Jesus said, “follow me.” This command sounds easy enough until you lose sight of the leader! Is it not an invitation to become like the leader, conforming yourself to Him and then leading yourself? How do we actually do this? A friend of mine frequently recalls what he had heard during a parish mission years ago. In response to the question at hand, the simplest step-by-step description of discipleship is found within the Stations of the Cross. Perhaps, then, the Way of the Cross is also the way of discipleship. Once we identify the path, how do we stay on and persevere to the end? I’m drawn specifically to stations three, seven, and nine to help us get started.
The falls of Christ play an important role in the devotion likely due to their ability to resonate with our own experience. Humanity knows all about falling, oftentimes weakness overwhelms us and pain stops us in our tracks. We feel pushed all around in a seemingly inescapable reality. At times we might feel resonance with the life of the serpent: “On your belly you shall crawl, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life (Genesis 3:14).” In this regard, sin is a permanent state of falling without the possibility of getting up.
Jesus, on the other hand, knows all about getting up. What motivates Jesus to get up? Love, of course, but in this instance, it is also His inherent disgust of sin (and pain) that keeps Him eternally moving away from death. What does sin do to us? Ultimately, it is too heavy for us to bear on our own. We discover that we are not strong enough, and, once on the ground, we find ourselves vulnerable and face to face with temptation and sin. We are stopped in our tracks with no forward progress. The reality of sin and suffering is that the fall from pure obedience to God becomes a state of guilty disobedience and submission to temptation. The fact that Jesus gets up is to free us from this disordered reality and from the slavery of sin to the freedom of grace. It is His love that pulls us up and forward.
Jesus also has a single-hearted mission and purpose. His Public Ministry is, at every step, moving toward redemption. Once again it is love that propels Him forward in faithfulness to the will of God the Father. It is a self-sacrificial love that provides the possibility of us pursuing the ends for which we have been made. As the spotless Lamb, we can not help God overcome sin because we are sinners, but we can help each other as sinners redeemed together by the love of God. It is in this sense that God’s love for us pushes us up and forward.
Jesus falls one, two, and three times, He falls completely and utterly, but the pain of our sins brings Him to His feet and the grace of His passion moves Him forward. His love requires a sacrifice that turns us away from sin so that we might be faithful to the Gospel. A disciple is someone who is willing to follow in Jesus’ footsteps for the good of another. Someone who is willing to take a stand. Someone willing to stand upright in a world that seemingly prefers to slither along the ground. To walk alongside someone to offer them a hand and hope in discerning the path forward. A path without fear and a destination full of love.