On Saturday 6 May, 2023, the world will pause to witness the coronation of King Charles III. He will be adorned in fine gowns, lavishly anointed with expensive oils and have a priceless jewelled crown placed upon his head.
This image of kingship lies in stark contrast to the image we encounter today of Christ the King. Sentenced to a brutal death, Jesus hangs, naked, humiliated and bleeding, on a roughly hewn cross between two other convicted criminals (and probably hundreds more).
For many, Jesus was the long-anticipated Messiah, the anointed one sent by God. He dined with sinners throughout his life and was surrounded by sinners as he died. One of these joined in the chorus of mocking and derision. “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us.” In choosing to bear his suffering, however, Jesus unites himself with all who suffer in our world. Salvation, for Jesus, is a grace from God to be received with the trust of a child. Jesus models that faithful, trusting love as he surrenders all to God.
The other criminal addresses Jesus simply by his name, the only time this happens in the gospel. He confesses his sin and asks for mercy, uttering those great words of faith and hope, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
To ‘remember’ means more than to call to mind. In biblical usage it is what God does when he bestows the blessings promised in the covenant. Recall the moment of impending tragedy when Noah’s Ark is about to sink. As the waters rise and the rains pour down, we hear the words, “But God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). At that moment, salvation comes to Noah and his people.
Jesus promises to remember his companion and assures him of a place by his side in Heaven.
Today’s short but poignant passage speaks of a God who is rich in mercy and forgiveness and invites us into a loving embrace, regardless of our human sinfulness.
It speaks of a God who unites himself to us in our suffering. We can cry out to God in our distress, safe in the knowledge that God will remember us.
It speaks of our need to remember others in their suffering and to respond in mercy and love.
Who do I need to remember in my world, in my community, in my family? Is it the poor, the imprisoned, the sick, the refugees, the lonely, the mentally ill? How can I remember these people in a way that brings the kingdom of God closer to earth?
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.
May thy kingdom come.