Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3 Colossians 1.12-20 Luke 23.35-43
One of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus and said, “Aren’t you the messiah? Then save yourself and us.” The other criminal, rebuking him, said, “Don’t you even fear God? You are under the same sentence of death yourself. We deserve it, after all. We are paying the price for what we have done, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.39-43).
This crucifixion scene shows us Luke’s gospel in cameo. As king of the Jews, Jesus reigns from the cross, not a throne. He forgives a thief as his final act, which completes the mission he announces in Nazareth, his hometown—a jubilee year, Israel’s tradition of freeing the indebted from prison, the enslaved from oppression every 50th year. A jubilee is about righting relationships, restoring earth, restoring community to equality before God.
In his gospel Luke tells his community and us that Jesus is God’s Spirit-filled prophet, innocent of charges brought and faithful to the mission for which the Spirit anointed him. He brings good news to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, sight to those who have lived in darkness.
To the good thief, Jesus acts as the bearer of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He welcomes the repentant thief to paradise. Luke emphasizes the mystery and universality of God’s favor and Jesus’ mission and message: the poor, the ignorant, and wrongdoers who recognize their need are the chosen ones and the kin of God.
What harm or injustice is within your power to set right?