7 July 2012Luke 23:32-43
"Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'" (v. 43)
In the description of Jesus' death, Luke's Gospel is keen to document the reactions of everyone involved. It is not surprising then that we find this description of Jesus conversation with the dying criminals in Luke's Gospel; an account that neither Matthew, Mark or John's Gospel have recorded.
In Jesus' day, crucifixion was a standard form of execution and the ruling forces of the day were quick to employ it. As a result Jesus is not alone in his suffering but finds himself between two men condemned to the same fate. Jesus is surrounded by people challenging him to demonstrate his power by freeing himself from the cross, yet his position there speaks so much more powerfully. By hanging between the two criminals in a place of public execution, Jesus shows his willingness to stand alongside the most marginalised in society and to endure the worst that humankind can subject him to.
The contrast between the two criminals is striking. The first can think only of how much he needs Jesus to help him in his suffering (verse 39), whilst the other is looking from a different perspective and seeks only reassurance that he will live beyond his death. Interestingly, Luke's Gospel does not detail either man's crimes, which makes Jesus' compassion and later promise of Paradise seem all the more powerful.
In this conversation we see above all a powerful portrayal of the nature of God. As the man hangs in unimaginable pain condemned by society in the worst possible way he finds in Jesus both hope and acceptance.
- How important is Jesus' promise of life after death for you?
- If we think of God as remembering us, how does that affect our journey of faith day to day?