Reading: Luke 23:26 – 49
As he walked to the cross, Jesus particularly noticed the “daughters of Jerusalem” who were weeping for him. Rather than focusing on his own beaten body and troubled heart, he prophesied about their future fate. A few decades later, these women and their children would suffer terribly in a war with the Romans.
A little while later, Jesus prayed that his Father would forgive the very people who had just driven nails through him and lifted him up to hang until he died. They repaid this favor by taking his clothes for themselves. With limited breath and gasping lungs, Jesus asked that these violent men would not be judged for their crime. Still not satisfied, they mocked him again and again, adding insults to his fatal injuries.
Although Jesus was innocent, the two men hanging next to him were guilty. The indignities continued to pile up: The scriptures taught that a man was cursed if he was hanged from a tree. After living a life marked by justice and mercy, his fate was combined with that of merciless criminals, and he was deprived of justice. As if this was not enough, one of these criminals used his last breaths to add to the vile mockery coming from the soldiers and crowds. Verbally assaulted from below and from one side, Jesus heard the fading, agonized voice of the criminal on the other side: “Remember me.” With whatever energy he still had, Jesus reassured the criminal that his Father had saved a place for him at a feast beyond the grave.
The physical cause of Jesus’s death was not unique, but his response to that death was far from ordinary. When we as human beings are insulted or injured, we might consider ourselves virtuous if we silently endure our pain. During his trial, Jesus did this. But this passage shows him doing something more: Throughout his entire walk to the cross his concern and gaze is focused on others. Just as throughout the book of Luke the stories told are of the poor and the marginalized and the sinners, far more than they are of who we might think of as “deserving,” we see Jesus continuing this ministry. Even until his death he focuses on the least of these who are in front of him.
Theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer called Jesus “the man for others,” because his entire life and death was for other people. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). He loved us and gave his life as a ransom for ours, and he still intercedes for us before his Father.
How often do you remember that Jesus saved you because he first loved you? How have we been called to imitate Jesus, who lived and died for other people?
By Beth Melillo