November 21, 2004

Luke 23:33-43

[33] When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.

[34] Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."

Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. [35] The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, "He saved others. Let's see him save himself! The Messiah of God -- ha! The Chosen -- ha!"

[36] The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: [37] "So you're King of the Jews! Save yourself!"

[38] Printed over him was a sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

[39] One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: "Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!"

[40] But the other one made him shut up: "Have you no fear of God? You're getting the same as him. [41] We deserve this, but not him -- he did nothing to deserve this."

[42] Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom."

[43] He said, "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise."

 [The Message]

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 1. Christ is king? Even though we have come to believe that this scene is not the end of the story, we do need to look at some prophetic understandings about kings. These will come to us from 1 Samuel 8 as Samuel refutes the short-term benefits of a king to enhance security in the moment.

 A king will enlist the men in an army (what we have we will use and that leads to blind belligerence); enlist the people in an economy for the king's benefit that leads to poverty and greed for non-kings; enlist the women as property, gifts for the pleasure of the privileged; elist the work of the worker's hands for the propertied; enlist the product of time and energy spent and claim the right of taxation without representation; enlist the people as slaves (much more nicely put as an "ownership society"); and this will call forth much weeping when folks find out what their desire for a king has wrought in their lives.

 2. The life of Jesus seems to run counter to each of these kingly qualities. He does not call upon an army of angels to beat the Romans at their own game. He speaks, over and over again, about economic justice issues. He honors women, widows, and children in their own right and not as pawns in other games. He continually points folks in the direction of GOD's claim upon our resources. He came to set people free. He is a comfort to Jerusalem and joy to the world.

 3. We need to be careful about this king business and not assume that with Jesus it is OK, but with humans it is not OK. There is simply a downside to kings that no amount of holiness can overcome – yes, even with David and Solomon and Jesus.

 Perhaps we need to look toward a new image of gate-opener, rather than king or gate-keeper. As we come to the end of another church year, have we gone through expectation and birth and disappointment and death and resurrection and mission only to come to a place of hierarchical kingship? How much better to come to a better transition to a new starting spot – a hope of new hope, no matter what.

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