Listen to the Audio version of Station 7
the king takes up his cross
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
Only one verse in the Bible mentions Jesus bearing his cross. Yet this image of Jesus dragging the cross is one of the most prevalent artistic renderings of the cross.
Jesus had just been striped naked and scourged by Pilate’s soldiers. The scourging was intense and would have ripped the flesh from his back and cut through to the bone.
As you read this short verse, enter into this single moment and consider what it took for Jesus to bear the weight of the cross upon his body.
Taking up the Cross by Michael O'Donnell
This is the only time in my four passion paintings, where I employed something recognizable. I simply couldn't picture anything other than a solitary Jesus, determining to shoulder the beam and heading towards the spot by the side of the road where He would finish the work. Jesus is depicted bracing Himself to carry the beam, embracing it as He wrestles with its meaning.
The Place of the Skull is another image that I couldn't escape. It is too poetic, haunting, and mournful for me to leave out.
Hills surround Jerusalem, and while Jesus wasn't crucified on one of them, the motif seemed to speak to the lowliness of the King's position at that moment.
The vertical lines were added at the end, and as I reflected on what they mean, I felt as if they were speaking to the reality that Jesus gladly would have surrendered to any stake, a thousand different crosses, for the great Love of the Father for His children. That thought caught me by surprise, and just about broke me open.
What does the artist's statement help you see in the painting that you did not notice at first?
What thoughts or feelings does it stir?
What does this reveal to you about the passion of Jesus?
The burden of Jesus was not only the weight of the Cross. "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross." (1 Peter 2:24).
As you read these words from Pilgrim’s progress, consider the burdens that you carry. Imagine you are Pilgrim. Can you stand before the cross in wonder? What burdens do you need to lose from your shoulders?
"There stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom of the hill was a tomb. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do so until it came to the mouth of the tomb, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. . . Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death. Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him of his Burden."
Now consider the burdens carried by others. Jesus came to break the bonds of wickedness and oppression and he calls us to join this work of liberation.
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).
How are you moved by the burden and suffering of others? What would it look like for you to heed this call and share the burdens of others?
O God, almighty and merciful, you heal the broken-hearted, and turn the sadness of the sorrowful to joy, Let your fatherly goodness be upon all whom you have made. Remember in pity all those who are this day destitute, homeless, elderly, infirm, or forgotten. Bless the multitude of your poor. Lift up those who are cast down. Mightily befriend innocent sufferers, and sanctify to them the endurance of their wrongs. Cheer with hope all who are discouraged and downcast, and by your heavenly grace preserve from falling those whose poverty tempts them to sin.
Though they be troubled on every side, suffer them not to be distressed; though they are perplexed, save them from despair. Grant this, O Lord, for the love of him who for our sakes became poor, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.