Christ the King – 24 November 2019
Lectionary Readings: 2 Sam. 5:1-3; Ps 122:1-5; Col. 1:12-20; Lk. 23:35-43
Theme: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”
The journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, to the mount of Golgotha, started in Luke 9:51: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is the veiled way of saying that he is on his way to his death. From this passage we learn that Jesus resolutely accepted the consequences of his preaching of God’s kingdom. Jesus is asking me for that same resoluteness. It is my choice, I am free, how committed am I to this resoluteness.
Our Gospel text starts from Lk 23:35, but I want to mention Lk 23:26-32, the way to Calvary, the way of the cross, via crucis, via dolorosa. Perhaps, we can meditate on the fourteen stations of the Cross. In verse 33-35 is the crucifixion, and we hear the first of the seven last words of Jesus from the cross. As soon as Jesus was fastened to the cross, he prayed for those who crucified him “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing”. How crucial and significant, that the first message of Jesus from the cross is forgiveness for those who crucify him. At the height of his physical suffering, his love prevails and he asks His Father for forgiveness. When asked by Peter, how many times should we forgive someone, Jesus answers seventy times seven (Mt 18:22). So, right up to the final hour of his life, Jesus preaches forgiveness.
We begin our text for this week, Lk 23:35-43. In verse 43, we have the second saying of Jesus from the cross: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus came to restore Paradise for us – everlasting life with God. This was the response of Jesus to the criminal on his right side who asked, when you are in your dwelling place Paradise, please remember me. In the Jerusalem Bible, the criminal on the right side of Jesus is called “The good thief”. How humble can he be, not asking to dwell in Paradise, but to think of him, when you are in your kingdom, in your sovereignty. Ignoring his own suffering, Jesus responds with mercy in His second word, living out his own beatitude “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
I am interested to look at the request of the repentant sinner, his disposition in the context and in comparison with everyone else around the cross. It seems stunning and just phenomenal. The people stood beholding, stayed there watching Jesus. Perhaps among the crowd were the women who mourned and lamented for Jesus. The Talmud records that “noblewomen of Jerusalem used to give soothing drinks to condemned criminals.” (Jerusalem Bible, 109) The rulers also with them derided him. Jesus is mocked and ridiculed by the leaders, by the soldiers, and even by one of the criminals crucified with him. The crowd misses the point, as Jesus dying on the cross is part and parcel of the whole Paschal Mystery. The repentant criminal recognized through the eyes of faith that Jesus was truly God’s anointed King and Savior.
Lord Jesus Christ, I place my all my hope in you because you have redeemed the world by your death on the cross and by your victory over the grave. Help me to never lose sight of the goal of heaven that I may live each day in joyful anticipation of you return in glory.
For Reflection and Discussion:  Why did Jesus die?  What is my feeling around the Calvary?  What is Paradise for me?
Bibliography: Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary (New York, 2001); Plaut (ed.), The Torah, A Modern Commentary (New York, 1981); The Jerusalem Bible (London 1974); jesuschristsavior.net
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