There is an ancient practice known throughout the Christian faith called The Stations of the Cross. It's also referred to as The Way of the Cross, which comes from the Latin phrase, Via Crucis. It began hundreds of years ago when pilgrims journeyed to the Jerusalem landscape and retraced the steps Jesus took during his passion that lead to his death and resurrection. It was meant to be a somber time of reflection, meditation, and consideration all that Jesus went through and how he truly was the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant, as prophesied in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Though it began with many stations, most Christian traditions now consider 14 different stations along the way. It begins in the Mount of Olives and ends with the burial of Jesus.
It is more properly observed during the Lenten season as we consider, not just the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also all that Jesus endured for our sake and because of our sins. These Scriptures are also referred to as the Passion of Christ, and rightly so, as we see so evidently God's passionate love for his children and his passion to bring them back home, away from their sins.
The first station is the account of Luke 22:39-46. It's the staggering unfolding of the disciple's true helpless state and our Savior's intense love. It's the pitiful notion that human beings have fallen and continue to fall - left to their own accord. Yet it is also the unfolding of Jesus' relentless pursuit of the Father's will. It is the realization that the agony Jesus is in, has lead his fully human body to revolt by sweating blood, all while the disciples are snoozing and drooling.
We often sing, "nothing but the blood of Jesus" and when we do, we think back to the cross of Calvary and the blood that poured out of Jesus's body while he hung. Yet we rarely give notion that blood was first drawn not by a cat of nine tails (a Roman torture instrument) as it dug into the flesh of Jesus, nor when the hammer struck the nail that pierced the wrist of Jesus. First blood was drawn because of agony - the agony of being the atonement of sins, the agony of dying the slowest death known to the Roman world, the agony of knowing his best friends would desert him. Dare it to say, what Jesus is about to encounter is the definition of agony.
As the blood dripped from the pores of Jesus body, he fretted not. He sought no medical assistance. He refused to take a break. Our Savior prayed as he was strengthened by an angel. What an amazing Jesus he is, that while he is preparing for death he is still teaching us something. When agony and the gates of hell begin flexing their muscles, we resort to one place - communion with Abba, our Father.
Jesus, being fully human, always knew exactly what to do in the chaos, agony, and sufferings of life - retreat to the Father. Except no substitute. Be content with nothing less. Break every scheduled meeting. All that matters is prayer with the Father. For in prayer it's not that we are convincing God of something, but in prayer our hearts are attuned to who we are and where our power comes from.
We, however, are much like the disciples though. We don't pray - we sleep. When temptation overwhelms us we let it have its way by resorting to the false narratives that people have given us of how to handle stress. According to the Bible - our only hope is prayer, where we gain the assurance that God is God, that God is Good, and that God will reign forever.
Luke is the Associate Pastor of Nashville United Methodist Church in Downtown Nashville.