Mary.
5. Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross.
6. Veronica wipes blood off of Jesus' face.
7. Jesus falls down for the second time.
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls down for the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of His clothing.
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross – the Crucifixion.
12. Jesus dies on the cross.
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross – the Deposition or Lamentation.
14. Jesus' body is placed in the tomb.
In the traditional form of these stations, numbers 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 are not directly mentioned in the New Testament. Others have therefore developed a version called the Scriptural Way of the Cross with the following stations:
1. Jesus on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39-46).
2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested (Luke 22:47-48).
3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71).
4. Peter denies Jesus (Luke 22:54-62).
5. Jesus is judged by Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:13-25).
6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (Luke 22:63-65).
7. Jesus takes up His cross (John 19:17).
8. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry His cross (Luke 23:26).
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31).
10. Jesus is crucified (Luke 23:33-47).
11. Jesus promises His kingdom to the believing thief (Luke 23:43).
12. Jesus on the cross speaks with His mother and disciples (John 19:26-27).
13. Jesus dies on the cross (Luke 23:44-46).
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb (Luke 23:50-54).
The Stations of the Cross were originally developed by pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem and sought to retrace the final steps of Jesus. Church buildings or monasteries began to utilize these "stations" as early as the fifth century in an effort to commemorate these steps at other locations. The goal of the Stations of the Cross is to help focus an individual in prayer and is quite popular among those in the Roman Catholic context.
Some Protestants have rejected the practice of the Stations of the Cross as a Catholic tradition, rejected it due to extra-biblical elements, or reject its focus on icons within the church. While not all will agree with how this tradition is practiced, it is important for all believers to reflect upon the suffering Jesus endured in His final hours leading to the cross. Today, many also reflect upon this time through the Lord's Supper, remembering the death and suffering of Jesus, His broken body and shed blood, on behalf of our sins.
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