The (Bethel) Way of the Cross: A Lenten Devotion for Good Friday
This Way of the Cross is a modern adaptation of an old Christian tradition dating back to the fifth century. The fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross mark the passages from the moment Jesus was condemned to death until his burial in the tomb. The Way of the Cross was originally developed and used by Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, and it came to be identified with the Lenten season to prepare the people of God for the season of repentance that Lent represents — although it can be used at other times of devotion.
Protestant churches objected to this devotional form because some of the traditional stations include some "stations" that are not grounded in Sscripture. Those used here all have a biblical basis. In any case, the "Way of the Cross" as a devotion went out of style for many, and it slowly lost its place as a form of prayer for the people. This resource seeks to make accessible again a rich experience of Christian prayer and participation in the moments of Christs passion.
This form of the Stations or Way of the Cross was developed by a small-membership church in Pulaski, Tennessee, that made an effort to re-establish the tradition for its use. Bethel United Methodist Church found the Way of the Cross to be a means whereby the people of God could reflect on the meaning that our Lords sacrifice has in our daily lives. It is a means of grace and rededication of ourselves to Christ.
Using This Act of Prayer
This is a devotion for a group of Christians to use, although one person could use it. Two people serve as leaders, while the congregation meditates, on each "Station of the Way of the Cross." Starting with the first station, the first leader announces the station and the description. The second leader announces the reading and proceeds to that reading. The first leader then reflects on the reading and leads the congregation in prayer. It is best when the congregation hears the prayer being said because this furthers the reflection process. At the tenth station, no prayer is offered — only a few minutes for silent meditation before proceeding. At the end of the fourteenth station, the leader simply says, "Amen"; and the congregation departs in silence.
This devotional act has been designed to help the people of God — through Scripture, prayer, and reflection — relive the experience of suffering and sacrifice that our Lord went through on Good Friday some 2000 years ago. The Way of the Cross also helps to bring back the meaning of Holy Week and make it truly a significant period for all Christians.
For those who would like to find pictures and artwork to go with the stations, search Google for "Stations of the Cross."
"An Interesting Good Friday" tells of encounters in the community when a congregation walked the Stations of the Cross in its inner-city neighborhood.
The list of Scriptures for "The Way of The Cross" can be found in The United Methodist Book of Worship, number 366. Alternative services and devotions in the Book of Worship include "The Seven Last Words" (365), "A Service for Good Friday" (362), and "A Service of Tenebrae" (354).
The Bethel Way of the Cross
The congregation gathers in silence at the announced time. Music may be used, but the intent of this service is to be simple and to express the sense of bleakness and suffering of our Lord.
First Station: "Jesus Prays Alone" — Luke 22:39-44
Consider, if you will, how you would feel if you were faced with the absolute knowledge that all you ever loved was about to be denied to you. Jesus prayed in the garden alone, knowing that his death was about to take place and knowing that his beloved disciples would abandon him in his most dire need.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my forgetfulness and the times I take you for granted. Help me to be mindful that in my sinfulness I have offended you and grievously hurt you. Have mercy and forgive my shortcomings.
Second Station: "Jesus Is Arrested" — Matthew 26:47-56
Think about how Jesus must have felt, having had compassion on so many and having healed so many of their infirmities, only to be met with angry, cursing people who intended to repay his goodness with harm. A betrayal from a trusted friend became an additional torment.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, so many times have I abandoned your teachings in favor of expediency. I have left behind all that you taught so many times and have neglected my duty to love others as you have loved me. Forgive me and bless me with your strength.
Third Station: "The Sanhedrin Tries Jesus — Mark 14:61-64
Think of how Jesus must have felt being tried by the very spiritual leaders with whom God the Father entrusted his Holy Word. We might at least have called them hypocrites, but Jesus never said a word in his own defense. Instead of an angry outcry, his loving heart forgave them for their deceit and lack of love.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, sometimes I find myself confronted by unjust accusations from people I considered to be my friends. The pain I felt was so terrible at this betrayal; yet in your case, you forgave them before they did you harm and attempted to defame you. Teach me how to be humble and forgiving, but most of all how to love so completely.
Fourth Station: "Pilate Tries Jesus" — John 18:33-37
Consider how Jesus must have felt being abandoned by his own people and turned over to heathen unbelievers for judgement. Jesus was not guilty of anything, yet he was being tried by one who knew nothing of the Scriptures or of the Heavenly Father. Think of what it must have felt like to be accused by liars and deceivers before someone so unjust and so unforgiving as the Roman governor from a foreign land.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, sometimes when I feel I have been let down by those I care about the most, I want to abandon them and go my own way. I have no right to be this way nor to feel as I do. Teach me always to be just and compassionate if ever I am in a position when I must make a decision concerning someone else.
Fifth Station: "Pilate Sentences Jesus" — Mark 15:6-15
Consider how Jesus, after being scourged and crowned with thorns, was unjustly condemned by Pilate to die on the cross.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, it was my sins that condemned you to the cross; and I ask you by the merits of this sorrowful journey to assist my soul in its journey toward eternity. Never permit me to separate myself from you again, and help me to grow in my love of God the Father and appreciate your sacrifice for me.
Sixth Station: "Jesus Wears a Crown" — John 19:5
Consider the pain of having sharp, hardened thorns shoved violently onto your head. Consider the blood flowing freely down your face and burning your eyes, blurring your vision so you cannot even see your tormentors. Remember Jesus' last commandment, "Love one another as I have loved you."
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, open my eyes when I am troubled so I dont lose sight of the suffering of others. I have never thought about how it must have felt to be tortured as you were: beaten, scourged, and forced to wear a crown of thorns that ripped into your scalp. I could never bear the pain as you did without a cry of pain, let alone forgive my tormentors and continue to love them. Help me, Lord, to learn your perfect love so that I may be one with you in all that I do.
Seventh Station: "Jesus Carries His Cross" — John 19:17-18
Consider how Jesus, in making the journey with the cross on his shoulders, thought of us and offered for us to God the death he was about to undergo.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, I accept all the tribulations I will have to endure for the rest of my life. I ask you, by the merits of the pain that you endured, to grant me strength to endure and carry my cross through life with patience and resignation. I repent of my sins and ask that you help me keep from separating myself from you ever again.
Eighth Station: "Simon Carries the Cross" — Luke 23:26
Consider how the religious leaders and fickle crowd, after seeing Jesus weaken with each step and fearing that he would die before he was crucified, recruited Simon of Cyrene to help carry the cross behind our Lord.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, I accept the cross I have to bear. You died out of love for me. Grant me strength to live for you; and if I die, let me die for love of you. Help me with your grace that I may be aware of your will for me always.
Ninth Station: "Jesus Speaks to the Women" — Luke 23:27-31
Consider how those women wept with compassion at seeing Jesus in such a pitiful state, streaming with blood, weakened and scorned by onlookers as he walked along. Consider Jesus words, "Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, I weep for the sorrows I have caused in my life and for the offenses I have committed against God. You have loved me so much; and it is that love that causes me to have such great sorrow for my sins. Forgive me, Lord, and strengthen my resolve that I may never offend you again.
Tenth Station: "Jesus Is Crucified" — Luke 23:33-34
Consider how Jesus felt being thrown down upon the cross, ripping open the wounds of the scourgers whips. Consider how he extended his hands, allowing those terrible nails to be driven blow by blow into his outstretched hands. Consider those awful nails being driven into those feet, those feet that walked so far and tirelessly, bringing the good news of salvation to a hurting and hungering world. Jesus offered to God the sacrifice of his life for our salvation. His captors fastened him with nails to the cross, rasied the cross, and left him to die in anguish and great suffering.
(No prayer, at this time, just silent individual meditation.)
Eleventh Station: "Criminals Speak to Jesus" — Luke 23:39-43
Consider the pain and anguish that Jesus must have felt being hung between two criminals and being ridiculed by the very people he loved so much and to whom he had so many times extended compassion and healing. Consider the courage he had to forget his pain and minister to the criminal who asked for forgiveness, promising the man that he would be in paradise that day.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, so many times I have been so selfish in my pain that I forgot how others too feel pain. Sometimes I have forgotten to help out when I could have, and I violated your final commandment that we love one another.
Twelfth Station: "Jesus Speaks to Mary and John" — John 19:25b-27
Consider the pain in a mothers heart as she beheld her son nailed to a cross amid a crowd of jeering spectators. Consider her pain in seeing those cruel wounds from the scourges whip, the crown of thorns imbedded into the brow, the terrible nails holding the hands and feet that she had bathed as a baby. Consider the guilt of the beloved apostle, who once ran away in fear, standing at the foot of the cross and looking up at his dying friend and Lord. Get a sense of the enormity of Jesus love as he forgives John by granting him the privilege of caring for his mother. Consider forgiveness given in the midst of great pain and anguish.
Let us pray.
My Lord Jesus, by the sorrow you experienced in this great meeting, grant me the grace of a devoted love of your mother and your beloved apostles. Let their example of devotion become my own; let their goodness in life become real in me. Forgive me when I turn away from you, and grant me strength to return to you humbly.
Thirteenth Station: "Jesus Dies on the Cross" — John 19:28-34
Consider how Jesus — after three hours of agonizing pain on the cross — consumed at length with his anguish, abandoned himself to the weight of his body, bowed his head in submission and died.
Let us pray.
My dying, Lord Jesus, I embrace devoutly as I behold the cross you died on for me. My sins have merited for me a miserable death; but by your death, I have hope. Let me die embracing your feet and burning with a love for you.
Fourteenth Station: "Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb" — John 19:38-42
Consider how the disciples of Jesus carried the body of Jesus to bury it. Consider the grieving mother, who arranged the body in the sepulcher with her own hands. As they closed the tomb and withdrew, they carried a burden of pain deep within their hearts.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, you rose again on the third day. I ask you by your Resurrection to make me rise gloriously with you at my last day. Let me be always united with you in heaven to praise you, love you, and glorify you forever.