“People, places, and things”
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 23:33-43
November 20th 2016
Introduction: Last week we had darkness in the texts for the message and again this week we have a good bit of darkness. What I hope we can glean from these texts is the light of God that comes shining through in the darkness of our lives and our world!
On face book after the election people have been posting and re-posting something along the lines of “Jesus is king.” My challenge and question for us today is, just what does it mean to say “Jesus is king?” What kind of king or ruler is he in our lives and journeys of faith? Is there something in our lives that we would not allow Jesus to have complete control over?
Is Jesus just like every other ruler who has ever reigned only stronger and perhaps more compassionate? Does his authority come from majesty and superiority, or does this king still bear the crucifixion’s wounds and retain the sweat and callouses produced by selfless acts of mercy and solidarity with the powerless of our world?
A.) As we come to the passages for today, there are a number of people that we encounter who tell us important things about the story of Jesus and his role as the most important person who ever lived.
1. To begin with, Jesus himself, he is the one human from all of history in whom the fullness of God dwelt or resided. This is who he is.
2. What he does, and what we often forget or loose sight of, is that he is about the work of establishing peace, righteousness, and justice between God and all creation despite the violence he suffers in the crucifixion.
Ex. The coming branch that Jeremiah sees is fulfilled in the very person of Jesus. The deep seeded hopes of all humanity, modeled after King David, will be a shepherd who brings justice and security to the flock that is harassed by sin. All people everywhere have this in common. We are all harassed by our sin nature and struggle to find peace for our souls.
B.) In regards to a place, the obvious place in the text is the cross.
1. Jesus has an exchange with his fellow suffers on the neighboring crosses which so poignantly express what I am talking about.
2. With the sign reading “This is the King of the Jews” above his head, Jesus promises relief.
3. He does so, not with the authority of a polished ruler seated on a comfortable and exalted throne, but within the torments of human suffering like the ones we experience!
4. This king, this ruler participates fully in his people’s lives; he is truly a ruler of the people and from the people.
5. His campaign promise? A new existence “in paradise” and a relationship “with him!”
6. This truly is cause for thanksgiving in my opinion.
C.) Other people in the picture.
1. Other people in the picture or story include, those who arrive to watch what happens, those who do the crucifying, those who cast lots, and of course the two others, who are true criminals.
2. We know the story so well and can perhaps picture the events in our minds eye so to speak.
3. The religious leaders of the day standing by and taunting him as he hangs on the cross.
4. The executioners who do their grisly work of torture and death.
5. The crowd that is out to see what all the excitement is about.
6. Of course some of his bravest followers, including his own mother, are there as well.
Ill. I want us to focus for just a moment on the “good thief” as he has been referred to, down through history. The thief who asks to Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Tradition gives us a name for this thief, Dismas. Dismas haunts me this time of year. He recognizes Jesus as King even in those closing moments of torture upon the cross. Bloody, exposed bone and muscle ripped open from scourging, naked, gasping for every breath as his lungs fill with fluid, dying in unspeakable pain from every tortured nerve in his body, he turns his head towards the similarly dying Jesus. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v.42). A cynic might say that Dismas has nothing to lose by such a request besides precious air in his lungs. But this is no hedging of bets, so to speak. Dismas sees through the horror of the cross into the very throne room of heaven itself. And Jesus manages to gasp out these words: “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise” (v.43).
Dismas, this minor, vulnerable voice in the drama stand out for me. With his last breath, he asks Jesus to remember him, and at that moment, no matter what he has done in his life, his crimes, troubles, regrets, tragedies, blasphemies, they disappear, and he is Christ’s own for all eternity.
In the chaos of life that we are all a part of, our sins, in the end of our time here we cry out too, Jesus, King of glory, remember me!
Conclusion to message: The place is Golgotha, the place of the Skull, the place of brutality and cruelty. A place that down through history will always be known as the place that very king and lord of all creation died. That’s the place. Not really all that important as places go.
Things in the picture include, clothing that is gambled for with dice. A cross, but not just any cross, no the cross that would forever be linked with the death of Jesus. Bitter wine and other things that had been brought to the scene of the drama. Hammers and nails with which to carry out the sentence. Even at least one spear with which he is pierced in the side.
People, ordinary people, like you and me. It is the event that takes place that should cause all of us to rejoice and give thanks! While you may have wondered about this text and message for Thanksgiving season it really is the greatest of messages and not just for the Easter season but for all seasons in which we live. Amen.