Luke
23:33-43

Jesus,
who was proclaimed “King of the Jews” upon his crucifixion, was the
antithesis of popular notions regarding a king. What kind of king is born to die?
What kind of king is mocked, persecuted and hung on a cross? Surely the inscription,
“This is the King of the Jews” was a mockery of Jesus. But Jesus really
is a King; a King of a different kingdom than the world. What mere man could do
and say such things as he?

When
we look at this passage, we see the obvious: Jesus forgives in the midst of his
crucifixion. We undoubtedly are called to do the same. But this passage is not
just about a persecuted king who forgives. In three different instances, we see
the King of Kings proclaiming the truth of his Kingdom in the midst of chaos and
lies. To the followers who were mourning, he offers a new perspective (vv. 27-21);
to the assassins who mocked him, he prays for God to forgive (vv. 33-34); to the
criminal crucified beside him, he offers hope despite the mockery of the other
(vv. 39-43).

How
could Jesus possibly do these things? He was a vessel of love and truth even at
the point of death. He was so focused and not persuaded by friends or enemies.
Jesus operated from a totally different level of reality than others. In each
situation, Jesus speaks forth the reality of the Kingdom of God in contrast to
the perspective of the world. His words invade the chaos with God’s truth. He
offers God’s perspective.

How
might we respond in similar situations? Perhaps we would cry with the followers
or feel sorry for ourselves and sulk in self-pity all the way to the cross. What
might we say to our assassins? “Father forgive them?” I think not. More
likely, we would curse them, or scream to the top of our lungs, “This isn’t
right,” or demand a fair trial. For some of us who have mastered the discipline
of silence, we might quietly take the unjust abuse-yet our hearts would be far
away from offering forgiveness. How would we respond to the two criminals on the
cross? What a test of character to say nothing to the accusation, “If you
are the Christ, save yourself and us,” and then turn to the other and with
calm assurance, speak hope. Too often we are persuaded by others around us. How
desperately we need to see God’s perspective. Tommy Tenney tells a story of a
little girl in an elevator who asks her daddy to lift her up so that she can see
what he sees instead of the legs around her.1 Tenney reminds
us that we need to see life from God’s perspective.

In
this passage, Jesus lives and breathes God’s perspective. He is the epitome of
a life surrendered to God; a life from whom God overflows like a fountain. To
encounter Jesus was to encounter God. In this passage the goal is not forgiveness,
as noble and right as it is. The goal is to become so infused with the presence
of God that everything we do and say exposes and reveals God. In all that we do
and say, God seeps out.

In
the movie, Dances with Wolves, Kevin Kostner’s character, Lieutenant John
Dunbar of the Union troops in the American Civil War, befriends an entire tribe
of Sioux Indians. He marries one of their adopted American daughters, lives with
them and essentially becomes one of them. When the Union troops return to Dunbar’s
post, they discover that he is different from them. They reject him and mock him.
He sees frontier life differently from them. They don’t understand him. He is
a new man. At one point he stops speaking English and begins speaking the Sioux
language. He speaks and acts as a man with a new perspective. He is no longer
the American soldier he once was. He is a Sioux. Everything that he says and does
bears witness to this newfound identity. So it should be for us as followers of
Christ.

Hebrews
12, along with many heroes of the faith in both the OT, the NT, and church history,
reminds us that we do not have to be persuaded by those around us. Instead, we
too can embody the presence of God and faithfully live in the reality of the Kingdom
of God, looking unto Jesus who truly is the King of Kings!

—————–
1.
Tommy Tenney, God’s Eye View: Worshiping Your Way to a Higher Perspective.
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 2002), p. 2.
_____________

Sermon
brief provided by: Paula Fontana Qualls, Professor of Religion,
Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC

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