Sunday

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” (v. 34)

Luke 23:33-43 Sunday 20 November 2016

Psalm: Psalm 46


Background

Today marks the goal and climax of a long pilgrimage: theChurch's journey through a complete liturgical year. Paradoxically(it would seem), on this occasion of celebration, we are confrontedwith the story of Jesus' crucifixion.

This is as it should be: Jesus' 'defeat' is our window intoheaven. At the cross, uniquely, we discern the truth of God; God'sheart is laid bare. The crucified Jesus is our God! The authorityand glory of God, and God's largesse (God's kingship) are revealedfor everyone, in every culture and generation, at the moment ofJesus' death, when he is vulnerable and helpless. This is centralto our worship and discipleship. It requires us to follow Jesus asthe servant of others (especially the most marginal and needy),with integrity, generosity and humility. We thereby share in God'smission of saving the world.

God's salvation is not a gift which focuses on oneself - gettingout of a tight spot, escaping pain or being able to do good withoutany suffering involved. God's salvation frees us from self-concernand empowers us to reach out to people in desperate straits andhelp them towards life and freedom. God's limitless mercy andforgiveness embrace everyone without exception (verses 34, 43).Though it costs Jesus everything, he seeks the lost (see Luke19:10). To the criminal who turns to him in faith, Jesuspromises a life stronger than death! ('Paradise' was traditionallythe Pleasure Garden of delight for the righteous dead: like theGarden of Eden, only more so.)

Another mark of salvation is the courage to challenge all whoabuse power in the exercise of kingship or leadership in any group,community or nation. Notice the irony of the inscription on Jesus'cross (verse 38) and the mockery of the Roman soldiers prompted byit (verses 36-37); and recall the Jewish leaders screaming at Jesusbecause he does not conform to their vision of God's Messiah (Luke23:18-23), who would surely liberate them from the politicaland military might of Roman rule. Against all that, look at Jesusas he hangs and suffers there, and see what true 'kingship' is allabout.


To Ponder

  • Jesus on the cross is the revelation of God's transforminggrace; the signal of the cost to us of serving our neighbour; andthe goal of all our longings for God. How are you helped to focuson these themes in the worship in your local church?
  • When we look around us and ponder our world, wearing the 'lens'of Jesus crucified, we see first today's victims of persecution,torture and abuse. How in practice have you been helped to respondto them and their desperate plight?
  • If there is no limit to God's love, how do we grow into suchhospitable and generous people that we accept even our enemies?What helps you to overcome your fears, prejudices andjealousy? 


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