Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 8: Year 1
“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).
Often as we read scripture we are led to think or believe in the way the writer wants us to. I always ask those with me to be aware of the writer’s bias. The writer of Luke, whom I admire and from whom I learn so much, I still must hold accountable.
As we have our Lord Jesus crucified but still alive, we have the words of the people; “And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” (Luke 23:35). And in the next verse we hear from the Roman soldiers; “The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:36 and 37) We have these words about saving himself from people walking around but not on a cross.
This is why I look carefully at the words of the crucified men. We are told by Luke that the first crucified speaker “derided” Jesus saying “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” I think it is the, “and us,” part that draws me to him. As I too am a man that knows well that I am a sinner I want our Lord Jesus to not only save himself but to save me also. I too am on my cross as I deserve to be and I want our Lord Jesus to save me as only he can.
We must remember that Luke never met Jesus. Luke received the stories of Jesus from Peter and Paul, (Paul, who also never met Jesus before he was crucified) and Luke passed these words on to us with the interpretation he was given when he received these words.
But this so-called deriding criminal was the only one that asked for his own salvation as well as Jesus saving himself. Sometimes one has to be in a situation where death is near to really appreciate the need for being saved. And my beloved of the Lord, that’s where we all are today; we are crucified with our Lord Jesus. We have sinned and strayed from the ways of God and are in need of our Lord Jesus saving himself and us. And Jesus does exactly that.
We too look for the day we are in paradise with our Lord Jesus. When we learn to love we also learn not to rush to judgment. The man on the cross may not have been mocking Jesus as we are led to believe, and as those who were walking around thinking they are not going to die (ever). There is truth in his words about the need for salvation for us all.
Let us live in order that we might love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John