A reading from the gospel according to Luke 23:35-43
35 The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine
37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?
41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
For most people, the image of royalty or kingship is power or exalted position, not crucifixion. Therefore, for Jesus to be hanging on the cross does not qualify Him to be a king. Yet human standards always fail in the eyes of God. Human thoughts are not God’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). This is exactly the reason why Jesus is sneered, mocked and ridiculed as king while He is crucified. Ironically, those who were taunting Jesus were proclaiming who He is – Chosen one, King of the Jews, and Christ. In other words, these people were aware of Jesus’ identity but deliberately, on their own volition, they rejected Him.
On the other hand, the other criminal whom some writers call the “good thief” had the humility to accept Jesus as King who can dispense mercy and permission to enter paradise. Moreover, he recognized his own crime and accepted his deserved punishment. Although the gospel does not say that he was repentant or that he asked for forgiveness, Jesus proclaimed his salvation right there and then.
Indeed, Jesus is merciful. Though great are our sins, He is willing to bring us to salvation as soon as we accept Him as king of our life. In fact, He even forgave those who crucified Him for “they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Yet, it is only with humility that can allow us to meet the divine. God’s mercy and grace are abundantly available but if we are not humble enough to accept our need for salvation, how can we receive it?
Jesus is King but He is not an ordinary king who rules with guns, goons and gold. He reigns with mercy and justice. Yet His kingship is not so visible yet in this world because many people throw out His law from their heart. Still, it doesn’t mean it does not exist or that He is powerless. He has planted the seed of His kingdom some 2,000 years ago and it is growing, albeit, slowly.
And Jesus reigns with patience too. He is waiting for all people to open their hearts for His kingship (Revelation 3:20). May we all have the humility to enthrone Him as King in all aspect of our life. Amen.