This sermon was preached by our Reader Christine on 20th November, 2016.
As we remember Christ the King and begin the journey towards the birth of Jesus. It seems strange to be reading about the crucifixion, however, we can think about it in the way that, “as one journey ends another journey begins,” because the start of Christianity began after the crucifixion.
All through Jesus’ ministry, he has associated with sinners, with tax-collectors, prostitutes and here he is now between two criminals. Purposely put between them as if the authorities wanted to humiliate Jesus further in front of the crowd by ranking him with criminals.
The fact is that they have sinned and Jesus again is in the midst of sinners the people who he has come to save.
Jesus who should be in a state of unconsciousness after the suffering he has already endured is lucid, coherent and very conscious of what is going on around him. He can hear clearly what is being said and see, what is taking place and instead of condemning those around him as they mock him and divide his clothing among them, he prays, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
He is concerned, not just for the sinners in general, but for the individuals around him. Those who have followed orders, lead him through the streets and driven nails into his hands and feet.
It reminds us that God knows everyone of us, we are his sheep; he knows how we feel and shares our troubles, our laughter and Jesus is our Shepherd to guide us through our daily lives that eventually leads us to his kingdom.
I do wonder whether, at this point those who had condemned him, have begun to doubt their own motives and reasons as they ignorantly speak the truth of Jesus identity when they say, “…………. let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, the chosen one.” They are actually thinking of Jesus as the Messiah, even though they still will not accept it. We know it was not part of God’s plan for Jesus to save himself, because this is not the major event – that will happen after the 3 days.
One of the criminals next to him also becomes part of the mocking crowd, a crowd watching Jesus’ every move and listening to every word. He mocks Jesus and says, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But, he is missing the whole point, Jesus was on the cross to save all, not individuals and certainly not himself. Even the soldiers standing watching began to mock him as they offered him sour wine.
The other criminal seemed to grasp the enormity of the events taking place, he recognised that he and the other man had committed a crime and they were being punished accordingly, but Jesus was innocent and had been condemned out of jealousy or rivalry.
He feared God as he spoke the words, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” and Jesus knowing where he and this criminal were going replied that, “……today you will be with me in Paradise.” A word originally used to describe a royal garden and used here as a synonym for heaven. The man wants to make his peace with the “King of the Jews” before he goes into his kingdom.
A kingdom Jesus has often spoken about and is part of the prayer he taught his disciples and us to “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come……….”
A kingdom he told Pilate about when he answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world.’ (John 18: 36)
The criminal has recognised Jesus’ authority and he is asking him personally, to mediate for him, so he can be saved and allowed to enter Jesus’ Kingdom. He has recognised Jesus as the Messiah and reminds us that it is never too late to turn to Christ and be saved.
It’s difficult to read about the crucifixion and the sacrifice Jesus made for us and try to relate it to today’s world, but recently there was a programme about Police Officers in Britain, who had died whilst on duty. This is the ultimate type of sacrifice and thankfully, we are not asked to do this, but we can sacrifice our time, our energy, and if any of you watched “Children in Need” on Friday, it was a good example of people/performers donating their time and in many cases their money to help and support the children’s charities.
As disciples of Jesus discerning his words and teachings is one of the hardest tasks we face. We cannot possibly endure all the suffering he went through and I’m sure many of us would not want to, but we can forgive and we can share his Gospel with others. We can share our talents, skills, abilities and the gifts we have been given with those around us in the same way that Carol has been sharing her knowledge of technology with us. We can pray for those suffering and we can lead by example. We can let Jesus reign in us, in our hearts, our minds our bodies and allow ourselves to be instruments for his work in our communities.
Jesus died for our salvation a message we should share as we prepare for the season of Advent. A time of preparation in the same way, the crucifixion prepared the way for our salvation
Help us to share your words of life
with our families, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Help us to speak of holiness; righteousness; freedom and compassion.
Give us the opportunity to talk about healing; comfort; acceptance and forgiveness.
Grant, O God,
that we may speak so boldly and so lovingly that the greatness of Christ
may shine out clearly in our persons,
through the indwelling of your Holy Spirit Amen
Donald Coggan (1909-2000)
The Lectionary Commentary – Roger E. Van Harn
The Harper Collins Study Bible
The Gospel of Luke – Daily Study Bible – William Barclay.