Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death. Romans 2:14
Out of the fourteen stations, there are three in which Jesus falls. I wonder at the reasons for the inclusion of three falls. After looking at various meditations and discussions for answers, I find there are several types of commentary. One common response is that the three falls are not mentioned in the Bible, so we should ignore them all together. A second response is that there is some deeper meaning to the number three in reference to degrees of exhaustion or types of human fallenness or some other such thing. A third response is to use the falls as an object lesson as in “even Jesus fell three times, so don’t be so hard on yourself.”
It seems possible that pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa added the falls because they wanted more opportunities to stop and reflect than the number of places the passion narrative would have provided otherwise. More opportunities to observe what the walk of sorrow might have actually looked like. There is recognition of the mere human aspect of how difficult it would be to carry a cross after having been judged and mocked and beaten. Falling seems inevitable.
A few weeks ago, I stepped on to black ice and took a hard fall onto a concrete sidewalk. Hitting my ribs on the pavement in full force was a strong reminder that I am made of skin and muscle and bone, all of it vulnerable and breakable. Perhaps the mediations on falling are to remind us that Jesus has a body which is breakable. What is this strange religious belief that invites us to ponder the concept that the God whose word and will brought forth every aspect of the universe, including the ground on which Jesus fell and even the law of gravity that allowed him to fall, was incarnate in the person who did the falling?
In Franz Liszt’s work about the Stations of the Cross, Via Crucis, the music before this station has a deliberate cadence that allows you to sense each difficult step Jesus was taking. The choir cries out, “Jesus falls.” Female voices sing poignantly about Mary watching in sorrow. If we stay in the story we can almost see it – Jesus slowly and painfully picks himself up and resumes the difficult walk to his death.