Message Supplement for 20 November 2022: “Mocker & Shocker”

The scripture passage for today’s message is Luke 23: 33-43.

Today’s message covers a scene from Calvary, where Jesus and two anonymous men were executed. Redemption is a key theme amid the drama of the crucifixion.

This is not a light, happy topic and the issue of persecution is ever-present in humanity. In ancient times, non-Roman citizens such as Jesus had few legal protections. Moreover, anyone instigating a revolutionary insurrection, threatening Roman rule, or insulting the Roman emperor would face a death sentence. Add to all this the agitations from hostile Jewish authorities and it is no wonder that the situation seemed hopeless for Jesus.

The distressing fact of Jesus’ death must be confronted but not dwelt upon. It’s easy to be drawn into negativity but the challenge is to be embraced by God’s love rather than immobilized by horrors. God’s people are invited to bring light and life into even the most deplorable situations. A powerful point is that while he was on the cross, Jesus maintained a forgiving attitude.

There were two men crucified on either side of Jesus, one of whom mocked Jesus by sarcastically calling him to use his messianic status to leap off the cross. The other guilty man took an entirely different approach. The man who came to Jesus’ defense realized that cynicism and skepticism had no value when staring at death. Following a much better path, the man who sought redemption focused on reconciliation and forgiveness.

The man who had the good attitude first spoke against the naysayer who had mocked Jesus. Next, the repentant criminal admitted his own guilt while affirming Jesus’ innocence. Then came the extraordinary last step, wherein the wise man asked Jesus to remember him. This was a plea for redemption, to which Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43b). How marvelous! Even in his agony, Jesus ministered to someone in dire need. In forgiving a condemned criminal, Jesus acted compassionately. What a tremendous standard Jesus set for people to follow. Like Jesus, you can love those around you even when you are suffering.

Today’s message reveals that it isn’t productive to focus on other peoples’ sin until you’ve come to terms with your own. Before crying against other peoples’ issues it’s best to manage yourself, to own your sins and thereby also avoid a fatal hypocrisy. Whether considering your own or others’ shortcomings, there’s value in admitting wrongdoing and seeking redemption.

Another insight from today’s story is that Jesus didn’t act vengeful, and neither should you. Jesus left a wonderful legacy of acting mercifully. In heinous situations it is difficult to minister, especially to perpetrators. Also, the impulse when someone is attacked and persecuted is to have an eye-for-an-eye response, one that repays evil for evil. But this is not the ideal path for people who seek the greatest good. Jesus demonstrated that even in his suffering he could redeem others.

Receive and share blessings even while you’re under duress. In doing so you will bridge the gap between unspeakable horror and eternal life. Thank God that Jesus provided forgiveness rather than condemnation. As a result, we’re eternally blessed with a hope surpassing death.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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