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EXULT THE KING OF JUSTICE

Read­ing Time: 8 minutes

(Ref. Texts: 2Sam 5:1–3; Ps 122121; Col 1:12–20; Luke 23:35–43)

For that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heav­en and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue con­fess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Fath­er” (Phil 2:10–11).

O Jesus Christ, I acknow­ledge you as uni­ver­sal King. All that has been made has been cre­ated through you and for you. Exer­cise all your rights over me. I renew my bap­tis­mal vows. I renounce every evil, false­hood, injustice; I prom­ise to live as a just and hon­est per­son. And, in par­tic­u­lar do I pledge myself to labour, to the best of my abil­ity, for the tri­umph of justice and truth. Divine Heart of Jesus, to you do I offer my ser­vices, labour­ing that all hearts may acknow­ledge your sac­red king­ship, and that thus the reign of your sha­lom be estab­lished through­out the whole uni­verse. Amen.” 

Preamble

Accord­ing to the litur­gic­al cal­en­dar of the Church, this Sunday marks the last Sunday of the year. Hence, the Church’s litur­gic­al year ends today with the cel­eb­ra­tion of Jesus as the uni­ver­sal king. In primis, I thank God for bless­ing, guid­ing, enlight­en­ing and pro­tect­ing all of us. I equally thank you dear friends, for mani­fest­ing God’s good­ness in your lives and for wit­ness­ing to the Gos­pel in your vari­ous capa­cit­ies, and espe­cially, for mak­ing out time to read my reflec­tions on https://www.uchennabiblia.com. God bless you!

The Feast of Christ the King is a feast of hap­pi­ness and spir­itu­al growth. In this regard, Pius XI poin­ted out that Jesus is the author of hap­pi­ness. He wrote “Oh, what hap­pi­ness would be Ours if all men, indi­vidu­als, fam­il­ies, and nations, would but let them­selves be gov­erned by Christ!”

The audience under the cross

The Jew­ish Assembly (the San­hedrin) laid a triple accus­a­tion against Jesus. When they brought Jesus before Pil­ate, they said “we found this man mis­lead­ing our people; he opposes the pay­ment of taxes to Caesar and main­tains that he is the Mes­si­ah, a king” (Luke 23:2). Since the Romans were not inter­ested in the reli­gious accus­a­tions and con­dem­na­tion of Jesus, the San­hedrin quickly presen­ted polit­ic­al motiv­a­tions. By accus­ing Jesus of mis­lead­ing the people, they meant he was dis­cour­aging them from being loy­al to Rome. That he for­bade people from pay­ing trib­ute to Caesar is totally false (cf. Luke 20:20–26). As regards his claim of being the mes­si­ah and king, Jesus cla­ri­fied this dir­ectly to Pil­ate (cf. John 18:33.36–37). Even the chief priests, scribes and Herod accused Jesus and mal­treated him. Des­pite find­ing him inno­cent, Pil­ate pre­ferred main­tain­ing his earthly throne and handed Jesus over to be cru­ci­fied. What a world!

While on the cross, Jesus was watched by four sets of people. First, we have the power­less people who could not do any­thing even if they wanted. In verses 26–27, Luke reports that as the sol­diers led Jesus away from Pilate’s house to be cru­ci­fied, a large num­ber of people fol­lowed him, includ­ing women who mourned and wailed. Def­in­itely, the same people stood there, under the cross watch­ing Jesus while he hung on the cross, suf­fer­ing. They could only watch, mourn and wail. They had no power to change the situ­ation, so, watch­ing became the only option. Has this situ­ation changed today?

Secondly, the rulers/leaders (Greek: arch­ontes) who had power and could do some­thing, but refused to offer any help to Jesus. Instead, they ridiculed (Greek: ekmuk­tēr­izō) him say­ing: He saved oth­ers. Let him save him­self if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen/Elected (Greek: eklektos) One! An arch­on is a high offi­cial, a respec­ted lead­er (cf. Matt 9:18), one inves­ted with author­ity (cf. Rom 13:3). The arch­ontes were the San­hedrin, the highest Jew­ish author­ity. Instead of pity­ing Jesus and stand­ing by the truth, they ridiculed and insul­ted him. The Greek verb ekmuk­tēr­izō is a nas­al ges­ture. Lit­er­ally, it means to turn a person’s nose at anoth­er per­son, hence, to sneer at, to scoff at, to ridicule (cf. also Luke 16:14). This was what the Jew­ish highest author­ity did to Jesus. With their sneer­ing at Jesus, Luke made a dis­tinc­tion between them and the people who could not con­front them. How often do we see those in author­ity mis­be­have, yet, we prefer to be statues who neither see, hear, move, reas­on nor speak? In the face of pro­nounced injustice by those in author­ity (civil and reli­gious), some stay and watch like those people under the cross of Jesus. They watched because they were help­less and could not do any­thing. On the oth­er hand, there are those who can do some­thing but they prefer to remain blind because they are aspir­ing for some­thing. Those are hypo­crites and god­less. You find these people every­where includ­ing our Churches. The ruth­less­ness of the San­hedrin is summed in these words “he saved oth­ers, let him save him­self if he is the Christ of God, the chosen One” (Luke 23:35). They thought they were mock­ing Jesus, not know­ing they were mock­ing themselves.

Thirdly, the next set of those who stood under the cross of Jesus were the sol­diers. Like the rulers whose (unjust) order they obeyed, they mocked (Greek: empa­izō) Jesus instead of feel­ing his pains and agony. They furthered their mock­ery by going to him and offer­ing him sour wine, chal­len­ging his king­ship by invit­ing him to save him­self if he is truly the king of the Jews. This is as a res­ult of the inscrip­tion over him in Lat­in, Greek and Hebrew which read “this is the king of the Jews” (cf. Luke 23:38). Accord­ing to the Johan­nine nar­ra­tion, when the Chief priests of the Jews saw this inscrip­tion, they pro­tested to Pil­ate say­ing, “do not write the king of the Jews, but that he said I am the king of the Jews” (John 19:21). Nat­ur­ally, Pil­ate refused and told them “ho gegrapha gegrapha – what I have writ­ten, I have writ­ten” (John 19:22). Yes, what he has writ­ten, he has writ­ten. And what did he write? That Jesus is the king of the Jews and the entire uni­verse. It is this uni­ver­sal­ity of Jesus’ king­ship that we are cel­eb­rat­ing today. Again, like the San­hedrin, they thought they were ridicul­ing Jesus, but they nev­er knew they were mock­ing and mak­ing fool of them­selves. The wine vin­eg­ar offered to Jesus was the com­mon drink of labour­ers and sol­diers. Mat­thew notes that Jesus refused to drink it (cf. Matt 27:34). On his part, Luke notes this drink was offered in mock­ery. They later offered Jesus vin­eg­ar drink when he cried out in thirst (cf. John 19:28–30).

Finally, even a pro­fes­sion­al and con­firmed crim­in­al (Greek: kakour­gos) hanging on the cross by his side reviled (Greek: blas­phēmeō) him, chal­len­ging him to prove his anoin­ted­ness (mes­si­a­ship) by sav­ing him­self and sav­ing him and his com­pan­ion (cf. Luke 23:39). Although Luke did not give the con­tent of this blas­phēmeō, but from its mean­ing, we know the crim­in­al reviled, spoke injur­i­ously, insul­ted and defamed Jesus’ repu­ta­tion (cf. Matt 26:65; Tit­us 3:2). Among oth­er things, Jesus also brought free­dom of expres­sion. Yes, he gran­ted free­dom of expres­sion to all, even to the guilty. A crim­in­al who should have remained quiet joined the San­hedrin and the sol­diers to insult Jesus. I am sure the San­hedrin and the sol­diers allowed him to speak because he was revil­ing Jesus, else, they would have acted oth­er­wise. How­ever, this scene should not be taken lit­er­ally. Luke must have included it to show how adam­ant and unre­pent­ant some can be even in the midst of death. Some­times, the oth­er crim­in­al who rep­rim­anded his com­pan­ion is wrongly tagged good thief. This is wrong! No thief is good. Again, by adding this scene, Luke may have wanted to indic­ate that it is only the crim­in­al who recog­nized the king­dom of God in his midst. Fur­ther­more, there is also the sug­ges­tion that Luke used the scen­ario to re-cre­ate the Fall and loss of the king­dom as doc­u­mented in the Book of Ori­gin (Gen­es­is) 2:8–9. There­fore, Jesus’ words, “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in para­dise” (Luke 23:43), might be a ref­er­ence to the res­tor­a­tion of the per­son­al rela­tion­ship with God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. As Adam was chased away from the Garden of Eden, so this crim­in­al was wel­comed into the king­dom of God. That which Adam lost by sin­ning, this crim­in­al gained by repent­ing. Rather than a social account, Luke 23:39–43 is a theo­lo­gic­al event.

Further Reflection on Luke 23:43

To one of the crim­in­als who rep­rim­anded his col­league for revil­ing Jesus cru­ci­fied unjustly, and who pleaded with Jesus to wel­come him into his king­dom, Jesus said: Amēn soi legō, sēmer­on met’emou esē en tō para­de­isō. Gen­er­ally, in Luke, today has a theo­lo­gic­al and salvif­ic con­nota­tion. And he is known for con­stant use of sēmer­on – today. For instance, after read­ing out his mis­sion pro­gram (Luke 4:16–19) in the Naz­areth Syn­agogue, Jesus in his inter­pret­a­tion of the pas­sage just read, informed his listen­ers that today, the Scrip­ture they heard is ful­filled in their ears (4:21). Again, in 19:9, after con­fess­ing his sins and prom­ising to return whatever he might have taken unjustly, Jesus informed Zac­chaeus that today, sal­va­tion (Greek: sōtēria) has entered his house. In these instances, today should not be under­stood as a day dif­fer­ent from yes­ter­day and tomor­row. Like the Lukan kairos (time), it is the moment of sal­va­tion, it is a theo­lo­gic­al today. Again, amen is a sol­emn declar­a­tion. When used in con­junc­tion with legō (to say/speak), it is meant to emphas­ize that what is being said is a sol­emn declar­a­tion of what is true. It is a form of swear­ing. Hence, Jesus swore to the repen­ted thief that today, he will be with him in the king­dom of his Fath­er. Alleluia!

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