Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa. Spanish for “way of suffering”.

Perhaps others of you have found yourselves in a place of suffering these past months. Either through illness, divorce, financial hardships or just the pain of a relationship gone awry.

I have personally been through a season of rejection and pain so deep I despaired of ever emerging whole. Throughout this time, the Lord has repeatedly brought me to different views of His suffering and His character. The most recent, was a powerful image of Him carrying His cross through the Via Dolorosa, a narrow street that winds through Jerusalem and ends at the hill named Golgotha. He spent every last ounce of His strength on this “Holy Must”. To accomplish the will of His father, on behalf of the very ones who were now rejecting and deriding Him as He made His way to Calvary. I cannot express how this picture of the lamb going to slaughter, not opening His mouth against those who persecuted and murdered Him, affects me.

To say that I can comprehend His sacrifice would be heresy. But as I have laid down my life for another, and received grief in exchange, I have begun to appreciate the cross in a new way. I think of Peter, who being prepared for crucifixion, declared, “I’m not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as my Lord” so they hung him upside down. I’m speechless. I would be saying, “I don’t want to be worthy to be crucified in any manner at all!” I despise the pain and the shame. I shrink back at loving others to my own hurt. I find it nearly impossible to keep my mouth shut and allow Him to be my defense, knowing that my reward is AFTER the cross. And that it’s actually going to be what the other person receives, and not myself.

I’m attempting, and rather poorly, to compare the Via Dolorosa to the work of the cross in our relationships with others. I think we glamorize sacrifice in our minds and when it comes to choosing to love others, in word and deed, if it requires that we let go of self-justification and embrace a death to our flesh, we balk. And whatever glory may have been brought forth in that circumstance is aborted.

To me, this is really about the work of unity He is doing in the church. It will not be complete unless we learn to lay down our lives for one another. How do we do this you ask? Perhaps it would be better to ask someone else. It is by His grace alone that I am squeezed through this narrow way of suffering to come out the other side in each situation proclaiming, “not my way, but Yours Lord”. For my flesh cries out in anguish. And as my unhealed wounds are exposed, I want to run and hide. But there is nowhere to run. The way is too narrow and my enemies surround me. I have a ‘Holy Must’ to make it to that hill and to at last lay my burdens down, declaring them finished. Burdens of pride, arrogance, self-seeking, self-defense, self-glorying, fear and distrust.

For the joy set before us, let us run the race with diligence, counting Him as faithful who made the promise. Three days in the tomb and then we shall be raised up with Him. Transformed into His image. No longer hindered by the temporal things of earth, but radiant with the Light that at last overcomes the darkness.

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