As in life, so in death: a reflection on this week’s Gospel (Lk 23:35-43)

I’m sure I don’t need to convince anyone here just how great our Lord is. But this week we see a man who lived a life of such contradiction ending life with the same contradiction.



This is the week we celebrate the Kingship of Jesus. But why do we read about his last hours of life as a celebration of his kingship? A good example of “why?” is in the reading of John’s gospel. The evangelist builds the gospel to the climatic scene of the crucifixion. Just prior to it, he is presented to the blood-thirsty crowd and crowned with thorns while Pilate proclaims, “Here is your King.” The leaders return their cry of, “We have no King but Caesar.”

But this is Luke’s version of the final hours of Jesus – the crucifixion is considered more shameful yet unavoidable as it was well known within the community and beyond. So, just as John was highlighting a message, what might Luke be saying through these same final hours?

When I think of it I find it extraordinary. It is no secret that Luke’s gospel portrays Jesus most compassionately, and here we see at his death the same compassion. Reassuring the “good thief” who is repentant and defending Jesus to his death, Jesus continues to extend mercy promising paradise. Here is Jesus, dying, and at a point where I would be screaming innocence, Jesus has the welfare of others in his mind: as in life, so in death. 

Common to all gospels, the sign placed above him on his cross reads “King of the Jews.” It is no wonder then that we recognise this as the point of Jesus’ kingship: he is crowned, raised above all as on a throne, and in authoritative leadership, extends compassion to his people. And he asks me (us) to do likewise. Is there a tougher challenge?

Rightly, kings have authority and Jesus is no different. Authority; it shares the origin of author. Those in authority have the ability to “write” on others. Jesus continues to “write” on us through his legacy as seen in the scriptures. I think this is what Jesus is asking us to do: to write on others in the same way Jesus “writes” on us. This is a profound example of how to do exactly that.

We are called to be leaders; leaders of families, or businesses, or governments, or churches, or even among friends. This expression of authority, of being able to “write” on others, is what Vatican II recalls when each of us are to be priests, prophets and kings. What is it that we “write” on others? We have influence, can extend mercy and compassion, but do we? We are kings without being a king. As in life, so in death. Compassion has been extended to us as “good thieves” (for while we were still sinners Christ died for us, Rom 5:8); do we continue to extend the same compassion to others? Repentance and compassion changes us, and it can change others too if we choose to let it.       


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