(full reading: Luke 22.14 - 23.56)
This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week when, all over the world, the Church thinks deeply about the events of Jesus' dying and rising to new life. This Sunday we hear two Gospel readings: Jesus entering Jerusalem while the crowds wave palm branches, and St. Luke's whole account of Jesus' Passion, beginning at the Last Supper and continuing to his death. There is a lot to wonder about.
The account of the Passion is very long. Each year it begins with an account of the Last Supper.
When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
This is a strange beginning. Is Jesus going to eat the Passover meal or not? He says he has been looking forward to eating it with them before he suffers, but he will not eat it until the fullness of the Kingdom of God. He eagerly desires to be at this meal with them—that means he really wants to be there. Why?
he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood
Perhaps this is why he eagerly desires this meal. He gives them his body—all that he has. He gives them his blood, too. Can we live without our blood? Of course not. He gives them his life—all that he is. He gives them everything before the soldiers ever come to take it away.
Can they take away something he has already given?
As the account of the Passion continues, we listen to the events drawing Jesus closer to death and we hope something different will occur.
We hope that Judas will hear Jesus call him by name and will say "Stop! This is wrong." But Judas does not.
We hope that Peter will remember his declaration that he would follow Jesus, and say "Stop! You are right, of course I know that man! I love Jesus!" But Peter does not.
We hope that Pilate, who knows that this is ridiculous and Jesus has done no wrong, will just say, "Stop! Let him go." But Pilate does not.
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 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.
No one says stop. Instead, the One who has given everything, who is nothing but goodness, is put on the cross.
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!”...One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
The leaders look at the One who has given everything, and laugh.
The soldiers look at the One who is nothing but goodness, and laugh.
Even one of the criminals, a sinner about to die, laughs.
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.”
Finally, finally, someone says, STOP.
Who is this person?
He is a sinner—a sinner who knows he has sinned.
He is a sinner who knows he deserves to be punished.
He is a sinner who sees One who is nothing but goodness, and asks,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And it turns out, the One who has given everything, has something left to give:
Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus gives him mercy.
There are many sinners in the account of the Passion. Judas, Peter, Pilate, leaders, soldiers, a criminal who laughs, and the criminal who is given mercy because he knows his sin and asks to be remembered. Of all the sinners in the account of the Passion, who would we like to be?
The sinner who knows his sin and asks to be remembered is asking for forgiveness. Jesus takes his sin with him through death on the cross to life in Paradise. He gives him mercy. What about the others? If they come to know their sin and ask forgiveness, will Jesus give them mercy, too?
What about us? We know our sin. We stop and ask forgiveness. Does Jesus offer mercy to us, too?