Eucharistic Readings for Last Sunday of Pentecost Proper 29: Christ the King Sunday Year C
There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:38)
Wait, what? How did this come to be? It started roughly a thousand years before the birth of Our Lord Jesus. This was during the time Israel wanted a king for themselves even though God had told them not to be like the other nations.
Here is how it started: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him [Samuel], “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:4 – 9)
From this we arrive at the end of the kings of Israel in John’s Gospel:
“Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He [Pontius Pilate] said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” (John 19: 14 – 15) How sad and hurtful this statement must have been for God to hear.
Our Lord Jesus was crucified between two criminals. “One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) I am aware that this writing in Luke guides us into seeing this first crucified criminal as a harasser of our Lord Jesus. But we don’t know this until we hear the second criminal rebuke him. In defense of the first speaker, I remind us that he is the first to say, “save yourself, and us.” It is the “and us” part that stands out for me. None of the other mockers bothered to ask Our Lord Jesus to save them as well, not the Israelites and especially not the soldiers. Jesus is the One who forgives even those who harm him, not knowing what they are doing. We fit in that category. So Jesus tells not only that man on the cross but us too, that, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 43)
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John+