A Good Friday reflection on Luke 23:26-43
One of the first things I was taught about Luke’s gospel is that it was written for those who suffer, for the least, last, lost, and left out. It shows in this scene. In other gospels Jesus dies completely deserted, but here, he’s still has followers; but it’s not a palm parade, it’s a parade of sufferers.
First there’s Simon of Cyrene, forced to follow Jesus while bearing his same cross. Then there’s the unnamed wailing women, daughters of Jerusalem, grieving a grief they seem to already know.
I kind of understand the onlookers’ questions. They’re hurled as insults, but I can’t help but notice they’re also kind of fair. Jesus started his ministry announcing that he had come to “bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free,” but he doesn’t seem to be doing that today.
The religious rulers are the first to ask, “He’s saved others, if he’s God’s Messiah, why doesn’t he save himself?”
The gentile soldiers chime in too, “If you really are king of the Jews, then save yourself?”
One of the criminals crucified with him asks, “Aren’t you the messiah? Then why don’t you save yourself and us?”
They’re the kind of questions which are asked to this day, “If there really is a God, why aren’t all who suffer saved? Why does suffering persist?” Often they are asked by those who want to poke holes in the concept of a Living, Loving God.
But what the church testifies to tonight and on Sunday is indeed not the concept of a living loving God, but the body of a living, loving God. Inquisitors may still poke holes in arguments, and try to question it, but God’s divine answer is and will always be the pierced flesh of Christ.
Today the Living, Loving God dies in complete and utter solidarity with every last victim of suffering, and for the complete and utter salvation of every last criminal.
His last word before death is not an answer to any of our questions. It is an answer to a criminal’s prayer, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
We can question it all we want, but what spills forth from his mouth and his side is not an answer. It’s a promise. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”