Today’s sermon was based on Luke 23:33-43. The text was the crucifixion scene, utilized as today is Christ the King Sunday.
You can listen to the sermon here:
Here is the text of the sermon so you can follow along if you like. As usual, disregard the indications to pause and the weird punctuation.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Considering that today is Christ the King Sunday, I almost changed up that normal opening line…not the grace and peace part…and not the God our Father part…but the last part…the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ part…I thought about saying Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our King Jesus Christ. (pause) Our king Jesus Christ.
Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though does it? And so as I sat at my desk, staring at my computer screen, trying to convince myself to change the format of my opening line, I ended up on Google, looking up the definition of the words Lord and Savior.
Lord is defined as someone or something having power, authority, or influence…or a master or ruler…interesting…kinda sounds a little like a king right? (pause) Well what about Savior? Well, a savior is defined as a person who saves someone or something from danger…especially in terms of a country or cause…hmmm…saving a country from danger…well shoot, that sounds like a king too doesn’t it? After all, don’t we look to the leaders of our country to protect us from danger? Sure we do…so maybe, just maybe, calling Jesus our Lord and Savior is the same thing as calling him King. I like it…let’s run with that. (pause)
But if we’re going to call Jesus Savior…just what are we REALLY saying? What is the danger that Jesus is saving us from? That’s the real question isn’t it? And its an important one to think about. If was to pose this question downstairs during confirmation class…I would likely be answered with a moment of silence…while the students try to decide if I’m looking for a “church answer” or a “real answer.” And in this case, I would tell them…HINT!!! It’s the church answer. (pause)
What is Jesus saving us from? Sin and death…the big two. (pause)
Its interesting, when we stop and really think about it…just how Jesus accomplishes all this stuff. It’s not exactly our normal mental image when we think about a king, or a Lord, to picture a humble guy who actually seems homeless, because he’s walking around all the time…and we sure don’t tend to think of our King being tortured and killed…but yet that’s exactly where we find him in today’s story…being crucified…hanging on that cross, smack dab between two criminals…accused of a trumped up charge of sedition…accused of being the revolutionary king of the Jews.
Now interestingly enough, this is a scene that’s depicted in all four Gospels…a rare thing…but not unexpected considering the importance of the crucifixion…Jesus’ death on the cross is one of those central tenants in our faith after all…but I have to admit, I really like Luke’s account…because it’s got a couple of details not present in the other three gospels.
Luke is the only gospel where we hear Jesus say his famous words “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And it’s also the only gospel where the criminal declares his own guilt and asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. (pause)
Father forgive them…who’s Jesus talking about here? Is he talking about the Romans that nailed him to the cross? Is he talking about the religious leaders that trumped up the charges against him? Is he talking about Judas who betrayed him, or the disciples that abandoned him? Well, yes, yes, yes, and yes…but that’s not all…I think Jesus is asking God to forgive EVERYONE…because none of us really know the depth of our sin do we? We might recognize some of our sinful behavior but when we get honest with ourselves, our sinful nature goes a heck of a lot deeper than we know…
Father forgive them…forgive them of the sin that they don’t even realize is there…father forgive them…right there in that moment, as Jesus is hanging there on the cross…listening to taunts…he’s thinking of others…he’s saving us from the sin and death that rules our life, even when we don’t realize it.
And during all this time…the people there are throwing insults his direction…and all of those insults have something in common. He saved others, let him save himself…If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself…Are you not the messiah, save yourself and us.
There sure seems to be a lot of people telling Jesus to save himself aren’t there? And you know what…he could have…at any moment, Jesus could have played the “Hey I’m God card” and ended it…He could have come down off the cross, healed his injuries and walked away…but he didn’t. Because he meant it in the garden when he prayed to his father…Not my will, but yours be done.
Jesus Save yourself…that’s the one person that he WOULD NOT SAVE…because if he chose to do that…then his request…Father forgive them…would have been meaningless…but it wasn’t…because he refused the easy road…he refused to save himself because he knew in that moment…that we needed a savior…each of us…each member of humanity, whether they realize it or not, each of us, needed him to hang on that cross and die in our place….we need him to save us from sin and death.
And in this scene…in this lesson, there’s only one person who gets it…and he’s hanging there too…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (pause) You know, that’s an interesting request when we think about it. It’s not “save me from this pain.” It’s not, take me with you…it is simply asking “hey Jesus, whenever it is that your kingdom occurs and you are sitting on the throne, think about me okay…just remember me…sometime out there in the future.”
But Jesus goes farther than that doesn’t he? Jesus makes a promise…Today you will be with me in paradise. Today…right now…At that moment, this man receives the promise of God and if faith has taught us anything, its that when God makes a promise, you can count on it.
And in this moment, as Jesus is hanging there, in agony…tempted to save himself, we find him once again, saving someone else…Jesus remember me…and you know what, he does…not out at some unknown time in the future, but in that moment…as he was hanging there…he was thinking about those that need saving…not just the criminal that he answered…but everyone that needs saving…everyone that needs forgiveness…everyone. And that includes you…at that moment, when Jesus says Father forgive them…you were on his mind.
And then he died…but the story doesn’t stop there…because we know that three days later…Jesus came back…we know that he was resurrected…and we believe that we are offered a place in that.
Salvation is offered to each and every one of us…We are invited to join with Jesus in a death like his so that we might also join him in a resurrection like his. And when we join together in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are given the name child of God.
Today, at this font, Bowen Thorne will receive this gift. Today, Bowen will be washed in the water of holy baptism…today, we believe that in the waters of his baptism, the sinful self will die and he will rise again…a new creation…we believe this is true…and we believe that each and every one of us are part of that same baptism.
Through the waters of our own baptism we too, have died and risen again as members of the one body of Christ…we each share the name Beloved Child of God…and each and every day when we repent of our own sinful nature…and remember our own baptism, we proclaim the glory of Christ…we recognize our need for a savior…and we recognize that in his death…He is our king…he is the one that took authority over sin and death…he is the one that defeated it because we can’t do it ourselves…we needed to be saved from it.
And so today we recognize our king…God himself…not some angry judge standing there with his arms crossed waiting to toss you into hell…but rather God’s hanging there, bloody and gasping for breath…arms stretched out wide to show us that there is nothing he will endure to save us from ourselves. (pause)
Jesus SAVE YOURSELF!!! (pause)
Nope…he’s too busy…saving us. Amen