By Tom Maly
Throughout scripture, Jesus often acted differently from the expectations of His day and was not shy about challenging those who acted hypocritically as they sought to practice their faith.
As an example, talking to any woman, much less a Samaritan woman, as Jesus did at the well, was scandalous. He also touched and healed lepers and recently we heard of him being chastised for dining with a tax collector, a sinner, Zacchaeus. He relished in telling stories which contained scenarios of people acting outside of the norms of tradition. In many ways, he tested the limits of the tolerance of the prevailing power. The result of his provocation culminates in the Gospel story of today.
Jesus is dying between two “bad actors” who, for reasons unknown to us, were found to be deserving of the most painful, shameful death that the Romans could devise at the time, crucifixion. Jesus was also deemed to warrant this death mostly because He challenged and defied the artificiality and pretense of those who sought to live by and enforce the religious norms of His time.
And yet we read this Gospel on the Feast of Christ the KING!
Dying on a cross – the cross which symbolized the worst possible punishment? Everyone knew a king of that time could have anything he wished merely by speaking and ordering that his wish be granted. The rulers and soldiers who taunted him certainly knew that.
Once again, Jesus defied expectations because he was operating with a different kingdom in mind. He envisioned and sought to bring about a kingdom filled with leaders who serve, subjects who love, and which was meant for all of mankind.
May all that we are and do bring witness to the kingdom Jesus offers.
[Thanks to Tom Maly for his thoughts on the gospel reading. The excerpt from The Woman at the Well above features Scott Stilwell as Jesus and Lisa Bourne as “the woman.” Music is written by Phil Havens with lyrics by Tom Quiner.]
36The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, (C)offering Him sour wine,
37and saying, “(D)If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
38Now there was also an inscription above Him, “(E)THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
40But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
41“And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
43And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in(H)Paradise.”