Jesus, Remember Me…

ctc

The Pas Proper/Ordinary 34 – Christ the King
Year C
24 November 2019

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 19a pg 88
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke23:33-43

God of unbroken weakness,
you scorn our lust for power.
Keep us faithful to Jesus Christ,
crucified and victorious,
in whose authority we dare to speak your truth,
even in the face of injustice and death. Amen.
__________________________________

Isn’t it amazing how what we hear, what we say is able to impact how we see, perceive, interpret or react to a situation?

So, then, in this case, looking at the gospel for today, what is it that we hear, that we see, at the Place of the Skull, at the Crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ?

“34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”” (Lk 23:34a)

“35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the chosen one.” (Lk 23:35)

“36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”” (Lk 23:36a, 37)

“39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Lk 23:39-43)

[pause]

Out of absolutely everything that is said, Jesus only says two things.

About the absolute humility and the intentional inflicting of pain, Jesus asks God to forgive us because of our ignorance and our participation in this event whose purpose is to open the way of salvation for the whole world.

So, then the comments that follow Jesus asking God to forgive us, to forgive those who are clustered at the foot of the cross for the purpose of watching this crucifixion, are evidence of our own cruelty in such situations as we give in to the cruelty around us and throw out comments without thinking of what it is we’re saying or doing.

And when we are able to think back on such situations in our lives, I know that we regret being drawn into such situations that bring out the absolute worst in each of us.

Then we come to the comments that are spoken out of desperation: the thieves get into the act.

The first is doing what all the condemned would do, he’s bargaining for his own freedom from the cross.

We’re able to see this in movies and programs that always find that one person pleading for freedom in the midst of a jail break scene, although that seems a little premature. After all, everyone whose being crucified is still on their respective crosses, and to human eyes, no ‘jail break’ is taking place, although God has God’s own agenda also in play, in today’s passage.

And the other thief responds, rebuking the first thief, taking him to task and probably hitting the nail on the head, metaphorically speaking.

The first thief has probably lived in fear of this very moment since he started stealing, but that hasn’t changed the career path or the outcome for him.

Yet, the second thief says: ““Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Lk 23:40b-41)

And this speaks to each one of us. This describes our place in the way the world works, and in the midst of the comments, the cruelty, the abuse that we see being enacted on an innocent human being, today.

After all, Jesus goes to the cross on each of our behalf, on behalf of all of those who nailed him to the cross, who rigged the trial and its outcome, and those who have been with Jesus since his arrest, all seeking to condemn him each for their own selfish reasons.

What all of these participants in today’s crucifixion fail to realize is that, in spite of their malice and disgraceful actions, this is where God needs Jesus to be for each of them, for you, and for me.

We know that Jesus goes to the cross on each of our behalf to take away the sins of the world. To take away the sins of all who believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

And we are able to see this in the passage, today. We see this when the second thief points out that their position on the cross is well and truly deserved because of the sins committed in life, but Jesus is innocent of any crime, sin, or wrongdoing.

Even those on the ground, jeering, bullying, hurling insults, are doing so because if things were different then they’d be, we’d be the ones on the cross, and Jesus would be on the ground looking up at each one of us.

But this is God’s plan of salvation for the whole world, right here, at the place called the Skull, outside the walls of Jerusalem.

The second thief pins it down when he says: “41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Lk 23:41)

But he doesn’t stop there.

When Jesus talks with Nicodemus, in John 3, he reminds him and us of a time when poisonous snakes caused problems for the Hebrew people, in the wilderness, and the only cure was to look upon a bronze replica and believe that you will be healed, that you will be saved.

Jesus told us, as he told Nicodemus “14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn 3:14-18)

So, here, today, we see this happening.

The second thief looks upon the Son of Man, lifted up on the cross, and he believes.

He knows and so he pleads ““Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Lk 23:42b-43)

So, what does this mean for each one of us, today?

Where are we in this scene that changes absolutely everything that has gone on before, or even follows, as our Lord and Saviour dies on the cross, today, for you and for me?

Are we around the base of the cross, tossing out jeers, as manipulate the outcome for our own benefit?

Or are we gambling and drinking in the hot sunshine thinking only of the next task in the day, once these prisoners are dead, and isn’t that task better done under the influence of alcohol?

Perhaps, we’re in hiding in the community, or on the fringes of this unruly gathering as the crucifixions take place, as we see with the disciples, with the women who follow?

Or are we nailed to our own cross, beside the thieves, alongside of our Lord and Saviour?

And yes, we remember that not all those at the base of the cross were tossing out insults and allegations, but like the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, these are the ones who draw our attention, on this occasion.

Today, we witness the one true salvific effort, of God, planned since Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden, to save the whole world, not just those who believe, as we heard on the rooftop in the night, when Jesus and Nicodemus chatted.

We witness the one event around which the whole world still centres itself.

In Jesus’ crucifixion, the bonds of sin and death are broken for all time because Jesus is who we perceive: an innocent, as well as more than we can ever imagine: The Son of God.

In this event, those who think they’re in charge are definitely playing second fiddle to God’s plan, and quite frankly are struggling to keep up.

Here at the place of the Skull, God redefines redemption, and opens the way to you and to me, because the price of our sin has been paid, here, and now, and we find the secret in the conversation between the two thieves.

So, what do we hear? What do we see? Nothing more or less than God at work, using us to achieve God’s will, and using the most unlikely amongst us to reveal that will to the world.

“39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Lk 23:39-43)

It’s not just the thief, but each one of us, who believes, who hears the voice of our shepherd, and knows that “today [we] will be with [him] in paradise.” (Vs 43)

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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