Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3; Colossians 1.12-20; Luke 23.35-43
Jesus was crucified with two criminals. One reviled Jesus, saying, “Aren’t you the messiah? Then save yourself and us.” The other criminal rebuked the first, saying, “Don’t you even fear God? … This man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answers, “I assure you, this day you will be with me in paradise”. – Luke 23.39, 41-43
Jesus begins his mission by declaring a jubilee year of forgiving debts, righting relationships, restoring fields, and restoring communities so all have a chance to thrive. Jesus is about forgiving sinners, healing the sick, liberating those who are oppressed; he is good news for the poor.
In the final scene of Jesus’ ministry, this Sunday’s gospel, soldiers and bystanders taunt Jesus as he hangs on the cross. One of the two criminals hanging with Jesus in crucifixion recognizes Jesus is the messiah. This criminal, whom Christians traditionally call the good thief, seeks the pardon and mercy only a king of Israel can give. His words recall Jewish prayers of old. Jews asked God to remember them, to keep them in existence. To remember is to give life and continue relationships.
In asking Jesus to remember him, the good thief asks for relationship and continuing life with him. The good thief also testifies that Jesus is innocent of any crime. This man believes God’s kingdom will come, will vindicate Jesus, and identify him as the messiah of Israel.
Immediately Jesus responds with welcome and assurance, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” His words transform the past of the thief and include him among the kin of God.
For what innocent people do you speak out as the good thief does? Who have you forgiven and continued in relationship?
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