St Werburgh's Roman Catholic Parish, Chester

Stations of the Cross. III: Jesus falls the first time

Under the weight of his cross, and with his body weakened by beatings and abuse, Jesus stumbles and falls. Jesus is the Son of God; but his suffering and journey to a shocking and degrading death are fully human, and his weakness very real and painful. Although the Gospels do not report Jesus falling on his way to crucifixion, the traditional Stations of the Cross depict three separate occasions on which Jesus is brought to the ground by the weight of the Cross, and by extension the weight of all the hopes and concerns of the world that he carries on his back.

In this scene, some help is being given to Jesus by one of the guard in the execution party, who steadies the Cross but does not take its weight. That is left for Jesus alone, who has fallen to his knees. Yet no mercy or pity is shown by the other figure, a soldier who continues to whip the fallen Christ even as he struggles to retain his balance on the stony ground.

Oh Lord, be there to help me when I fall - as, all too often, I do fall.

In some ways it's almost a relief to see Jesus fall here. We're all too familiar with placing heroic expectations on people - politicians, leaders, our boss, our marriage partner, our children, sometimes even ourselves. But even Christ, who embodies God himself, can falter in his human form. Lord, let me not demand impossible perfection from others. Let me understand when they stumble under the weight of expectations and responsibility.

The important thing is not that Jesus falls, but that he is willing to get up again.

Stations of the Cross
Station II
Station IV