“Crucifixion” was featured in the first week of our Lenten visio divina series, with reflections by Kathy Janku. This week as Lent approaches its conclusion, we return again to the text and image of the Crucifixion, with reflections by Taylor Morgan.
Read the text below, preferably aloud. As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or small phrase that God has for you this day.
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.
In the Gospel of Luke, the author stresses that while salvation is a gift from God, there is a a definite human component as well. God gives the gift of his Love (seen here in its extreme at the Cross), but we must choose whether or not to accept it. This is a recurring theme in Luke, where we are presented with numerous examples of how some choose to accept this gift, while others do not. [Think of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31), the account of the ten healed lepers (17:11-19), or perhaps this line from the prediction of the day of the Son of Man: “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left” (17:34).]
In all of these cases we have a choice. Do we accept the message of Jesus, realizing that to accept the message means to accept the person and everything that comes with him? The crucifixion is the climax for this decision.
Imagine yourself in the place of the two criminals, suffering the intense agony and pain of crucifixion. But it is not just you…the man who is said to be the Messiah is suffering right on your side…his mission and ministry and promises have come to this. He spoke of peace but you feel no peace now. He preached love and life, you are facing scorn and death. He talked about a kingdom…is this his throne?
Do you accept this suffering man as the anointed one of God?
As in the rest of the Gospel, there are two choices, and the two criminals show them to us. The one rejects the Messiah who can’t or won’t prove himself in an awe-inspiring display of power. The other accepts this broken and bloody messiah, whose message is somehow deeper than such a show of might ever could be.
© Crucifixion, Donald Jackson, 2002. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.