Crucifying the King: The Penitent Thief

"Christ and the Thief" by Nikolai Ge.Luke 23:35-43. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 34 (Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”) They divided his garments by casting lots. [The above is not part of the Sunday reading, but is generally considered within the narrative. ] 35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”  39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The “Penitent Thief” While one of the criminals, already crucified, began to revile “Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The word “revile” is eblasphēmei, literally “blaspheme.” It is then we hear the words from the one we know as “the penitent thief.”  Luke does not describe the criminal is such terms. His crime is never described and his penitence is conveyed only by his acknowledgement of his guilt and Jesus’ innocence, and his request that Jesus remember him. Continue reading

Crucifying the King of the Jews

Copia desde la Crucifixion dibujada hacia 1540...Luke 23:35-43. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 34 (Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”) They divided his garments by casting lots. [The above is not part of the Sunday reading, but is generally considered within the narrative.] 35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”  39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Those Who Mocked. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Luke pictures the majority of the people (laos) don’t mock Jesus (contrary to Mark’s description); they are simply watching. Executions were popular functions and doubtless many attended this one. But it was the rulers, not the people, who mocked (cf. Ps. 22:6–8). The leaders sneer (v. 35; lit. “look down their noses” or “thumbed their noses”) and the soldiers mock (v. 36) and one criminal blasphemes (v. 39). They all say the same thing: “Save yourself” – essentially the same temptations of the devil in Luke 4 – avoid the pain and suffering of the cross. Culpepper notes that “The irony here is that Luke underscores both Jesus’ real identity and the true meaning of his death. Jesus was hailed as the Savior at his birth (2:11); as the Son of Man, he had come to seek and save the lost (19:10). But just as he had taught that those who lost their lives for his sake would save them (9:24), so now he must lost his life so that they might be saved. Continue reading

Crucifying the King: “Father forgive them…”

jesus_crucifiedLuke 23:35-43. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 34 (Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”) They divided his garments by casting lots. [The above is not part of the Sunday reading, but is generally considered within the narrative.] 35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”  39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Commentary. In verses just prior to our gospel reading, Jesus addresses the women as representative of the nation: “daughters of Jerusalem” (Is 37:22; Mic 1:8; Zeph 3:14; Zech 9:9). Jesus notes that they weep for the wrong thing: “weep for yourselves and for your children.” This is because Jesus’ rejection means judgment for the nation (Luke 13:34; 19:41-44; 21:20-21). The tragedy, Jesus says, is not his death but the nation’s failure to choose deliverance, life and forgiveness. Continue reading

Crucifying the King: Context

English: Stained glass window at the Melkite C...

Luke 23:35-43. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 34 (Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”) They divided his garments by casting lots. [The above is not part of the Sunday reading, but is generally considered within the narrative.] 35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”  39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Context. Here on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time the Church celebrates Christ the King Sunday. The title is given several places in Scripture:  king of ages (1 Timothy 1:17), King of Israel (John 1:49), King of the Jews (Mt. 27:11), King of kings (1 Tim 6:15; Rev. 19:16), King of the nations (Book of Revelation 15:3) and ruler of the kings of the Earth (Rev. 1:5). The solemnity has been celebrated on the Roman calendar since 1925 and was instituted as a culmination of the liturgical year and a reminder that in His suffering and death, Christ ascended to his throne. Continue reading

Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary

Re-posted from last year….

Much of our religious consciousness is affected by art; we have inherited specific images that are more artistic than biblical.  For example, we always imagine St. Paul being knocked from a horse on the Damascus Road.  There is no mention of the horse in scripture.  Is that a bid deal? Perhaps not.  But when Caravaggio placed Paul on the horse, a sign of royalty, he removed Paul from the midst of Corinth, the hard-scrabbled sea port town, from among the drunks, slackards, ner-do-wells, and people who sorely needed salvation.

I think art has also done that to the image of Mary. Many of the paintings that illustrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven, show Mary floating upward on a cloud, carried away by angels and accompanied by cherubs. She hasn’t aged a day. Her hands are folded quietly, her eyes rolled up to heaven, her ties with earth—and with us—almost completely severed.  In these paintings, the people standing below look up at her with longing and with love, reaching out to grasp her robe or touch her feet—But it is too late. Mary has already left them behind – left us behind. Continue reading

Prayer and Memory

English: Lords Prayer in Aramaic(Syriac)

As a priest I am frequently asked questions from people who are people of prayer, but suddenly find themselves in the deep end of the pool of life: illness, love lost, love found, death, financial ruin, crises of faith – and more. And they are looking at me as though I am the lifeguard of prayer ready to throw them a life ring… They are waiting for me to respond, to give clarity and certainty, reassurance, and hope… and many times, it the pastoral encounter which stirs up my own memories … Continue reading

Why are we ordained?

I was not a young man when I was ordained. I had served as a naval officer on nuclear submarines, worked in the private sector, started companies, sold companies, and all the while been active as a lay volunteer in many aspects of ministerial service to young, old, sick, dying, healthy and all the things that make up parish life.

In a story for another time, I left all that aside for just a while (so I thought) to become a lay missioner. I served for three years in the slums of Nairobi in aspects of ministerial service to young, old, sick, dying, healthy and all the things that make up parish life – in the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa and with Kenyans and with refugees from the interhamwe of Rwanda.

Life for me was changed. Continue reading

A man born blind: faith or disbelief

man-born-blindBeing Lead to Decision: Faith or Disbelief.  Where the authorities drive the man away (v.34), here Jesus finds the man (cf. 6:37) and asks: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Just as the Samaritan woman was confronted by Jesus with the possibility of the anticipated Messiah’s being already present (4:25-26), so also the healed man is confronted by Jesus with the possibility that the future judge is already present. To this point in John 9, the theme of the judgment evoked by the light of the world (9:5; cf. 3:17-21; 12:31-36) has largely been implicit. Jesus’ question makes this theme explicit as he asks the man whether he recognizes in his healer the one who brings of salvation. As v.36 indicates, the man is ready. Continue reading

A man born blind: more questions

man-born-blindA second interrogation of the man by the Jews (9:24-34). In the third and final interrogation scene, the authorities are identified only with the pronoun “they.” They are clearly the same group identified as the Pharisees who interrogated the man in vv. 13-17, but the motivation for the second interrogation is also clearly linked to the parents’ testimony and their rebuttal: “…he is of age.”  The man is recalled before the elders.

Twice in this interrogation scene the authorities hold their knowledge up to the man and expect him to accept their positions (vv24, 29). Each time, however, the man counters with his own experience (vv.25, 30-33). Continue reading

A man born blind: interrogation

man-born-blindThe Interrogations. If there is a “typical” pattern to any miracle account it is: (a) the situation of need, (b) the miracle, and (c) the attestation/witness to the miracle. It is here that John’s telling of the story has unique features – patterns outlined in the introductory comments of miracles and sin (in John’s writing).  Be attentive to simple categories such as true witness, equivocating witness, unbelievers, accommodator, or similar categories that are other that one who believes and is willing to live/act based upon that belief. Continue reading