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Sunday, November 24, 2019
Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 23:33–43
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 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!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (NRSV)
Here Jesus is going through the harshest punishment of the time. Crucifixion was specifically designed to be humiliating and so torturous that it would discourage future potential criminals. And Jesus uses it as a teaching moment. He starts by asking God to forgive those who are mocking and tormenting him. Then he demonstrates God’s unrelenting mercy.
In a time when Jesus’ disciples had abandoned him we discover an unlikely believer. The criminal who is being crucified next to Jesus understands the true reign of Christ. This man, who admits to being rightfully punished by being sentence to death on the cross, understands something that everyone else doesn’t. Christ reigns a non-earthly kingdom. And hearing that simple profession of faith, Jesus assures the man that he will join Jesus in paradise. Christ welcomes into his kingdom the sinner for whom the world saw no redemption.. No matter the evil or crime one has done, it is not a barrier to salvation.
Who are the unlikely believers in your life? The people you are quick to condemn? Do you have the strength to show compassion and mercy to those people?
Jesus, thank you for your unending mercy. Give me the strength to show your mercy to others. Help me to forgive those who do not know what they do. Amen.
Written by Katie Patterson, Youth Ministry Program Manager
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