STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Twelve — Jesus Dies On The Cross, by Henri Nouwen

stations of the cross nouwen

From Walk With Jesus

Death, destruction, and annihilation surround us on all side.  Much, if not most, of the Earth’s resources are used in the service of death.  The war industries eat up huge amounts of the national income of many countries.  The stockpile of conventional and nuclear weapons increases day by day, and whole economies have become dependent on the ever-increasing production of lethal materials.  Many universities, research institutions, and think-tanks receive their financial support from warmakers.  Millions of people earn their daily living by turning out products which, if ever used, could only produce death.

But the power of death is much more subtle and pervasive than these explicitly brutal forces of destruction.  Not only are there death forces visible in the violence within families and neighborhoods, they are also part of the ways in which people look for relaxation and entertainment.  Many sports are tainted by a fascination with death.  The possibility of serious injury and death creates an unusual excitement.  People like to watch people who risk their very lives and are drawn into the darkness of the Russian roulette.  Many forms of entertainment, such as movies, TV series, and novels, also exploit people’s fascination with death.  The world is, indeed, ruled by the powers of death, powers that want every human being to be in their service.

Jesus died.  The powers of death crushed him.  Not only the fear-ridden judgments of Pilate, the torture by the Roman soldiers, and the cruel crucifixion, but also the powers and principalities of this world.  The world’s death powers destroyed him.  But the death of Jesus is the death of the Word “through whom all things came into being,” and “what has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of people, and the light shines in the darkness, and darkness could not overpower it,” (John 1:3-5).

Jesus was crushed by the powers of death, but his death removed death’s sting.  To those who believe in him he gave the power to become children of God, that is, to participate in the life where death can no longer reach.  By his death, Jesus was victorious over all the powers of death.  The darkness in our hearts that makes us surrender to the power of death, the darkness in our society that makes us victims of violence, war, and destruction, has been dispelled by the light that shines forth from the One who gave his life as a complete gift to the God of life.  Paul says: “Our Savior Christ has abolished death and he has brought to light immortality and life through the Gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:10).

It is hard to affirm life in the face of the rampant powers of death.  Every time we open a newspaper with all its stories of war, murder, kidnapping, torture, battering, and countless other tragedies that lead to sickness and death, we are faced with the temptation to believe that, after all, death is victorious.  And still, time and time again the death of Jesus, the Holy One, calls us to choose for life.  The great challenge of the Christian life is to say, “Yes,” to life even in the smallest and, seemingly, unimportant details.  Every moment there is a choice to be made: the choice for or against life.  Do I choose to think about a person in a forgiving or in an accusing way?  Do I choose to speak a word of acceptance or a word of rejection?  Do I choose to reach out or to hold back, to share or to hoard, to yield or to cling, to hurt or to heal?  Even the deeper emotions of our heart are subject to such choices.  I can choose to be resentful or grateful, despairing or hopeful, sad or glad, angry or peaceful.  Many of these emotions can come to us as waves over which we have no control.  Still. . . there is a place in us where we can choose a direction and stop the forces of death from pulling us deeper and deeper into the pit of darkness.

We often live as if the great powers of darkness that can bring us to the verge of a nuclear holocaust are completely separated from what we think and feel in our hearts.  That separation is an illusion.  The tiniest inner fascination with death and the most horrendous forms of human destruction are intimately connected.  Jesus knew about this connection and, when his heart was pierced, it was the heart that embraces our most hidden thoughts and our most far-reaching actions.  The death of Jesus overcame all the forces of death and “set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death,” (Hebrews 2:15).

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