THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE KING AND THE CRIMINAL
November 21, 2010
Feast of Christ the King
Today we celebrate the feast
of Christ the King. Jesus is our King and is the Lord of all.
The Romans condescendingly put an inscription on the cross
that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Lk
23:38), not knowing that they had actually proclaimed the
truth for all the world to see.
But today I want to focus
on the criminals crucified with Jesus. We have two contrasting
responses of the two criminals. One reviled Jesus, the other
submitted himself to the lordship of Jesus. We too are always
given that choice. And though at times we do not necessarily
revile Jesus, if we do not fully accept his lordship over
our lives, then we are in effect actually doing so. There
is no middle ground. If we are lukewarm, Jesus spits us out
of his mouth (Rev 3:16). If we say “Lord, Lord”
but do not do the will of God in our lives, then Jesus regards
us as evildoers (Mt 7:21-23).
Now here is a very interesting thing. To the criminal who
honored Jesus, Jesus said something very radical. “Amen,
I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Lk 23:43). Wow! What we all long for, to be with Jesus eternally
in heaven, he granted to the criminal. And it was to happen
that very day!
Was the criminal no longer
to pass Purgatory? All do so, because of our sins such that
we need to be purified before entering into the holy presence
of God. All, except for a very few exceptions. There of course
is our Mother Mary, who was assumed into heaven upon her death.
Being immaculately conceived, she had no need of further purification.
Then perhaps there was also Elijah. He was taken by a flaming
chariot and flaming horses and “went up to heaven in
a whirlwind.” (2 Kgs 2:11).
Sometimes I think that with
regard to the criminal, he may not necessarily have gone to
heaven immediately like Mary and Elijah. Peter says that “with
the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years
like one day.” (2 Pet 3:8). So when Jesus said to the
criminal that today he would be with him in Paradise, that
could have meant one day or one millennium! The criminal might
have still found himself in Purgatory for 721 years and 127
days! (I am being facetious).
Whatever it is, the indisputable
fact is that the criminal was assured by Jesus himself that
he would be with him in Paradise. No one has ever been assured
by Jesus himself in that way.
What is Jesus teaching us in all this?
First, God does want us in
heaven with Him eternally. Not just Mary and Elijah, but the
criminal as well. God reaches out to the sinner and the saint,
to the great and the lowly. We just need to repent of our
sins, accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, and strive to live
our lives according to God’s ways.
Second, God accomplishes our
salvation through the cross. It is the intent of God “through
(Jesus) to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the
blood of his cross.” (Col 2:20). The cross is central
to our faith and is the very instrument of our salvation.
If we are to have authentic faith, if we are to be true disciples
of Jesus, then we must “take up (our) cross daily”
Third, taking up our cross
is a great privilege. We walk along the very path of Jesus.
We take on his mind and not the values of the world. Remember
James and John, who with their mother asked for places of
honor at the right and the left of Jesus (Mt 20:21)? What
was Jesus’ reply? He said that they would drink the
cup of suffering that he himself was to drink (Mt 20:22-23).
Now here was Jesus crucified, with two criminals at his right
and at his left. They were afforded that great privilege of
being crucified with Jesus, the very blessing that Jesus offered
to James and John.
What about us? Do we sneer at and jeer at those who are giving
their all for Christ (Lk 23:35-36)? Do we look only to what
Jesus can do for us, rather than the other way around (Lk
23:39)? Have we lost our fear of God, not realizing that apart
from Him we are subject to condemnation (Lk 23:40)? Do we
embrace the cross of Christ or what the world offers? Do we
rejoice in the privilege to suffer with him at his right and
at his left, or avoid suffering and seek comfort even in our
May we be like the good thief
or criminal. May we always humble ourselves in the awesome
presence of our Lord and Savior. May we strive to live our
lives, such that we can cling to our eternal hope, and simply
say to our Lord, “Jesus, remember me when you come into
your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).
Rest assured about Jesus’
reply: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me
download file, click on icon
King and the Criminal