Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 23:33-43, Christ the King Sunday. November 20, 2022

The Gospel of Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Let us Pray: Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, on earth and in heaven above, your people and all those confessing your name, sharing the blessings of your grace. Your victory which conquered the fear of death, demonstrating the power of love, your peace which flows like a stream in our hearts, what could be greater than this for which we give our thanks!  Amen

We have ended the liturgical church year as Jesus ended his journey to Jerusalem. This journey has taken us through many aspects of His life and teachings. Are we ready for what he is going to endure? Most of us probably are not. Would we be like the first Criminal who taunts Jesus by saying”, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” The second criminal knew they were getting what they deserved but knew that Jesus had committed no crime to die for. Seems like maybe their judgement system had flaws like our system does where sometimes innocent people are wrongly convicted. Fortunately, our system has the ability to appeal a decision. Jesus did not have that option.

On this Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in the church year, we celebrate Christ’s rule over the Kingdom of God, already in place and evident in our lives, even while it has not yet been brought to full completion. This Gospel is the story of how Jesus the Messiah of God brought God’s reign of justice and mercy to earth, and Luke’s account presents the crucified Messiah enacting God’s reign, surrounded by mocking, brutal violence. And the people stand by, watching. They do not jeer, but they also do not come to Jesus’ defense. Perhaps the silent crowd is trying to decide how this could possibly be the Son of God. Maybe they wait to see if he has one last miracle in him. Maybe they are simply struck with horror. Maybe they really aren’t grasping what is happening before their very eyes. Maybe that’s what Jesus means when he prays, “Father forgive them. They have no idea what they are doing.” How many times have we stood idly by as something that we know is wrong occurs. We may choose not to help someone who needs help.  Why do we fail to speak up or get involved? It could be fear, it could be we don’t care, or many other reasons, but none are really good excuses.       As we prepare to enter Advent, the season of expectation, we hope for that Kingdom of God and the reign of Jesus as King to come in its fullness, for all things to be made whole and holy, for the brokenness of this world to be fully redeemed and healed. But it is not Advent yet. And it is certainly not Christmas, despite what you see on store shelves and television ads. Before we can begin the church year anew and start fresh with our hope and expectation of the coming of Jesus into our world, we must end this church year. We must pay attention to the way Jesus fulfills his ministry on earth by claiming his kingly crown. This is the kind of Kings we need, and kind of King we can really worship. The King who knows what it is to be broken, because only that king can reach into the cracks and let the light in. The light of Jesus’s kingship shines through the cracks of our broken expectations for what we think we need. And that light also lights our way to follow our true king. To follow him in doing the work God gives us to do, even if that work is self-sacrifice and what we really want is safety. To follow him in offering forgiveness to our enemies, whether or not they deserve it. To follow him in looking into the eyes of every other human being, including those we could justifiably judge, and then offering them welcome. To follow him in living as faithful citizens of HIS kingdom because he is our true king.

“Jesus, remember me” (From Luke 23:33-43. Those words from the thief on the cross echo a cry that arises deep within each one of us. 

Let us Pray: Let us praise Jesus Christ our King for the wonderful things he has done. He sends out his word to heal us. He satisfies the thirsty with the water of life. He fills the hunger with the abundance of his kingdom. Let us praise Jesus, redeemer and renewer of all things. May we always trust in his goodness and love, And have faith in his grace and mercy, May we always believe he cares about justice and righteousness, And draw our life from his eternal purposes. our king and savior, May we be filled with the hope and promise of his coming, And give our lives to follow him. May we be gripped by his kingdom ways, And walk with assurance and trust into his grace and peace. This we pray in the Name of Our Lord Jesus our King. Amen

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