For whatever reason, and this is one that I have not quite been able to figure out yet, the church service today was much shorter than usual. I know that my church tends to fall into the longer service time of the spectrum, it went so quickly, I did not really know what to think of any of it. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the Message. (It is the most important part anyway).
As Christians, or Lutherans since I’m not so sure I can really generalize this, we are entering what is or should be considered the most important time in the church year: Lent, followed by Passion Week, and finished with Easter. If you do not find this of importance, I suggest you go back to Adam and Eve and then to Jesus’s birth, and you might figure it out. I’m not going to steal what Pastor Burkey wrote up, but I am taking the idea and digging deeper into in my own way. We all know the image of Jesus on the cross, three crosses on the hill-in Golgatha I believe-with the two criminals flanking him on either side. It is a brutal image to see and imagine, yet, it is truly a turning point in our history with God and His son, Jesus. Throughtout Jesus’s life we see him wavering between being the Son of God and the Son of Man. This is an important time where we as Christians see this middle ground between heaven and earth, Jesus.
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be exectued. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other one his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Luke 23:32-35
Now, I feel as though most of us see this version of the Crucifixion. Jesus is mocked by many, those on the ground watching the gruesome execution of three men, as well as the criminals, and many others around. Possibly anybody passing through the area, etc. Now, we have the opportunity, to see three other accounts of this moment in Jesus’s life, as well as there being more to this particular version of the Crucifixion.
“Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Thsoe who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who aer goign to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from teh cross, if you are the Son of God!’ In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” Matthew 27:38-40, 44.
Matthew is usually the much more long winded writer of the Gospel, but this account does not attain for what could be the most important parts of this story. If not the most important, it is a vital point of what we can expect thanks to Jesus’s death on the cross.
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?’ ‘We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ ‘Jesus remember me when you come in to your kingdom.'” Luke 23:39-42
This criminal realized that he was at a point in his life that no matter what, he was going to die. He then came to the realization of where he wanted to spend eternity. There was no reason to badger Jesus into trying to save them in that moment and keep them on the earth. He decided that he wanted to join Jesus in his kingdom, just like we all hope to one day. The answer that he gave the criminal is the answer that he gives to us:
“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'” Luke 23:43
Of all phrases that become important to us in this particular time is the words of the criminal and Jesus’s response. Those who believe in Jesus before men will be in paradise with him upon their earthly death.
“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.'” Luke 9:23-24