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Reign of Christ: Luke 23:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday, and our gospel reading takes us to that awful day when Jesus dies. Lord Jesus, the long-awaited king from the line of David, the one who would free the people from fear, violence, and hardship—is crucified like a criminal. The sign above him reads “the king of the Jews.”

What kind of king is this?

Save yourself, if you are who you say you are, say the leaders of the people

They don’t understand, because Jesus is not here for himself. He’s not going to save himself. He’s not that kind of king.

Save himself from death? This isn’t real saving. We’re all going to die sooner or later. Death, conventionally speaking, can’t be avoided.

But we Christians talk about saving, about salvation, all the time. And we talk about Jesus being the person who does the saving. He’s our Saviour. So what is he saving us from? What do we need to be saved from? And who are we that Jesus cares?

We are God’s children, God’s beloved children. Some say that God created the world because God wanted, God needed, someone and something to love. God without love is not God. God is the love that makes the world. And because God loves us like children, we are allowed to go our own way. God does not direct our every move. We do stupid and venal things, and God watches and grieves. We suffer, and God suffers with us. We wander far from God, we forget about God’s love, and God longs for us to return.

So God decides to come among us, to become just like us, to experience all the joy, longing, effort, simple pleasures, pain and sorrow of the human condition. What this means is that there is nothing that we experience that God has not also experienced.

God comes as Jesus. Jesus at once fully God and fully human. God’s Son and God. It’s not rational, by the way, so I suggest giving up on trying to make it make sense.

Jesus comes among us to say, come back, come home, there is a better way of being. This is what we need to be saved from. A life lived for oneself, relying on oneself, placing our hope on things and people that will come to an end.

Another word for this is reconciliation. What I like about reconciliation is that this is what we hope for between settler people and Indigenous people, so I can picture it more easily. We know that settler government and church did and does incalculable harm to Indigenous communities and people. And we declare that we want to change our relationship, to be reconciled.

If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself, mock the soldiers. They don’t understand, because Jesus is talking about a different kingdom.

The only kingdom the soldiers know is about power over, about violence, about winners and losers. Jesus is talking about a kingdom that nobody has ever seen, a kingdom that is like a seed, like a pearl you’d give everything to have, like a wedding banquet, like a hidden treasure. Like feeding five thousand people with a few loaves of bread and some fish. A kingdom of justice and peace. Where love ensures that everyone has enough and is treated with respect.

There is no evidence for this sort of kingdom, and yet bits of it break out all over the place, all the time. When you and I live as God’s beloved children, then we live our lives in a way that sparks glimmers of God’s kingdom.

Save yourself and us, ridicules one of the thieves crucified alongside Jesus. And he does. Jesus takes on all the suffering, all the violence, all the fear and disgust, all the guilt, all the despair. And in doing so, he is proclaiming that all that separates us from God’s love is powerless. He has taken it, once and for all.

And the other thief, he knows that he has done wrong, that he is getting what he deserves. Yet he somehow catches a glimpse of the kingdom in which people get more than they deserve, where human justice is replaced by divine compassion and love. The other thief says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”


And Jesus replies, “Yes. Come. Today.”