“Jesus, Remember Me”

November 20, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 23:33-43

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.”

| Centering Prayer |

Generally, we Americans bristle at the thought of monarchy.

Abusive, totalitarian monarchies drove immigration from every corner of Europe to the Americas.

It was one of our signature characteristics

Won for us in our Revolutionary war;

the idea that we would break from the king and elect our own leaders.

Colonists didn’t like heredity making that decision any more than we appreciated our tea being taxed.

We don’t like privilege.

We don’t like entitlements.

And we don’t like being told what to do by wealthy, privileged, entitled, kings or queens.

Yet, we still have this pathological voyeurism when it comes to royalty.

I admit, I tuned in for the wedding of Charles and Dianna and

was tragically shocked by Dianna’s death.

Most recently, I watched with interest the funerals of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.

On this, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year,

we celebrate the Reign of Christ, or,

what used to be known as Christ the King.

By removing the word king,

we de-emphasize monarchy;

and by adding reign,

we more properly place the focus on God’s kingdom.

(or so I’m told by liturgical scholars!)

Through the past twelve months,

we’ve walked the pages of the Gospel of Luke,

followed Christ

from manger to ministry,

from passion to death,

and on Easter Sunday, we stepped with Christ out from the empty tomb

as people redeemed, saved, and commissioned for duty.

“Go make disciples,” the resurrected Jesus tells us,

with an authority that can only be described as “Divine.”

Yet, it was only a few days earlier

that Jesus’ broken body,

apparently defeated,

was hanging on the cross.

He was flanked by two opposing criminals like

our altar cross flanked by candles,

his bloodied, dying pulp elevated above the mocking crowd,

even as his followers “stood by, watching.”

One criminal, with one foot in the grave, and the other anchored by Satin,

temps Jesus with blatant self-interest:

“Are you not the Messiah?

Save yourself and us!”

Religious leaders scoffed at him with sarcasm

and with similar temptation,

“He saved others;

let him save himself,

if he is the Messiah of God,

his chosen one!”

They even mock him with twisted sarcasm

by posting a derisive inscription for all to see:

“This is the King of the Jews”

the very title Herod Antipas exclusively reserved for himself.

As if 40 days of dealing with the Devil in the wilderness wasn’t enough.

Saint Luke paints the picture of

hell-bound criminals and religious leaders

sharing the same boat

that is opposed to Christ and

bent on his destruction.

To which Jesus replies,

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

When Jesus makes his cross the symbol of forgiveness

he gives us a taste of his heavenly monarchy,

not one like we have rejected- wielding autocratic brutality,

rather, an eternal reign by a grace wielding King.

Many today may view the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ

as Christianity taking a soft approach to crime;

easy on the Law.

As if Christ gives us a get out of jail free card;

so eat, drink, and be merry!

for tomorrow we are forgiven anyway.

Luke’s narrative this morning tells us otherwise.

Forgiveness from the cross defines the eternal, all-inclusive monarchy of Christ!

Only a divine King has the power and authority to rule with such grace.

A judge and jury,

the gallows and the guillotine,

are replace by

“My son” or

“My daughter”

“go and sin no more; your faith has made you well.”

The grace of God,

Through the cross of Jesus Christ,

outdoes bruit force

When it comes to Christ and his Kingdom.

Grace vacates your conviction,

Extends forgiveness, parole, probation, and pardon.

The grace of God,

Through the cross,

Brings healing to repair the damage we have caused because of our sin and offenses.

Listen carefully:

“Go and sin no more.”

At the same time, Jesus is not alone.

The passive crowd stood by, watching.



It is easy for us to be critical of their posture,

but it is important to remember how powerless they were to earthly authorities.

Any attempt at intervention would have brought swift, violent reprisals.

Those soldiers,

With their spears and swords

Were formidable deterrents.

Do not underestimate the value of this crowd of witnesses, however.

God apparently had other plans.

These are the people who will soon bear testimony to both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

They are essential first-person,

eye-witness accounts that will warm people’s hearts and change people’s minds.

Witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus

are the first people

to become subjects under the new reign of Christ

and to be empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit

to gather new subjects

into Christ’s heavenly kingdom.

Jesus is not alone on the cross, either.

The opposing criminal is balanced by another crucified for his crimes.

Instead of deriding Christ,

This man recognizes his own faults

and takes responsibility for his crimes.

“We have been condemned justly,” he proclaims.

“We are getting what we deserve for our deeds.”

In an attitude of confession, a willingness for repentance, and with an acceptance of the justice imposed upon him

this second crucified criminal expresses

extraordinary faith with his sincere petition:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus assures him,

“today you will be with me in Paradise.”

In a similar way to the passive crowd,

today we are called to be faithful witnesses

– paying careful attention to the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and worship;

not taking our eye off of the cross of Jesus Christ  –

while at the same time, we are called and commissioned

to spread Christ’s kingdom by the power of our testimony.

This is how we celebrate the reign of Christ;

by expanding his Kingdom.

In a similar way to the penitent, faithful thief on the cross,

with sincere humility,

petition our King,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

It doesn’t take much to rebuke the opposing competitors to Christ’s Kingdom,

just faith the size of a mustard seed;

just the faith that has already been given to us from God above.

This preemptive gift of faith,

called “prevenient grace”;

it is what God gives us before we know of it, asked for it, or needed it.

Prevenient grace is unearned, undeserved, without price.

Prevenient grace makes it possible for each of us to directly petition Christ,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Keep your eyes on the cross.

It is your forgiveness and mine.

Yet, the cross is more.

Jesus has transformed the cross

And it now has become the symbol for the eternal reign of Christ.

Watch, testify, make your petitions directly to Jesus;

these are the hallmark characteristics

of kingdom living,

of recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the

Reign of Christ.

Of his reign there will be no end.


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