Station III: Christ Falls the First Time
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11-12)
Sweating and thirsting, weakened by scourging and beatings, Jesus bears the cross a few feet, before he falls for the first time. Unaccustomed to its weight, he loses his balance and trips on the uneven roadway. Dashing his foot against a stone. Those words from the Psalms bring echoes of another time, when Christ heard them quoted in the subtle, sneering tones of his Adversary, Satan, who came to tempt him at just such a moment of weakness and vulnerability, after he had fasted forty days in the wilderness.
The Devil took Jesus away to the highest point in Jerusalem, the pinnacle of Herod’s Temple, and urged him to forget all this nonsense about the Incarnation and show off his divine powers with an attention-grabbing stunt. Why not taking a flying leap from the temple top? After all, the Anointed One of God would surely be snatched up by angels before he ever hit the ground. He’d be the talk of the town! Jesus sternly rebuked the Devil for putting God to the test.
No angels were on hand Good Friday to prevent Jesus from falling. They might have been. When Christ is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (in Matthew 26:36-56), he orders his disciples not to draw their swords. If he wanted to, Jesus says, he could pray to his Father, who “shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels.” There would be no short cuts.
Having taken on human flesh, this God-made-man was prepared to accept all its physical limitations and endure every possible pain and agony, even death on the Cross. As Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us: “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we, yet without sin.” And because Christ knows our feeble frame so well, we can come to him boldly “that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” What an extraordinary plan of salvation!
When I am fallen, bruised and hurting, let me turn to you for mercy and grace, knowing you have shared all forms of human suffering and shame. Amen.