Luke 23:33-43 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. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you impunity
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." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Reflection Three times we hear the words, “Save yourself” spoken by the leaders, the soldiers and one of the criminals. I hear them as pretentious, scornful and insolent words which ring in stark contrast to the gentle, humble and unpretentious words uttered by Jesus,”Father forgive them,” and the second criminal, “Do you not fear God...?”
And there we have it in a nutshell, the heart of Jesus’ ministry, the dualing threads that are woven throughout the clouded tapestry of God’ people from the beginning to this day. In what do we put our faith? In God the Father who is largesse sufficient to forgive the unforgivable, even the unjust murder of Jesus? Or, are we like the swaggering cock crowing our insolence while serving up gall with impunity? "You can do it... come on!"
By whose will do we live? Personally I quake when I kneel with Jesus in Gethesame and hear his unassuming words, “Not my will but Thy will be done.” The other heart wrenching words that epitomize Jesus’ peaceful and unpretentious manners are his request that God forgive all those responsible for his murder. In a very few words Jesus fulfilled the ministy he came to teach. “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you... be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6.27-28, 36) By truly practicing what he preached Jesus conclusively revealed his identity as the son of God the Father, being “merciful as (his) Father is merciful.”
Which gets me to the really hard part. If I presume to be one of God’ people, dare to call myself a child of God, then I too must be merciful - loving my enemies, doing good to those who hate me. This I know. I cannot do it. I cannot save myself. And so I pray with Jesus; Holy God please hear my prayer. It is my desire to do Your will, but I cannot do it. I do not really love my enemies and I find it really hard to do good for those who hate me. I cannot save myself but you can. Please give me the will and the way to do Your will. Forgive them for me. Love them through me. In the name of Your risen Chirst I pray. Amen.
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