24 November 2013

Luke 23:33-43

"And the people stood by, watching; 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.'" (vv. 35-38)


Today, many denominations in the Christian Church celebrate Christ the King Sunday. But the Scripture reading for today's worship is not a triumphant text about Jesus reigning in majesty, but rather this passage from Luke's account of Jesus' crucifixion.

Luke's Gospel is the only one that tells us anything about the men who were crucified with Jesus. Their opinions about Jesus' identity echo the way that human beings tend to judge Jesus: Jesus is either the Messiah and Saviour or he is some kind of con artist or fool.

In a number of places in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as a king, but king of what? The good news that followers of Christ proclaim isn't just that God forgives us our sins. We also proclaim the good news that a kingdom is coming where God will be in charge; and not just any god, but the God who cares so much about creation that God took on our human nature in Jesus Christ.

But how do Christians reconcile their claim that God is establishing a new creation under the rule of Christ with Jesus' death on the cross? How can a dead man be king of anything? That is what makes the Christian faith look ridiculous to a number of people and that apparent puzzle is sometimes called 'the scandal of the cross'.

Those who call themselves Christians will be quick to point to the Resurrection as the vindication of Jesus' kingship. But this particular text doesn't take us to the Resurrection yet. Reading it to celebrate Christ the King challenges readers to linger on the scandal of the claim that Jesus' successful mission on earth ended in his death.

To Ponder

  • Why do you think that this text was chosen to celebrate Christ the King Sunday?
  • Imagine yourself being crucified in the place of one of the criminals; what would you say to Jesus?
  • Christian tradition affirms that there is meaning in Jesus' humanity and in his suffering and death; how do you think these things matter, if at all?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pam Garrud

Pam is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Britain. In August 2009, Pam and her London-born husband Trevor moved to Pam's native United States for family reasons.