Sunday - Feast of Christ the King

     In stark contrast to Jewish leaders, crucifying soldiers and a crucified criminal, we hear a dialogue between Jesus and another crucified criminal.  The group of three taunt Jesus, whether challenging his prophetic claim of Palm Sunday to be Jerusalem's king, or challenging the claim made about him in the inscription about kingship placed over his head on the cross.  Luke makes sure that these three groups challenge Jesus 'to save'.  Then there is the other criminal, whose words convey, not a taught or a challenge, but a faith in Jesus that he is king, that he will be in his kingdom, and that Jesus can 'remember' or 'save' him when he arrives there.  If one were to look for the 'reasonableness' behind the words of the criminal, one probably can only say that the criminal has made his positive assessment about Jesus from two experiences: he has heard from the Jewish leaders' taunts that Jesus has saved others, and he has personally witnessed Jesus' conduct on the cross, particularly his prayer in which he calls God his Father and prays so generously for his enemies.  These moments lead him to the faith which calls Jesus 'king'.  The criminal knows that Jesus, though king, is not yet in his kingdom; he asks that he be remembered when Jesus arrives there.

     Somewhat akin to the prodigal son, who knew he would be well if he could be let into his father's house, this criminal knows he will be well if only he be in the kingdom of Jesus - and Jesus' assurance of entry underlined by the word 'today' takes one's breath away.  He is as generous as is the fictitious father of the parable.

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     A noteworthy consideration here is the implicit belief that the criminal's entry into Jesus' kingdom (and there is no other kingdom to ente thereafter) includes in it a conviction that the forgiveness of sins (a condition for entering the kingdom) will be provided by Jesus.  As elsewhere in the Gospel, faith again says that Jesus does what "only God" can do.

     Finally, there is a noteworthy contrast within the dialogue.  One person asks for 'remembrance' - nothing else.  The other person promises that 'you will be with me'.  How many people are eager to enter the kingdom of heaven, and how many people want to be with Jesus?  The attitudes and hopes are not identical.  Jesus heard the request of the criminal, but preferred to nuance it by saying, You will be in the kingdom, but you will be with Me.

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