And there followed [Jesus] a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ 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 railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? 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 justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:27–43 ESV)
The election is in full swing. You might know the candidates in your electorate but you definitely know the political party leaders because they’re supposed to be the best, the pinnacle, of the people in the party to secure the political party’s goals – which invariable is to win or to be able to influence. So what happens when you hear that Labour people ‘hate’ Jeremy Corbin or life long Conservative voters are saying they will not vote Conservative because of Boris Johnson? I’m sure such sentiments have been expressed in the past but, to me at least, they are noticeable now. The a skewed world continues when these political leaders have their supporters from non traditional constituencies. For those voters perhaps the person is more important than the party. In politics at the moment, it seems to me, that we have person, party and perception and each of us claims that our view is the correct one. The linkages of truth and trust that bind a society are loosening more and more so people are creating their own worlds and there is no common or agreed story about what is going on. We live in interesting times.
Nearly 2,000 years ago in the run up to the Passover, the Roman authorities accepted pragmatically the Jewish religious leaders’ request to get a troublemaker out of the way. Initially reluctant to be involved, Pontius Pilate is swayed by the political threat of the people reporting to Rome that Pilate was not ‘a friend of Caesar’ and so he orders Jesus of Narareth to be crucified. Who was this Jesus? Well that depends on whom you asked!
Blasphemer. Trouble maker. Messiah. Healer. Rabbi. A pusher of boundaries. Miracle worker. The religious leaders were against and aghast at Jesus’ subtle and not so subtle links with God – the I AM hint he claimed – the forgiveness he bestowed – the intimacy with which he called God ‘his Father’ – required a strong response. And there’s nothing stronger than crucifixion in the ancient world! And so Jesus is crucified and on this final journey we find Jesus lamenting the world and predicting serious judgement as well as offering comfort to a fellow crucified criminal who somehow saw more than a fellow unfortunate on another cross. This is at the heart of Christianity – person and this death. But how do we still hear the words?
1.That Jesus is kind and caring –gentle Jesus meek and mild sort of person –a cosmic teddy bear.
2.That Jesus is irrelevant or fictional or a good idea gone astray because his followers, the Church in all their denominations, have made him and ‘the brand’ pretty toxic with rules and judgements and are out of step with much of the world today.
3.That Jesus is the Son of God, Saviour of the world, crucified and risen –and here there is general agreement – but then they tend to disagree among themselves about what this all means for day to day living and can give ammunition for the second message.
- Luke 23:27 - 43