Few who witness Jesus’ crucifixion understand that despite his ignoble death Jesus is in fact the true king. The disciples themselves, though they have heard Jesus say multiple times that he will suffer, die, and rise again, do not hold on to hope during his crucifixion. Instead, most of them flee in fear, afraid that their association with Jesus will lead them to a similar fate.
As often happens in the Gospels, the person whom we least expect to “get it” has eyes of faith to see who Jesus really is. One of the criminals crucified beside Jesus recognizes that he is the “King of the Jews,” as the sign above his head proclaims. This nameless criminal believes that contrary to all appearances, Jesus will usher in a new kingdom, and he asks to be part of it in some small way: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Surely this criminal, sentenced to death for his crime, wouldn’t be at the top of most kings’ list of recruits. But Jesus does not scoff at his request; Jesus speaks a word of promise and of hope: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Once again our king operates by a different standard when it comes to welcoming people into the kingdom. To enter Jesus’ kingdom, we don’t need wealth or social standing or power or even righteousness; all we need is faith in who he is and what he has done for us. May we have faith like this criminal, who was the first to be welcomed into Jesus’ kingdom.
King Jesus, remember me, even when I forget you; remember me when I lose faith in you; remember me when I run away like the disciples. In your mercy, welcome me into your kingdom—not because of my merit but because of your passion. Amen.
Each of the passages for this week addresses the ends served by divine power. Jeremiah characterizes king- ship by wisdom, justice, and safety. The exercise of kingly power is on behalf of God’s people rather than against them. The read- ing from Colossians praises the cosmic dimensions of Christ whose exaltation is not an end in itself, for the task of Christ is one of reconciliation. The goal of Christ’s kingship moves to center stage in the passage from Luke. The bystanders and one of the criminals executed with Jesus know what it means to be a king, so they taunt Jesus with the demand that he use his power to save himself. For Jesus, however, a king is not one who saves himself but one who saves others.
• Read Jeremiah 23:1-6. What experiences do you recall of leaders in various arenas not being wise shepherds of the people and the people’s resources?
• Read Luke 1:68-79. The song of Zechariah is this-worldly and political. In what ways does the song encourage you to view the baby in the manger in a different light?
• Read Colossians 1:11-20. How has Jesus revealed himself as your king this past year?
• Read Luke 23:33-43. Jesus came as a different king, a dif- ferent kind of messiah than people expected. Recall a time when God’s response in a situation differed
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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