Christ the King
33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 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!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise .”
This Sunday brings us to the close of the Christian year, the Last Sunday after Pentecost or Christ the King Sunday. I do not think Jesus was thinking of himself as a king at this point in his ministry. The promise to a dying criminal is Luke’s way of describing Jesus’ work and life. Jesus began his ministry proclaiming “good news to the poor” and “release to the captives” ( 4:18 ), and he ends it extending an assurance of blessing to one of the wretched. 1
This past week while reading Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation “Adult Christianity” I was reminded of the two criminals being crucified beside Jesus. In his description of the spiritual life of Christians, Rohr also describes these two criminals.
Most of us begin with creating the skeleton, but it takes years and usually some suffering to find the meat, the muscle, and the real message of the Gospel. It is probably easiest to begin conservative, since liberals do not tend to respect the basic skeleton of faith or any limits to their seeming freedom.
In the second half of life you might look a little more like a liberal, but the real difference is that you have been overtaken by love and let go of fear. That is the meat, the muscle, and the message.
The second criminal has discovered the real message of the Gospel. He has found the real meat, muscle, and the message of what Jesus has been teaching. This is the process of adult Christianity or Christian spirituality. We begin with a skeleton and through the process of growth add meat, muscle, and the message. The first criminal has not moved past the skeleton stage. Life is not stationary. Events and circumstances change in our life so our relationship with God and others must change and grow. Change must take place before spiritual growth can take place. There are no permanent places for us in this life.
New insights and developments continually challenge our understanding of life and our experience of God. Yet if we see the spiritual life as a journey, these cycles of change will not alarm us or turn us aside from our primary goal — to know and love God. 2
The circumstances in Jesus life did not cause him to turn aside from his primary goal-to know and love God. Will we allow circumstances to turn us from our primary goal of knowing and loving God.
1 R. Alan Culpepper, The Gospel of Luke. Nashville : Abingdon Press, 1995. p.
2 Rueben P. Job and Marjorie J. Thompson, Embracing the Journey: The Way of Christ. Nashville : Upper Room Books, 2006. p. 18-19