This past Wednesday my friend Michael Ingram shared on the Stations of the Curse during Chapel at Gordon College. His words were deep and effectual, glorifying the name of Jesus while calling all to marvel at his selfless and humble life. Michael graphically portrayed the suffering of Jesus blended with Christ’s ultimate victory at the cross in a way that could do nothing but leave one knowing the greatness of our Lord. I was deeply moved by his speech and know that you will be too. This Easter I encourage you to read and receive the words of Michael Ingram.

John Donne: Holy Sonnet XI
“Spit in my face you Jews, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoff, scourge, and crucify me,
For I have sinned, and sinned, and only he
Who could do no iniquity hath died:
But by my death can not be satisfied
My sins, which pass the Jews’ impiety:
They killed once an inglorious man, but I
Crucify him daily, being now glorified.
Oh let me, then, his strange love still admire:
Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment.
And Jacob came clothed in vile harsh attire
But to supplant, and with gainful intent:
God clothed himself in vile man’s flesh, that so
He might be weak enough to suffer woe.”

Few poets whet our appetite for Christ quite like John Donne…

I would like to lead us through a series of five brief reflections this morning inspired by the traditional Stations of the Cross. The purpose of these reflections is to help us consider how our chapel theme this semester relates to the passion of Christ and to reflect on the intersection point between the Human Predicament and Holy Week. The most definitive statement of the Human Predicament is found in Genesis 3 where God pronounces judgment on his newly formed, newly fallen creation. If we make an arc of sorts between these words and the words of the Prophets and the Evangelists, we find that Christ took our predicament upon himself point for point, walking through “The Stations of the Curse,” as it were, as he mounted the cross. We see that he spoke this damning sentence at the beginning of time knowing full well that he himself would suffer under it in the fullness of time so that we would not have to bear its weight at the end of time. My hope is twofold—that you would both be inspired to re-involve your mind in this passion and be moved to cast all of your deepest affections on Christ and fasten them there.

The Stations of the Curse…

—–The First Station: Labor—–
Genesis 3.16 “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children.”
Luke 2.6-7 “So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger.”

These words are too easy to eclipse. “And she brought forth her firstborn Son”—next item of business. It sounds so fast and easy. But let’s pause the tape for a moment. Have you ever thought about how long labor lasts? Somehow this doesn’t fit in with our idyllic nativity scenes, but it could have been 3 hours, 5 hours, 10, perhaps 14 hours of agony for this young mother—and with no doctor or nurse, no hi-tech hospital bed or drugs to assist. This birth marks the beginning of the via dolorosa, the road to Calvary. “I will multiply your sorrow.” Jesus spoke these words in Genesis knowing that he, too, would suffer the trauma of being birthed. And speaking of intersection points, this is where justice and mercy embrace—he uttered no curse that he was unwilling to endure himself. These judgment words were not hot-tempered and impulsive, blurted out in a flash of divine rage. No, they were studied and just—he spoke them with a full readiness to live them. And in that mystical timelessness of his being, he literally felt the pang of every word as it left his lips.

—–The Second Station: Sweat—–
Genesis 3.19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken.”
Psalm 22.6 “But I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men and despised by the people.”
Isaiah 53.3 “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
Luke 22.44 “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

He who was wrapped in light as with a garment disrobed himself and descended Jacob’s ladder to wander among us “far as the curse is found” and to die. And as he labors, drenched in sweat, just a stone’s throw away his friends are sleeping—we are sleeping—each curled up with a stone pillow under his head, oblivious to the wrenched prayer that he bleeds into the night. As the poet has said, “Flowers bloom where my tears are shed.” I wonder what lily, what exquisite orchid or bird-of-paradise blossomed on that sacred earth where he knelt and sweat and laid his tears among the olive trees. He is bowed low, close enough to breath the dust that houses him. He has begun his descent into the ground.

—–The Third Station: Thorns—–
Genesis 3.17-18 “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.”
Mark 15.17 “And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head.”

Christ himself planted by his judgment word the very thorns that pierced him through. He knew this from the beginning, and now his all-knowing mind is wreathed with stubble from the ground. Blood and tears flow mingled down—blood and tears and sweat—and purity and kindness and sorrow and compassion. He who once divided the waters from the waters and numbered the stars now has his garments ripped from his broken body and is scrawled in the soldiers’ ledger—a criminal.

—–The Fourth Station: Bruised—–
Genesis 3.15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Isaiah 53.5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
Acts 8.34 “Of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”

“You shall bruise His heel.” The heel of the foot—the part that connects the body to the earth, the first part to touch the ground with every step. This is Christ—the very footstep of God on the earth, bruised and broken, skewered by the serpent’s fangs and flushed with his poison. And as he was crushed by nails and spittle and sin, there came the seismic trauma of God turning away from God. This is unthinkable. The universe reels. Heaven bows his head and weeps while earth beats her breast and vomits up her dead. As Adam hid his face from God, so now God hides himself from second Adam, holding his tongue and stopping his ears from the desperate crying out, “Why—why have you forsaken me?” Through the ages past, this Son of God had never physically experienced the weight of a human body, and now in this bitter ascension he dangles against the blackened sky, the weightiest man—bruised, crushed, forsaken.

—–The Fifth Station: Dust—–
Genesis 3.19 “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
Psalm 22.14-15 “I am poured out like water…My heart has melted within me…You have brought Me to the dust of death.”
Matthew 27.59-60 “When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.”

“Spit in my face you Jews, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoff, scourge, and crucify me,
For I have sinned, and sinned, and only he
Who could do no iniquity hath died:
But by my death can not be satisfied
My sins, which pass the Jews’ impiety:
They killed once an inglorious man, but I
Crucify him daily, being now glorified.
Oh let me, then—let us, then—his strange love still admire:
Kings pardon, but he—he bore our punishment…”

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