Today is Christ the King Sunday and it is just natural for us to think about coronations and crowns and grandeur and palaces and kingdoms and power!
And yet there is a dead guy hanging on the cross!
This is where our salvation was bought. This is the one and only savior of the world. This is how the nations are saved. No other way. By no other means. By no other person.
The tomb is empty. Jesus is Lord. God is here! All means all!
We proclaim Christ crucified!
In the gospel of Luke Jesus does things on the cross that are not contained in the other gospels.
First words that he utters from the cross are words of grace. The Greek supports he said it more than once: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Kings, rulers, presidents – persons in leadership, do you know of any in the last 2000 years that has asked God to forgive an offending nation? We expect them to get even. Show might. Put the offender in their place.
And yet, we hear again and again, Father forgive them… poignant words from the cross. Made all the more so, because no one has asked for forgiveness! Not a one. And yet, Jesus has come to enact God’s reign of mercy.
It was the Roman leadership that tacked that sign on the cross: This is the king of the Jews.
Pilate knew how to put usurpers to power and thrones in their place. Pilate gave Jesus the title that Herod wanted for himself.
King of the Jews! Is that what you want to be? THIS is what we do to kings who dare mess with Rome. Come riding into town like some hero. Stir up the populace.
Some messiah this guy turned out to be hanging out here on this hill. You want a royal throne in the Roman colony? THIS is what you get! Here’s your king.
He claimed to save others but could not save himself.
The leaders mocked him, the soldiers mocked him. Even one of the criminals mocked him and implored him to get all three of them out this mess.
Unique to Luke, as Jesus hangs between the two criminals, he is having a conversation with them.
As the one is mocking him, from the other cross comes a simple request.
A simple, humble request that has been called one of the greatest acts of faith in the Bible: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He doesn’t ask to be rescued from his plight, a consequence that he knows he deserves. He doesn’t ask for his suffering to end. He doesn’t ask to be saved.
This man wants to be remembered. He does not want forgotten. Someone, anyone who would remember who he was.
This is the kind of king Jesus is. A king that can be approached, even as he hangs dying on a cross. A king that shows mercy and love as the world around him can only show cruelty and hate.
Now, Jesus could have simply said, “OK, no problem.” But Jesus is hanging on that cross for a reason.
What no one understood at the time, no one could possibly comprehend – it wasn’t that Jesus could not save himself, rather Jesus WOULD not save himself.
To do anything else would mean that a world would not experience God’s reign of mercy and grace.
And this guy – this common criminal – gets so much more than he asked for. In a sentence that, again, is unique to Luke, Jesus says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus welcomes him INTO his kingdom, into paradise, TODAY! This man will not only be remembered, but will be with Jesus. TODAY!
That’s kind of king Jesus is. The kind that you can approach, even in the midst of the agony of the cross, even if you are a criminal, and he will look at you and proclaim God’s kingdom and promise you that you will be a part of it NOW, not in the future, not in sometime in the great by and by, but now!
Today you will be with me in paradise.
Paradise – the same word used to describe the Garden of Eden. It is the same word that is used in the book of Revelation to describe the tree of life.
Paradise is the place where we go to be with God.
Not just to be with God, but to in special relationship with him. That is what Adam and Eve had with God, a special relationship, that was broken by their sin.
Paradise is a restored relationship with God and that relationship was restored on the cross – not three days later at the resurrection but on the cross when he took our sin upon himself and died and faithful obedience and saved us.
That is why we proclaim Christ crucified. Jesus and this criminal show us the truth about salvation. They were not saved from their suffering. Rather they were faithful in their suffering.
Proclaiming Christ crucified means that we proclaim faith, that when we are dying we will be saved from our sin.
It doesn’t get us out of our hardships, doesn’t make the challenges go away, doesn’t end the suffering. But we do have the promise of paradise, a right relationship with God. Today. NOW.
Yes, Christ is already here among us. That is the interesting paradox – Christ’s kingdom is now but not yet. Here but not all the way here.
This king who hangs on a cross—our king who hangs on the cross – is willing to embrace, forgive, redeem and to usher in his kingdom through his death, a death he willingly accepted.
We are called to manifest this kingdom already around us as we reach out to the other, love, care and proclaim the crucified Christ’s love.
Proclaiming Christ crucified…it’s what disciples DO!