Holy Week Reflections

The Way of the Cross

15. Jesus Risen from the dead 
Reading - Mark 16:4-8 NRSVA 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Reflection

Imagine yourself with these women carrying the spices and ointments to anoint Jesus’  dead body. 
You are totally bereft. Jesus is dead. He died in ignominy and agony and you weren’t even able to prepare him properly for burial. You are worried that you won’t be able to get into the tomb to do what is necessary. You dread the task ahead but are determined to do this last act of love.
Then suddenly your expectations are challenged. The tomb is open. A young man tells you the good news, Jesus is risen. It’s all too much, you can’t process this. You are amazed and absolutely terrified. Frightened that you are losing touch with reality, frightened of the supernatural, maybe frightened that you will not be believed.
And then Jesus comes to you.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you were dead but now you are alive: transform the torments of this world’s sin that we may see your radiant glory.
You were raised from death to life: may the power of your resurrection live in us, that we may be channels of your true life beyond measure.
To you, Jesus, who have broken free from the bonds of death, be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.
Amen

The Way of the Cross

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb 
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about thirty-five kilograms. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.     John 19:38-41 (NIVUK) 
 
Reflection 
Here at the centre everything is still, 
Before the stir and movement of our grief 
Which bears its pain with rhythm, ritual, 
Beautiful useless gestures of relief. 
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel 
And soothe his ruined flesh with tender care, 
Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal, 
With incense scenting only empty air. 
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves, 
And makes our grief the pangs of new birth. 
The love that’s poured in silence at old graves 
Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth, 
Is never lost. In him all love is found 
And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground. 
Jesus is Laid in the Tomb, Malcolm Guite 
 
Prayer 
Father, as we wait in the stillness of the garden, open our hearts and minds to your  world around us. May we see you in the beauty of your creation; hear you in the forces of nature; smell you in the spring blossom; and feel your presence with us now and always as we wait to celebrate the victory of life over death. Amen.  
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way of the Cross

13. Jesus Dies on the Cross

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-46 (NRSV)
Christ on the Cross by Carl Heinrich Bloch
Reflection
Well, we have come to what I would consider to be the climax of this journey to the cross. We have followed Jesus from the Mount of Olives as he was betrayed, condemned, judged, scourged and ridiculed. Now he is nailed to a cross. It is the middle of the day and yet darkness comes across the land. The curtain of the temple is torn in two. Jesus cries out to his Father……the ultimate sacrifice has been made. God has sent His Son to share in our humanity and now the time has come to remove all that separates us from Him. The sacrifice has been made…….
Take time to reflect on the words of Cecil Frances Alexander: We may not know, we cannot tell What pains he had to bear, But we believe it was for us He hung and suffered there.
Prayer
Father, for the silly things I have done wrong, forgive me. For the serious things I have done wrong, forgive me. For the things I didn’t even know were wrong, forgive me. Let me not forget that it was Christ Jesus who hung and suffered on the cross for me. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The Way of the Cross

12. Jesus, on the cross, speaks with his mother and disciples.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27 NIVUK)
Reflection
Right now, as you read and reflect on this passage, across the length and breadth of the country there are communities bonding together in love and support for one another. There are key workers and volunteers working tirelessly and selflessly for others, even though they may be anxious or frightened for themselves, their families and friends.
Jesus’s love for his mother and closest friend never wavered. Even in his darkest hour, recognising that his mother and friend were bewildered, frightened and anxious as events unfolded, Jesus ensured that they had each other to care for and love. Nailed to the cross, Jesus affirmed their relationship with one another; he initiated the first Christian community, a community that bonded together in love and support for one another.
Take a moment to think of the acts of love that surround you and reflect on the words of Isaac Watts, ‘Love so amazing, so Divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’
Prayer
Lord, you have shown us incomprehensible love: love so amazing, so divine. We cannot thank you enough, but we can ask that all those who are keeping us going during this pandemic will be enfolded in that amazing love. Lord, we pray for all who are working under extreme pressure; be with them and their families. Amen.

 

The Way of the Cross

10. Jesus is crucified.

And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. Mark 15:24 (NIVUK)
Reflection

We can only imagine the pain and agony Jesus suffered at each blow of the hammer as he was nailed to the cross. As if that was not enough, he suffered further humiliation when he was stripped of his clothes. Then he had to watch the soldiers cast lots for them, including the seamless robe which was unusual and so a prized possession.
It was not only the soldiers who were humiliating Jesus; it was also the onlookers who were jeering and watching the spectacle …….. and it is us. Whenever we see or hear of the personal stories or misfortunes of others on the news, do we always show compassion and empathy? Or do we sit back smugly, relieved that it is not us suffering. Maybe we are guilty of buying more than we need or wanting that prized possession: the garment made by someone who does not receive a fair wage for their work.
Perhaps we need to rethink? Jesus was stripped naked as he was nailed to the cross. He suffered pain and humiliation so that our sins, our smugness and selfishness, could be forgiven.
Prayer

Lord, you knew humiliation and embarrassment when you were robbed of your very dignity. You were always the champion of the poor and needy. Help us to cover the shame of our greed with the garments of generosity. May we be instrumental in restoring the dignity of those who are made poor by our actions and selfishness. Amen.

 

 

The Way of the Cross

9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Reading - Luke 23:27-31 NIV   

27 Great crowds trailed along behind,
and many grief-stricken
women.
28 But Jesus turned and said to
them, “Daughters of Jerusalem,
don’t weep for me, but for
yourselves and for your children.
29 For the days are coming when
the women who have no children
will be counted fortunate indeed.
30 Mankind will beg the mountains
to fall on them and crush
them, and the hills to bury them.
31 For if such things as this are
done to me, the Living Tree, what
will they do to you?”
Reflection
Jesus’ reaction to the many grief-stricken women as he passed seems strange. He tells
them not to weep for him but for themselves and their children. It could seem ungrateful.
In a crowd of people in holiday mood looking forward to a public spectacle surely it would
be encouraging to receive some sympathy.
There is nothing wrong with their tears, Jesus is just saying their tears are for the wrong
thing. He is saying don’t cry for the Son of Man who is doing God’s will, cry for those who
will face God’s wrath if they do not repent. His words are thought to refer to the destruction
of Jerusalem that took place in 70AD but they apply equally to the situation the world
is in today.
Jesus’ words remind us to look at ourselves. Do we reflect deeply on the evil that happens
in the world or are we inclined to say “that’s terrible” and continue to concern
ourselves about our friends and families? To follow Christ we need to be generous
enough to support the weak and brave enough to confront evil and when we do we can
trust him to give us the strength we will need.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, the women of Jerusalem wept for you:
move us to tears at the plight of the broken in our world.
You embraced the pain of Jerusalem, the ‘city of peace’:
bless Jerusalem this day and lead it to the path of profound peace.
To you, Jesus, the King of peace who wept for the city of peace,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.
Amen

The Way of the Cross

8. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
Mark 15 (NLT)

21 A passer-by named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)
Reflection
The soldiers have put the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, bowed down to him and struck him. Now they’ve grown tired of mocking him and just want to get him to the crucifixion site. It looks like Jesus needs some help with the heavy cross and they spy a man in the crowd. Maybe he looked fit and strong and so he gets dragged out against his will. A bystander. A family man who had travelled from a Jewish community in North Africa, no doubt to take part in the Passover festival. A nobody.
He must have been terrified. Why him? That cross is heavy. How was this going to end?
Paul reminds us in his second letter to Timothy that we must be ready to suffer for the sake of the Good News. Our lives are full of difficult situations seemingly forced upon us. ‘Why me? I don’t want to do this. Why do I have to? It’s all too much’. Who will support me?
All of us are currently facing a difficult situation that has been forced upon us whether we like it or not. We are the bystanders today. We must do as we are told. Keep away from each other and isolate. Jesus is our support today.
The ‘Footprints’ poem is an appropriate reminder.
One night I had a dream…
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord,
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand.
One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life, there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child. I love you,
and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, thank you for those who support me through difficult times.
Thank you for your promise that you are with me. Let me remember that truth. Carry me through.

 

The Way of the Cross

7. Jesus carries the cross


Reading - Mark 15.20 NIV

After mocking him, they stripped him of the
purple cloak and put his own clothes on
him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
Reflection
I find it hard enough to carry two bags of
shopping from the High Street, my arms
ache my fingers go numb and I have to
stop frequently to swap hands. Jesus had
to struggle through hostile crowds with a
heavy cross on his shoulders. If he fell the
guards hit him until he got to his feet and
staggered forward again. I can’t begin to
imagine how hard that must have been.
It would have been hard enough if he was well rested but he wasn’t. He had had no respite
since he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. The time he spent in the garden
preparing for his passion had been emotionally and spiritually exhausting. He had been
betrayed, by a friend, tried, harangued, beaten and ridiculed by religious and secular authorities.
Now, convicted, he was required to drag himself and the instrument of his
death up a hill to the place of his execution. He was fully human so he felt physical, spiritual
and emotional pain just as we do and he suffered all of this for love of us.
As Paul said:
6 Christ was truly God.
But he did not try to remain equal with God.
7 Instead he gave up everything and became a slave,
when he became like one of us.
Philippians 2:6-7
Prayer
Lord Jesus, you carried the cross through the rough streets of Jerusalem: be with those
who are loaded with burdens beyond their strength.
You bore the weight of our sins when you carried the cross: help us to realise the extent
and the cost of your love for us.
To you, Jesus, bearing a cross not your own, be honour and glory with the Father and the
Holy Spirit, now and for ever.
Amen

The Way of the Cross

5. Jesus’ Trial before Pilate             
Matthew 27 (NLT)

11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. 16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)
19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”
But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”
24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”
26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
Reflection
Images of handwashing are currently around us everywhere we look. This act of cleansing, of protection is what we are all called to do. We understand why.
Pilate cannot see any crime committed that he must deal with. It is not his problem. He wants us to understand that, and so ceremonially washes his hands. We do understand.
The phrase ‘wash my hands of’ has come down through the centuries. Let us reflect on the times when we look at our family, community or world issues and say, ‘not my problem’.
Unlike Pilate we know who Jesus is. We know how precious we are to Him. Every hair of our head is counted!
Such love deserves – demands – our ongoing care of those who are vulnerable and innocent. Never more so than at this time.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, it is hard to speak up for what is right when those around me shout me down.
I know who are.
Give me the words, give me the courage to speak and to act for those who need my help.
AMEN

The Way of the Cross

6. Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns
Luke 22:63-65 (NIV)

The Guards Mock Jesus
63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.


Reflection
What cruel irony! Jesus finally received the words he deserved: “Hail, King of the Jews!” For once he wore a crown upon his head. Yet it was not the golden crown of sovereignty or the olive crown of victory, but the thorny crown of suffering. Scholars have shown that the thorns from which Jesus’ crown was composed were long and terribly sharp. No doubt they dug deep into the head of the suffering king. We can’t really imagine the physical pain, not to mention the emotional and spiritual anguish endured by the King of kings. What incomprehensible irony! Jesus, the true king of Israel, endured the pain and mockery of the crown of thorns as part of his humiliation for us and our salvation. What was the result of his torture, beyond the transient agony?
Because Jesus humbled himself, because he endured the humiliation of the cross, including the crown of thorns, therefore God exalted him to the highest place. For Jesus, the path to glory as King of kings included the path of disgrace. Because he wore the crown of thorns, Jesus would receive the crown of universal worship.


Prayer
Lord Jesus, you were mocked, beaten, insulted, falsely accused and ridiculed. You were whipped half to death, humiliated before the crowd, friendless in a world of power and corruption. And Lord, you endured all this for me that I too might one day receive a crown of glory and live in your presence for ever. Lord let me never forget the cost of my salvation. Amen.

The Way of the Cross

3.. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin
Reading Mark 14.55-64 (NIV)
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were
looking for evidence against Jesus so that they
could put him to death, but they did not find any.
56 Many testified falsely against him, but their
statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony
against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy
this temple made with human hands and in
three days will build another, not made with
hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not
agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and
asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What
is this testimony that these men are bringing
against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and
gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the
Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked.
64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death.
 

Reflection
To the members of the Sanhedrin Jesus was a troublemaker, a rabble rouser, a disruptive
influence turning the people away from the law, desecrating the Sabbath, vilifying the establishment,
interfering with the smooth running of religious life with his very presence.
His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the temple must have been the
last straw and Judas’ offer of betrayal a perfect opportunity. Jesus is a challenge to accepted
tradition and they preferred the comfortable status quo.
But we know Jesus is our loving saviour. He is the Son of God offering himself as a sacrifice
for human sin so at this trial he patiently suffered injustice and abuse. He offered no
defence, subjected himself to the worldly authority and thereby established the new covenant.
 

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you were the victim of religious bigotry:
be with those who are persecuted by small-minded authority.
You faced the condemnation of fearful hearts:
deepen the understanding of those who shut themselves off
from the experience and wisdom of others.
To you, Jesus, unjustly judged victim, be honour and glory
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
Amen

The Way of the Cross
4. Peter denies Jesus
Luke 22 (NLT)
54 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.
59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”
60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.”
And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
 

Reflection
Here we see Peter running away. He has remembered Jesus’ words to him. They have come true and he is distraught. His pain is shown in his clenched fist and the upward movement of his hand towards his head. His body is contorted. The calmest man in the picture is Jesus. He who Peter has denied knowing. He looks on with a sad loving expression on his face.
Peter’s silence has driven him away from the presence of Jesus. He can run away even though this saddens the Lord.
Where do we keep silent about our knowledge of the Lord? In our conversations in church? Our neighbours? Our colleagues? Our children?
Peter was silent because he feared death. Some Christians share that fear in parts of the world today, but what are our reasons?
Embarrassment? Ridicule? Apathy? The cock crows for us as well.
In our humanity, we fail. It is why we ask for forgiveness.
Like Peter we have our opportunities to turn to Christ and acknowledge him. He is waiting.
 

Prayer
Lord Jesus, I am at a loss to explain my silence.
I know that is not true.
My silence is because, I choose not to speak.
Give me courage to talk of you.
Give me the words so that I may share
Guide me and teach me through your word and through the ministry of your church.
Forgive me and help me acknowledge you.
You are waiting.
AMEN

The Way of the Cross

1. Jesus on the Mount of Olives


Reading Luke 22:39-46 NIV 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46"Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
Reflection
Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you know the right thing to do, but you also know that the right thing is very difficult and costly? Are you sometimes tempted to take the easy way out?
Jesus as well as being fully God was fully human. First he faced the terrible suffering of the cross. He knelt down and prayed, “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus’ anguish is seen in his sweat “like drops of blood”. Despite all the difficulties he chose God’s will over his own and an angel appeared and strengthened him. You will never face as great a challenge as Jesus faced but there will be times in your life when God asks you to choose his will over your own. In every sacrifice, great or small, ask for God’s strength to choose his will over your own, as Jesus did.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, as I reflect upon your experience on the Mount of Olives, I am once again astounded by your utter humanness. You are Emmanuel, God with us. Thus you are also God with me. You understand me. You stand with me in hard times. You encourage me when I wrestle with the Father’s will. And you intercede for me. How I thank you, dear Lord, for who you are, for what you have done, and for what you are doing in my life today. Amen.

The Way of the Cross
2. Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested


Matthew 26
Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.
50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”
Reflection
Jesus stands open armed, almost welcoming the embrace. He is ready now.
His eyes are cast down and sideways at Judas who in this depiction is seen to grasp him as he kisses the cheek. In that look we can almost hear Jesus’ words “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”
In the background stands a soldier. His eyes show a mixture of compassion and contempt. His are the only eyes we see open and reflect our view of the scene. The artist captures the movement of Jesus’ arms as they raise upwards as if in preparation for the cross.
We think how lucky Judas is to be called a friend, to be allowed to come that close to our Lord, to sit at his feet and know his voice. We ask ourselves how could he be tempted to fall so far?
Our own temptations are large and small. Maybe they come in incremental steps. Do we see them and embrace them?
In 2 Corinthians, we are reminded by Paul to test ourselves, to examine ourselves.
What is the test?
It is this. ‘Do you know that Jesus Christ is among you?’
We also have Jesus as a friend, he is our Lord and we know his voice through the words he has given us.
Jesus is to die for the sins of the embracing Judas. He is to die for the sins of us all.
Prayer
Lord Jesus,
Forgive me for my acts of betrayal.
Forgive me for the times I have rejected you as my Lord.
I feel lost and you invite me to embrace you
I feel empty and you fill me with your words
I feel lonely and you call me to be your friend
I look for you and you are here.
I thank you.
AMEN