In Luke’s version of the crucifixion story, we see an intriguing contrast in the way different people respond to Jesus’ death. On the one hand there are women, religious leaders, soldiers and criminals who mock Jesus and view his death as God’s curse.
This comes through clearly in today’s reading. But, on the other hand, we see all these same groups – women, religious leaders, soldiers and criminals – recognizing God’s hand in Jesus’ death and turning to Jesus for hope and salvation even as he died.
In today’s reading (Luke 23: 33-43)we see this in the thief who repents, but if you read the whole passion narrative you would see the other groups as well. This shows us that it doesn’t matter who we are, or what our station is in life – we all have the opportunity to come under the Reign of Christ or to choose to reject his invitation.
It seems strange to focus on the cross when speaking of the Reign of Christ, but this is the way the Gospels do it. The cross is the primary way that God’s Reign is revealed in our world, and so, even though they were mocking him, Jesus’ detractors were right when they called him king.
But the cross reveals that God’s Reign is very different from human power games. Instead of revenge, Jesus speaks forgiveness. Instead of rebuking the repentant criminal because of his past, Jesus welcomes him. And instead of anger at his suffering, Jesus dies with dignity, humility, grace and love – even toward his enemies.
Ultimately, we must all choose which realm we will live in – God’s Reign or the empires of humanity. Which realm do you choose?
Discipline: It is easy to use mockery and cynicism to protect ourselves from the influence of God’s Reign – and many people do. But, if we want to live as true citizens of God’s Reign, we will need to appreciate and value the alternative way of living that Jesus teaches. This appreciation is best expressed in praise – like the penitent thief.
Today, constantly submit yourself to Christ’s Reign through the practice of praise.
Pray: I praise you, Jesus, for your Reign which welcomes and saves me and all people.