Greetings to you! Today is the last Sunday of Pentecost and it is also a Sunday when our Sunday School children are participating in this service. We move into a season of Advent from the coming week. As we head into advent, we are reminded of “The kingly glory of Jesus on the cross”.
How do we understand Jesus as a King in all his glory while he was suffering the death of a criminal on the cross? It seemed like it was just the opposite of any kingly glory as Jesus was stripped naked and only had a crown of thorns on his head. Yet, on the other side, he was indeed the king of glory.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is of central importance to the Christian faith. Through Christ’s death, sinners are reconciled to God and to their fellow human beings. So, what makes us see the kingly glory of Jesus on the cross? Two major themes of forgiveness and living hope are seen through the cross. We will look at these two themes this morning.
Luke records for us that two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they come to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right and the other on his left. The name of the place was Golgotha in Aramaic, which meant skull. The place looked like a skull because of its protrusion from the earth. Jesus was placed between two criminals one on his right and other on his left. Whenever a criminal was crucified, normally one would hear curses and abuses, particularly on those who crucified them and on others as well. Sometimes even their own parents were cursed for bringing them into the world.
When we look at Jesus who was also crucified on the cross his very first words were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus is interceding for the forgiveness of his enemies even while on the cross. This reveals his kingly glory that even in the midst of his intense suffering he was able to look out for the good of others. The cross brings about reconciliation. It breaks down every barrier and creates a new humanity both to Jews and Gentiles and to each one of us.
Forgiveness is not such an easy thing and our frequent criticism of others gives us temporarily a superior position and feeds our confidence: and so, it easily becomes a means of elevating ourselves by putting down someone else. We indulge in gossip because of the appallingly irresistible desire for increase in prestige, which comes from being in possession of a morsel of news that no one else knows, and imparting it generously to an animated and attentive audience.
We find it difficult to forgive and for some of us it is like a drug that gives power. However, Jesus sets the example for us by forgiving his enemies. This morning we are called to forgive one another and start afresh because of the cross. Forgiveness is an unnatural act because our whole being wants revenge. However, we are to follow the path of Christ in order to forgive others. Whether it be a brother or sister, husband or wife, friend or a co-worker, we are called to forgive.
The second thing that the kingly glory of Jesus reveals on the cross is the living hope that he invites every repentant sinner to. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, one of the criminals mocked him saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him and said, “Don’t you fear God! 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.” The second criminal recognised who Jesus was and pleads with Jesus saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This criminal in the last moment of his life recognised who Jesus was and that he was indeed the king of glory who would reign forever. Sometimes, when death faces us, everything becomes crystal clear. He knows that somewhere in the future that these tables would be turned and this defeated man of Nazareth would be the one who would rule in glory. He rides into death on the back of this new found hope and trust. And therefore says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power.”
These two things of forgiveness and a living hope, calls us to respond to this king of glory. We are to practice this unnatural act of forgiveness in our lives. We are also to hold on to this living hope which says ‘No’ to death. The power to say ‘No’ to death is the same power that enables people to say no to all the penultimate endings of various kinds that are imitations of death, like an ended love affair, disgrace, marriage break down, break down of relationships between siblings, parents, incapacitating illness, bereavement and all such experiences that seem to say, “All is over.”
However, the death and resurrection of Christ gives us the hope that this is not the end. What makes it possible for people to defy the voice of death in the evil day is the presence of meaning. May we hold on to the forgiveness and the living hope that Christ has given us and experience his kingly glory in the days to come.
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