Christ The King
Last Ordinary Sunday Year C
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Luke 23: 35 — 43
From the time of His temptation in the desert, our Messiah, the Lord Jesus consistently avoided all show of power in His own name. In this reading He demonstrates that He can save one who trusts in Him. It is this text that is therefore chosen to bring the “Year of Luke” to a close, with the onset of Advent and the start of another Christian year.
All through His ministry, our Lord was under attack by those who had a different agenda regarding what the Messiah should be like, and how he should use force and even manipulation to gain the control of minds. The same influences are still at work under various guises, and still wreaking havoc within and beyond the Church. But those who keep our Lord’s teaching echoing constantly within them # will perceive the false images of the Messiah for what they are, and will listen even more closely to Jesus’ own words and lessons. In this text we let the Kingship of Christ emerge in all its stark simplicity: today you will be with me in paradise.
# Scripture Reflection and meditation on these notes is one way of achieving this.
Some Reflections On the Text
Jesus has been executed by crucifixion near a small rubbish dump beyond the walls of Jerusalem, along with two convicted criminals, one on each side of Him. Both criminals heard Him say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile,
sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save
himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.”
“The people stood watching,” in other words, staring at the spectacle. Some scholars say everyone sneered at Jesus. But it is more likely that a very closed group of the ruling authorities did most of the sneering. After all it was they who insisted that the Messiah must act with power and violence; must vindicate himself by force; must destroy all opposition and triumph over enemies; and that anyone claiming to be the Messiah but did not act in such a manner must be an imposter.
Verses 36 and 37
Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer
they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Then it was the soldiers’ turn to mock and sneer. They offered their coarse wine as though to honour one who pretended to be a king, adding their final insult: “If you are what you claim to be, prove it by saving yourself!”
Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is
the King of the Jews.”
Above the head of Jesus was placed a placard, Usually this contained the criminal charge of which the prisoner had been found guilty, and it was tied around his neck. In this case, Jesus had not been found guilty of a single charge. Thus Pilate, instead, had the words (literally), “The King of the Jews; This one!” attached to the most conspicuous place above his head. In this way Pilate makes a very emphatic statement. He is not mocking Jesus, as he could find no charge against him. He is taking his revenge on the Jewish authorities who outwitted him and forced him to give in to their pressure for the execution of Jesus. Pilate now takes the opportunity to drive home that they are a subject people without a King.
Ironically, Pilate is stating a spiritual truth.
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus,
saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
In fact, his hurling insults demonstrated he was joining those who were mocking Jesus. The question, “Aren’t you the Messiah?”, is deliberately demeaning and sarcastic. The early Church considered it to be blasphemy to refuse to take Jesus’ powers seriously. St. Luke is reflecting in his Gospel account how despicably this criminal’s taunts were viewed.
Verses 40 and 41
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you
no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the
sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this
man has done nothing criminal.”
Word of Pilate’s original judgement must have got around: no criminal charge against Jesus could be proved; and the highest Court in the land found Him completely innocent.
The only person recorded who acknowledged this truth is, ironically, a criminal at our Lord’s side. This man is stating only what he has heard and believed. The most caustic insults within his hearing have, ironically, brought him to the truth. As a consequence he cannot tolerate the other criminal’s insults.
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into
The same man began saying these memorable words, which he repeated several times. They could also be translated as:
“Jesus, remember me, when you come with regal glory”.
He assumes Jesus will die and rise and return in regal splendour. This is a stupendous act of faith in these gruelling circumstances. However defective his faith may have been, the penitent thief sought Jesus’ mercy. Although he thought of the Messiah coming in power, our Lord accepted his simple faith and, as usual, responded with overwhelming generosity.
In the 5th century the great St. Augustine taught that Jesus was rejected by the authorities who saw him raise the dead, but was not rejected by the thief who saw him dying on the cross.
The penitent thief’s request is merely that he be remembered when (whenever, that is) the Lord returns.
He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will
be with me in Paradise.”
Our Lord, in his final words to anyone before he died, said in effect:
“You can be absolutely assured you will not only be remembered,
for you will share in my regal glory. You will not have to wait till
I return. You will share it with me today, before the sun sets.”
These words are indeed spoken in the manner of a King. We should observe that our Blessed Messiah, the Lord Jesus was crucified, finally as a King. He came to set in place a spiritual kingdom, and as its King he died.
“Blessed be His glorious Name, whose Kingdom is forever.” *
* Blessing recited at the proclamation of the Shema:
“Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!”
(Deuteronomy 6: 4)
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(Mark 16: 15)
The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!
Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
Christ The King
Last Ordinary Sunday Year C St. Luke 23: 35 ― 43
1. Today, we do not see the Messiah as one who should come down like lightening and slay all who oppose Him. However we can slip into a habit
2. St. Augustine put it in a nutshell: The Messiah was rejected by the
3. Jesus, our Messiah and Lord came to establish His Kingdom and to
Let us pray for one another that we will take the Kingship of our Lord
“If any would come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their
Luke 23: 35 — 43
Last Ordinary Sunday Year C
35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered
36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him
37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of
39 6 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear
41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your
43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me
6 [39-43] This episode is recounted only in this gospel. The penitent sinner receives salvation through the crucified Jesus. Jesus’ words to the penitent thief reveal Luke’s understanding that the destiny of the Christian is “to be with Jesus.”
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised