Sunday Readings: Luke 19.28-40; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; Luke 22.14—23.56
One of the criminals hanging in crucifixion blasphemed Jesus, saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said, “Have you no fear of God, seeing you are under the same sentence? We deserve this, after all. We are only paying the price for what we’ve done, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter into your reign.” Jesus replied, “I assure you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
Pilate, the good thief, and the centurion guard at the cross all agree that Jesus is innocent. Pilate regards the accusations against Jesus as baseless; four times Pilate repeats his judgment. Many people welcome Jesus to Jerusalem. Shortly after arriving, he chases the sellers out of the temple area, antagonizing temple officials. Jesus’ teaching in the temple courts proves spellbinding for many and worrisome to the leaders. They find in Judas the way to find and arrest Jesus.
The chief priests, elders, and scribes bring Jesus before their assembly. On trial the officials want to know if Jesus is the Messiah. “Are you the Son of God?” they ask. Jesus answers, “You say that I am.” The officials condemn him by these words. They take Jesus before Pilate, who has power to sentence him to death. Pilate can see no crime but gives in to the crowd that press for crucifixion.
For the gospel writer Luke, Jesus is innocent, humble leader. He teaches his followers not to imitate those who lord or lady it over others but to seek a different kind of greatness as he says, “I am among you as one who serves.”
Innocence is a powerful agent of change. The bodies of civilians, including children, in the streets of Ukrainian cities stirs the world community. The cries of children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexican border awakened citizens to the immigration issues more than the plight of adults. Turning the fire hoses on children in Montgomery had the same power during the struggle for Civil Rights. The violence we can justify toward one another we cannot justify doing to children.
For Christians Jesus’ undeserved suffering and death are redemptive.
How does violence against the innocent affect you? What leaders have disillusioned you? Who models service?