Jesus, remember me

Scripture    Luke 23-35-43


One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying,

“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God,

since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

And we indeed have been condemned justly;

for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has  done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”



Today is the feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Luke’s Gospel takes us to Calvary for those final lessons on what ‘God’s Kingdom’ is all about. Those final hours become the hallmark of Jesus’ whole life, totally poured out in love. His ‘kingdom’ has a cross for his throne and thorns for his crown. We have become very familiar with the three crosses silhouetted against the darkened sky, each cross bearing the dying body of a criminal. The charges made against them have all been posted. Two are ordinary criminals and the middle one is Jesus. His charge reads: “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews.”  With no crime to name, they simply need to reject a poor rabbi from the country who shook up the status quo. The rulers, soldiers, and the criminal who taunted Jesus had a definite notion of what it would mean if Jesus had been anointed by God as King. In their minds it would mean that Jesus would be a ruler of an empire - certainly more powerful than Caesar, and most certainly not a helpless victim of Caesar's power.


We might spend some time this week reflecting on just what Jesus did reveal to us about the meaning of kingship and authority in ‘the kingdom’  that he came to establish on earth. He spoke of a new kingship, of a new reign of God that he had come to announce – a kingdom of service, not power; a kingdom of peace, not the sword; a kingdom of love, not division…. And that ‘kingdom of God’ is already here, within us! He asked us to: 


Be a servant leader. In response to his disciples who were coveting positions of power, Jesus said that those who are rulers over the Gentiles make their authority over them felt. In his kingdom, however, whoever wishes to be great must be a servant; for he tells them that he himself "did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for all.”  


Be a nonviolent leader. To Jesus, the king anointed by God, all power in heaven and on earth was given; yet he issued no imperial decree to be enforced by the power of the sword. Rather he said to all who would listen, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart". 

Be a compassionate leader:  It is on the cross that Jesus ultimately reveals what it means to be king. The supreme power and glory of God that Jesus reveals is love. He challenges us to become engaged in the struggle to establish Christ's kingdom of justice and peace on earth by the means of compassion: "Lifted high on the cross, Christ gave his life for us, so much did he love us."


Behold Jesus, our king, open and vulnerable on the cross! As the taunting began, so the people watched in silent contempt. First, the leaders challenged Jesus to save his own life, if he were indeed God's Chosen. Then, the soldiers mocked him with a bitter drink. They challenged him to come down from the cross if he were a king.  Both challenges responded to the charge over Jesus' head, "This is the King of the Jews." The charge above the cross also bridged the distain of the crowd with the story of the two thieves. Both men appealed for mercy. One thief appealed from self-centered despair. Devoid of hope, this criminal chimed in with the leaders and the soldiers; "if you can save yourself, save us, too." His negative attitude answered his own question: "No!" But the other thief saw things differently. He hung there waiting to die, on a cross next to Jesus. He was a condemned thief paying his debt to society. Yet, in a remarkable moment of clarity amid the chaos, noise, and mockery surrounding them, Dismas – forever immortalized as “the good thief” – acknowledged Christ the King: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And what looked like a dead end was just the beginning for Dismas… for he was personally saved …. by Christ the King himself with the words, "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."


Since the "good thief” did not condemn Jesus, he could respond with the tiniest grain of faith. This thief made a conscious decision to reject the world's disdain and reach out for mercy. "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." The good thief believed - that Jesus would survive death and achieve kingly power; - that his kingly power was not of the world; - and that he too would survive death through the gracious memory of this Jesus. With nothing left to lose, the good thief made a leap of faith in the closing moments of his life. In one short statement, this thief believed in the Good News! Jesus, however, gave the good thief a greater gift, eternal life. And eternal life began on that day, at that moment, with no hesitation.  “Amen, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise!  As the good thief reached out in faith, he received complete assurance from the Lord. The thief would live!


The story of the "good thief” shows us his leap of faith. It also shows us Christ's willingness to help us to the very end of our lives. Both the thief and Jesus show an openness to each other that turned death into an opportunity. The immediate decision of any person in death asks the same question: Am I open to God's grace and mercy? Death is a time to reach out to God and others. It is THE existential step that shows us what we believe as the Communion of Saints. There is such hope and promise for all of us in this Gospel account. In our times of discouragement, we can reach out to Jesus (and others) to share our grief, feelings of rejection, and despair. When we reach out, we take the first step away from our pain and impasse. We move toward life, away from the darkness. The good thief made such a step, even in the face of a doubting crowd! And Jesus responded with life. Merciful and universally accepting until the very end, Jesus is ready for all! Throughout the centuries, that generous burst of forgiveness toward the ‘good thief’ in the last moments of his dying, has given incredible hope to many people. Luke reminds us that salvation is not earned or bought by our doing good works. It is the result of a love-trust relationship wherein God’s life can be communicated to us.



We are invited to come this week in contemplative ‘gaze’ upon the crucifix and stay there long enough to encounter the deep release and emptying out of all the pain, unforgiveness, aggressivity and victimhood that we have encountered throughout our whole life. At the same time as the accumulative pain is ‘swallowed up’ in inflowing healing grace, we will receive an inner infusion of God’s deep compassionate Love. There is this ‘inner exchange’  that just happens in this deep prayer and the soul feels like it has been brought back home and is safe. The good thief and Jesus had such an encounter that first Good Friday afternoon. It changed forever how we would relate to the God of History … who is kind and merciful, full of compassion, slow to anger and forgiving. To fall into his loving embrace, is Paradise!

Carrying Grace          Indeed, I promise you...  today you will be with me in paradise.



#3 arletteh 2010-11-23 17:48
Thank you so much for sharing this part of your journey with us,Elizabeth-An gela! Gods' Spirit goes with you!
#2 arletteh 2010-11-23 17:44
Elizabeth-Angel a--I keep you in my prayers!(emmanu ella)
#1 arletteh 2010-11-23 17:38
"With God, every moment is the moment to begin again!"(Catheri ne Doherty). What astounding hope this gives all of us! The grace of God must have been affecting the good thief more than he realized, for when he saw Jesus' acceptance of his fate, with great love, forgiveness and hope, the light of grace seized the thief, and he was connected right there and then with the Life that has no end, that leads into eternity!To our very last breath that grace is available to us, in spite of failure, tragedy, discouragement, despair. "With God, every moment is the moment to begin again!"

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