Christ the King Sunday – Nov 20, 2022
I’m having memory problems. I can only remember things from two years ago.
Hindsight is 2020. (from Upjoke.com)
Like that simple joke, today’s power verse is also about remembering —when one of the criminals being crucified alongside Jesus pleads with him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Lk 23: 42) What a profound statement to come out of the mouth of a man condemned to die! Usually, criminals who were being crucified weren’t remembered — except for their notoriety—in committing some horrendous offense against the state. But this criminal senses something different about Jesus. He senses that Jesus sees him with different eyes. He sees that Jesus sees him as having intrinsic worth. He sees that Jesus is someone who won’t judge him, simply by the one criminal act he may have committed.
Even though the rest of society may have discounted him, Jesus doesn’t. Even though he may have messed up his life considerably and most likely, had hurt others in the process, he still had a deep and unwavering notion that the God whom Jesus proclaimed day-in and day-out, saw something redeemable in him.
To many, it would sound like one of the most unlikely places where one would expect to find the truth about God: hanging in suffering and pain and being humiliated on a cross. And yet, it’s there that one of the criminals receives the grace to truly understand and to believe that Jesus is the King, not just of the Jews, not just of the world, but of the entire universe! It’s while hanging on the cross that that same criminal sees Jesus’ innocence and the injustice of the death sentence for the crime, with which Jesus is being charged. It’s while hanging on the cross too, that this unnamed criminal sees the justice of his own death for the actions he had committed and takes responsibility for them.
How unlike the other criminal hanging next to Jesus who wanted Jesus to use his purported divine power to get down from the cross and to free him as well. This other criminal didn’t care about justice or forgiveness. He only cared about himself and his own life. And though it doesn’t say what would have happened, if Jesus had done as the man had asked, I’d be willing to bet that the man would have run away as quickly as possible from Jesus after he had been freed, because he wasn’t ever interested in who Jesus was, but only in escaping responsibility.
Observing Jesus’ behavior during the other criminal’s derision of Jesus, the other crucified criminal probably notices that Jesus isn’t fighting or cursing or ridiculing the guards, onlookers, or either of them. He probably notices too, the unbelievable acceptance Jesus had, with regard to his fate and the bigger picture that Jesus foresaw his death would play in the salvation of others —past, present and future. But more than anything else, that criminal must have noticed the faith that Jesus had, in his heavenly Father’s plan for his life.
It’s this plan —the inbreaking of God’s kingdom on earth and God’s forgiveness of sins for all those who believe— for which Jesus is willing to pay the price for all human sin, by surrendering his own life and shedding his Most Precious Blood.
This plan came as a total shock and surprise to the established Jewish authorities of the time. They had anticipated a messiah that would be a military hero, who would call all people of faith to arms and to rebel against the current political powers and ethnic boundaries established by the ruling kings and emperors. Indeed, many had come before Jesus who claimed to be this sort of Military-Messiah, but were unsuccessful. Never in a million years would they have expected that God would send them a messiah that would preach non-violence, love, peace and forgiveness of sins.
Never would they have expected a messiah that would be both human and divine! Never would they have imagined a messiah that would broaden the borders of inclusivity to include, not only Jews in the plan of salvation, but all persons of faith and good will. They certainly, never, would have anticipated that the promised Messiah would have to willingly suffer and die on a cross for sinners and one whose kingdom would have no earthly or political limitations.
What about us? Do we have the same confidence and trust in God’s plan for our lives as Jesus had? Do we see the Lord as our King and our Savior? Do we believe in God’s goodness and mercy toward us and his desire that we become all that we’ve been created to be? Or do we doubt God’s plan for us, question God’s forgiveness of our sins, and think that we have to be better, holier, and stronger in order to make it into Heaven? Do we still think that we have to save ourselves, and are hesitant to let God be the Ruler of our Hearts, Minds, Souls and Bodies?
Remember, my brothers and sisters, that what made Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom so novel, was that it was so easy for someone to become a member! All one needed to do, was to place one’s faith in Him. That faith gave the member privileged status as a son or daughter of God, and an heir to the Kingdom! That faith enabled believers to not rely on their own efforts to obtain salvation but to rely on the grace of God for salvation! That faith gave the member access to the Holy Spirit 24/7 and an ability to embrace the Good News that God-is-with-us and to share it freely with others! That faith proclaimed from the roof tops, that no matter how far one might be from God, God would always welcome us back with open arms, if we repented and opened our hearts to his super-abundant grace.
If we truly believe this, then the Lord is asking each of us to make the words of the criminal our own: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and to pray those words from our heart, every time we despair of our sinfulness and think that there’s no way out of the hell in which we find ourselves. For it’s not just that criminal, so long ago, that needs Jesus’ tender and reliable mercy, love, and acceptance, but every one of us. All of us have merited judgment for our sins. All of us are unworthy of being with God in heaven. All of us can’t ever be perfect enough to save ourselves from condemnation. And all of us need a Savior, a Messiah, a King who’s willing to lay it all on the line for us.
The scope of our King’s presence among us encompasses every heart, mind, soul, and body — indeed, every corner and crevice in our known universe—- and every other universe that may, one day, be empirically discovered! So there’s nowhere that we can go, where God won’t be there for us! There’s no one, whom we’ll ever meet, that will be perfect enough to not be in need of God’s intervention in their lives and of God’s graced gift of salvation. What’s more, there’s nothing that we could ever do that could forever bar us from God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. For our sins were atoned for, by the Precious Blood of Christ shed on the Cross. It is, in the power of Christ’s Blood, that we’ve been redeemed and made heirs to the paradise which Jesus promised to the criminal. As we acknowledge and acclaim Christ our King and the King of the Universe today, may we keep, ever in our hearts, the words spoken by the criminal on the cross to our Savior: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
To Download please click below.