2 Samuel 5, 1-3 + Psalm 122 + Colossians 1, 12-20 + Luke 23, 35-43
Today we look back and we look forward. We look back into the Journey of Jesus that brought him to this day described by Luke and back further into this entire Year of Faith concluded this week. At the same time though we look forward to what begins with Advent and to what the future holds for us who have and who are making our journey to Jerusalem. In a way, all of this is visually there in the image Luke paints for us with words: three crosses on a hill outside of Jerusalem: one is the past, one is the present, and one is the future. Countless artists have painted it on canvas. Three crosses on a hill, weeping women, a group of men standing around busy talking about the events of the day as though the scene is so ordinary they cannot be bothered. That image is the present.
Hanging on one cross is a sinner trapped in his past, unrepentant, angry, and hopeless. This cross is the throne of sin. It is our past. On the other side is a second cross on which hangs the future. Hope and comfort, forgiveness and repentance. This cross is the throne of repentance. On a third cross hangs the present. It is the throne of grace, the throne of forgiveness and mercy. It is the throne of hope which puts sin into the past, and hope for the Kingdom into the present. That cross is a throne that reveals who and what Jesus Christ is still today. It has nothing to do with the past except that by his presence now, there is a past, and a future for us full of hope.
To those who have heard the call of Jesus to follow him, there is a place in this scene for us, because this scene is not an old snap-shot from the past. What we see through Luke’s words is the present. This is the time in which we live, for there are still people living in the dreadful agony of their past, trapped in sin, angry, and unrepentant. There are still believers and followers of Christ who weep in sadness at the suffering of the innocent consoled and desolate. They still cry out and weep unheard and unheeded by others who stand around ignoring the truth, just standing around doing business as usual. It is not because they are helpless either. They are simply uninterested and too busy with their little live to see what is going on around them and hear the conversation at the crosses. There are also some who are absent, whose presence might have brought some comfort, some encouragement, or relief into the chaos of that scene, but they, in spite of the fact that they had been privileged to hear the master speak, are too afraid. What a difference there is between those apostles and that one has nothing to lose now hanging there on his cross. In his suffering, he finds hope and hears words of comfort from that throne of grace and forgiveness because he acknowledges and confesses his sin. To him come those words so longed for by this world, a promise, hope, and forgiveness.
At the center of it all is that third cross, the throne of grace and hope from which comes that message so full of power and so full of hope. One word of that message is all we need. “Today.” It is the affirmation of the present. Today is the day. Today is the time. Now salvation has come. Now there is hope. Now there is forgiveness and freedom. There is no waiting. There is no sense that something more must be done or anything else said. Today is the day. When repentance is embraced, forgiveness is given. The good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand is fulfilled in that scene. It’s over. The past with its death and sin is finished today.
The King rules over death and sin today. The past and the future meet at the cross in the center. That throne from which he reigns is not covered in gold and jewels, but in the crimson color of his blood. This is a King of victory who subdues the final enemy to celebrate the eternal peace. The weapon of his battle that secures the peace is mercy and forgiveness. All that Jesus accomplished is revealed at this moment in this scene. The death of Jesus on the cross reveals a God who stands with us when we are afraid and is at our side while we are suffering. He did this simply so that we could know God today and love him more. Our repentance, our giving over of our lives to God, will assure us today that God’s presence is never closer than when we suffer, and that now through Christ we have already brought the past and the future into the presence where by the power of mercy and forgiveness we shall and always will know peace.