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An Introduction to the Stations of the Cross

stations of the cross

If you are feeling dry, distant, or weary, the Stations of the Cross are for you.

Do you have a desire to experience a deeper relationship with Jesus? To understand and receive his unfathomable love for you in a way that fills you up and overflows to those around you? 

The Stations of the Cross are that invitation! They’re a physical representation of Jesus’ journey from condemnation to resurrection. Walking through them is a powerful experience, helping you understand his love and sacrifice for you.

You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the Stations of the Cross — in fact, they can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to grow closer to God. 

If you’re looking for a fresh encounter with Christ, experience the Stations of the Cross. It is a practice that has brought healing and strength to so many of God’s children over the centuries!

In this article, we examine each of the Stations of the Cross in detail, offer ways to experience them, and provide an evangelical Christian adaptation.

Ready? Let’s dive in…

Surprised by the Stations

In 2002, I experienced walking the stations for the first time. I had always thought of this as a Catholic practice that wasn’t well-suited for evangelical Christians. 

Yet as I walked the stations, stopping at each to picture Jesus with his cross in that Gospel scene, meditate on Scripture, and pray, I experienced God working powerfully in my life. 

I came to realize why countless Christ-followers had been using the Stations of the Cross for centuries before there were Catholics and Protestants.

By walking with Jesus in prayer from one station to the next God brought healing to my heart and strength to my soul in surprising ways!

I grew to appreciate the work of Christ on the cross for me and (we usually miss this part) I learned to take up my cross daily and follow Jesus’ “cross way” of life (Luke 9:23).

The Deep Impact of the Stations of the Cross

This devotional practice enthralled me with the goodness and beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ! 

I started inviting other people to take prayer walks with me along the Stations of the Cross and I shared my Bible meditations and prayers with them.

Most of these people had never done the Stations of the Cross before. I found that person after person was deeply impacted. Many cried with new realizations of how much Jesus loved them and how they, empowered by his mercy and grace, could become more like him. 

It’s amazing how powerful a discipline it is to open our mind, imagination, and heart to the Gospel scenes of Jesus’ passion.

Perhaps you, too, have only recently learned about the Stations of the Cross and want to try them for yourself. I want to equip you to do just that. 

Let’s walk through them together…

What are the Stations of the Cross? 

Traditionally, there are 12 or 14 Stations of the Cross. Each station provides a unique  opportunity for you to explore the depths of what Jesus endured on his journey to the cross.

However, I like to use 15 Stations (the 15th celebrating the resurrection). Ten come directly from the pages of scripture, and five are from ancient church tradition.

As you travel the Stations of the Cross, you journey with Jesus into his death and resurrection and discover that you are loved and unforsaken.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

Here are the Stations of the Cross in order:

Station 1: Jesus on Trial
As Pilate condemned him, Jesus looked in his eyes and quietly loved him (Mark 15:3-5). Even as he is forsaken by all others, he remains quiet, calm, and confident in the face of his accusers. His mission is to sacrifice his life in love for all who will receive him. 

Station 2: Jesus Takes Up His Cross
As religious leaders spat on him, Jesus picked up his cross to die for them (Matthew 26:66-68; John 19:17). Following his scourging, Jesus is bruised and bleeding, almost to the point of death. He begins the crushing walk through Jerusalem, staggering under the weight of the cross. Yet Jesus has an unfailing source of joy.

Station 3: Jesus Falls
As Jesus is carrying his cross, he falls under the weight of it and needs help to carry it to Golgotha (Mark 15:21-22). The one who is fully God is also fully man. Over his journey, he repeatedly suffers from the frailty of humanity. He can sympathize with our weaknesses.

Station 4: Mary Comes to Jesus
As his mother Mary suffered from a sword piercing her soul, he drew close to her (Luke 2:34-35). It is likely that Mary follows along close to her precious son, Jesus, watching as he carries his cross. We know she is a witness at the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). Mary has to accept that she can’t take away Jesus’ pain. It is so hard to witness the suffering of those we love, unable to help. 

Station 5: Simon “Helps” Jesus Carry His Cross
Simon is pulled out of the crowd, away from his sons, and commanded to carry Jesus’ heavy cross. Through this experience, Jesus is a minister of mercy to him. His reluctant identification with the suffering of Jesus will ultimately result in Simon and his sons putting their trust in Jesus (Mark 15:21, Romans 16:13). 

Station 6: Veronica Wipes Jesus’ Face
Jesus taught his disciples, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). In this ancient Christian legend, a woman named Veronica encounters Jesus as he carries his cross and gives him a cloth to wipe his face of blood and sweat. Through her simple act of kindness, Christ is revealed to us. We see his loving face in her service.

Station 7: Jesus Falls Again
The prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus being led like a lamb to the slaughter and healing us by his wounds (Isaiah 53:4-5, 7). According to the ancient tradition, Jesus falls under the weight of his cross multiple times. This can be seen as a symbol of how Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy by bearing our sin and sickness. 

Station 8: Jesus Comforts the Weeping Women
As women wept over Jesus being abused, he comforted them (Luke 23:27-28). Jesus reorients them from their focus on his own suffering to their need for the salvation and mercy he is bringing to them.

Station 9: Jesus Falls a Third Time
Paul writes about Jesus being made in human likeness and humbling himself to undergo death, specifically, death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8). According to the ancient tradition of The Stations, Jesus falls again and again as he struggles to bear the cross. Through his falling, we contemplate Jesus’ human limitations and the weight of his cross. 

Station 10: The Soldiers Strip and Abuse Jesus
As soldiers stripped off Jesus’ clothes, abused him, and crucified him, he forgave them over and over (Matthew 27:27-31; Luke 23:34-35). Many of us have suffered mistreatment and abuse. We have a Savior who suffers as we have, enduring abuse far greater, and his divine empathy and mercy bleeds out to minister personal healing to us. 

Station 11: Jesus is Crucified with Two Thieves
As the two thieves hurled insults at Jesus from their crosses next to his, he offered them Paradise (Luke 23:39-43). Jesus’ suffering is infinitely worse than the two thieves, because he is also bearing our sin. Yet he still extends compassion and forgiveness to them along with all of his other abusers.

Station 12: Mary and John Watch Jesus Die
As Mary and John trembled and cried at the foot of the cross, Jesus united them as mother and son (John 19:26-27). Even in the midst of his suffering, Jesus empathizes with how they feel abandoned by God and offers comfort. 

Station 13: Jesus’ Body is Taken Off the Cross
After Jesus breathed his last and committed his spirit into the Father’s hands, he dies. Many witnesses react to his death, and his body is taken down and buried. (Luke 23:44-55). His final moments on earth lead the Centurion to praise God and wonder at Jesus’ righteousness.

Station 14: Joseph Puts Jesus’ Body into His Tomb
Joseph, a member of the Council who had not supported the decision to crucify Jesus, requests his body from Pilate and buries him in a tomb (Luke 23:50-55). Jesus’ followers wish to honor him in this final act of service in preparing his body and laying it to rest.

Station 15: Jesus Rises from the Dead
While Joseph, Nicodemus, the women at the tomb, and many other disciple-friends of Jesus mourned his death, Jesus rose from the dead to prove to them that they were unforsaken by God (Luke 24:1-12). Through Christ Jesus, we now have empathy, forgiveness, unconditional love, true knowledge, power, and life forever!

How do I Experience the Stations of the Cross?

There are no rules for how to experience the Stations for yourself- only opportunities! But let me give you some helpful guidance…

Praying and Reflecting on the Stations

Here is an option for prayers and reflection at each of the Stations of the Cross. They can be used at either physical prayer stations or in your own devotional time:

  • Read Scripture 

Read passages from the Gospels and other portions of Scripture related to each station.

  • Pray Scripture 

Pray through the passages you read, inviting Jesus to reveal himself to you in a fresh way through the Scriptures.

  • Reflect

What do these passages of Scripture and the focus of this Station of the Cross stir in your heart? Sit with what rises. You may decide to journal and reflect with Jesus about his suffering, love, compassion, and provision. 

  • Take up your cross and follow Jesus

What is Jesus calling you to do as a result of his revelation to you in this Station? Is there something to lay down at his feet? Is there something to take up with his strength?

  • Breathe a prayer

“Lord Jesus… cover me with your wings.” 

“In Christ…. I am loved”

“In Christ…. I am redeemed”

“By his wounds…. I am healed”

Where can I find the Stations of the Cross?

While some locations such as monasteries and Christian retreat centers offer physical or permanent installations to follow the Stations of the Cross, you can set up your own stations using artwork, Scripture, and devotionals to share this experience with your church or a smaller group. 

You can also meditate alone on the Stations of the Cross in quiet reflection and prayer without physical stations to “walk.” 

The Stations of the Cross for Evangelical Christians

Some of the Stations of the Cross locations and booklets you’ll find are not based on readings from the Gospels. Others don’t help us receive the forgiving work of Christ into our hearts and learn how to become a person of peace and love like him. 

Through my experiences with the Stations of the Cross, I wrote a Biblically based devotional booklet: Unforsaken

This resource can be used for devotions during Lent, doing a prayer walk through physical stations of the cross at your church or with a small group, or a personal retreat any time of year. It helps bring the rhythms of Good Friday and Easter Sunday into your heart and life.

At each of the 15 ancient stations I include pictures of scenes from Christ’s passion, Scripture passages, devotional applications for daily life struggles with sin and stress, reflection questions, and prayers to help you live by the words: “I praise you Lord Jesus Christ. By your cross, you gave us your life and showed us how to live.” 

In the introduction, I explain why I think it’s helpful to use the original stations of the cross, even though five of the stations are not recorded in Scripture. I also offer further guidance on how to adapt this resource to 10 Scripture-based Stations.

You can learn more about the book, Unforsaken here.

How long does it take to “Walk” the Stations of the Cross?

Reflectively working through the Stations of the Cross can typically take 1-2 hours. However, experiencing them can take as much or as little time as you have available.

They can be done over the course of one session, used devotionally over the course of Lent, or practiced during any other spiritual retreat or time of reflection. 

Encouragement for the Journey

The Stations of the Cross invite you to a fresh encounter with Jesus.

Engaging your senses, emotions, and imagination, the Stations of the Cross can reveal the Passion to you in a powerful way that will impact you long after you are finished.

I want to encourage you to explore this ancient practice this Lenten season or during an upcoming personal retreat or meditation. You are welcome to adapt it to your needs or situation. 

The Stations are here for you to explore with Jesus as you rediscover his love, compassion, healing, strength, and grace for you. 

Journey Deeper Through the Stations

Unforsaken: With Jesus on the Stations of the Cross by Bill Gaultiere offers a complete devotional journey through the Stations of the Cross. 

Each station includes original artwork, Scripture for meditation, an invitation to experience Christ in deeper intimacy, and reflection questions. 

Appendices discuss options for Scriptural stations, examine Jesus’ empathy for us at each station, and offer a Guide for Lent, which outlines experiencing two stations per week with Scriptures for personal devotions, small group reflection, or sermon series.

Unforsaken - Journey with Jesus on the Stations of the Cross

You can order a print copy today through our store, or download our digital e-book for immediate use.

Praying you experience Jesus’ empathy and presence as you journey with him through the stations of the cross.

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