The shattering of hope and the last remnant of faith. . . . Jesus has come not to fulfill the expectation of the crowds but the will of the Father. He has come to endure in love. Face down in the dust again, wounds reopened, strength spent, he rises yet again. He does so for all those who find themselves having lost the respect of others, those who suffer humiliation and shame, in order that they might know they are beautiful in the eyes of God. He has come for them, not only for those who are virtuous but for those who have fallen time and again and even when the end is in sight. Abject failures in their own eyes and in the eyes of others, they triumph in Christ if they will but abide in Him. Daughters, even though you may have fallen too many times to remember, gaze into the eyes of your Beloved and in Him you will find strength.
“As they approach the foot of Mount Calvary, the suspense reaches its climax: If he is going to work a miracle, he must do it now. If he is going to show that, after all, he is what he claims to be, the Son of God, the moment has come for him to prove it. It is not only those who fear and hate Him who are in suspense; the whole multitude watches Him, holding its breath, waiting to see what Jesus of Nazareth is going to do now.
The morbidly curious are hoping now for a final sensation; they want, as it were, their “money’s worth.” They can follow criminals to execution practically any day, this promised to be a special event.
Those who have been healed, who have been raised from the dead, those who weep for Him, those whose children He has lifted in His arms and blessed, strain forward, hoping against hope that He whom they still believe in, still believe to be innocent, will, at the eleventh hour, vindicate their faith, will show the triumph of goodness over evil. Surely, this pure, guileless, flawless man must prove that goodness and honesty are more powerful than intrigue, corruption, and petty politics?
As for the poor, the vast majority in that swarming, jostling crowd, they push themselves forward, struggling to be in the front of the crowd, waiting, praying, crying out for the miracle that will give them their triumph, their kingdom, after all!
What will he do, now that he has come to the foot of Calvary, and the little cavalcade has paused to push the cross more securely on the man’s shoulders, while he braces himself for the ascent? It is his last chance to show that he is a king, that he is the Son of God. Will he suddenly straighten himself up and turn to vanquish his enemies by the sheer majesty and power flashed off from him? Will he summon legions of angels to his defense and scatter the soldiers and those who are hostile in the crowd? Will he even speak to them with the old majesty, the old authority, piercing them to the heart by his words, as he did on that other mountainside long ago?
They wait, straining forward, struggling to come near to Him, breathless with suspense, some through fear, some through hope; all tense, expectant, waiting!
And what does He do? For the third and the last time, Jesus falls under the cross!
This is the worst fall of all. It comes at the worst moment of all. It tears open all the wounds in His body; the shock dispels the last ounce of strength that He had mustered to go on. It shatters the last hope, the last remnant of faith, in nearly everyone in the crowd. It is triumph for His enemies, heartbreak for His friends.
The effect on the crowd is terrible. From having been an object of compassion, of admiration, He has become an object of contempt. Hope has given way to despair, struggling faith to bitterness and derision: “He has saved others, himself he cannot save!”
Now Christ gets up; He does not turn His head; He does not heed the disappointment of the crowd. He gets up, weaker than He has ever been, almost too exhausted to go on, all the old wounds open and bleeding; more abject than He has ever been, a greater disappointment to His followers than He has ever been, in their eyes a complete failure. He gets up and goes on; He lays His beautiful hands, those hands of a carpenter, on the wood of the cross for the last time and without looking around begins the ascent to the summit of Calvary.
The last fall is the worst fall. In it, Christ identified Himself with those who fall again and again, and who get up again and again and go on—those who even after the struggle of a lifetime fall when the end is in sight; those who in this last fall lose the respect of many of their fellow human beings, but who overcome their humiliation and shame; who, ridiculous in the eyes of others, are beautiful in the eyes of God, because in Christ, with Christ’s courage, in His heroism, they get up and go on, climbing the hill of Calvary.
In the third fall, the showing of Christ’s love is this: He does not indwell only the virtuous, only those who are successful in overcoming temptation, only those who are strong and in whom His power is made manifest to the world; He chooses to indwell those who seem to fail, those who fall again and again, those who seem to be overcome even when the end is in sight. In them, if they will it, He abides; in them He overcomes weakness and failure, in them He triumphs; and in His power they can persevere to the end, abject before men but glorious with Christ’s glory before God.”
Excerpt From: Caryll Houselander. “Way of the Cross.”