Christ the King
In the Gospel Reading, Christ is crucified. The rulers, who caused this crucifixion, feel no compassion. They add to his misery by mocking his mission: He saved others, himself he cannot save. One of the two thieves crucified with him mocks him too: Hey, Christ, save yourself and us!
Christ the King says nothing. He just hangs there, nailed to the wood of the cross.
What the other thief says is astonishing. He rebukes the first thief, the one mocking Jesus, in the strongest possible way. “Have you no fear of God?” he says.
If you leaned over the edge of your chair and saw a giant python inching its way across your floor, you would leap sky high, wouldn’t you? You would be so afraid! You wouldn’t be doing any mocking right then, would you? The good thief wants to get the same reaction out of the bad thief. He wants to scare that bad thief right out of his mocking. Only it isn’t a python that is meant to give the bad thief a reality check. It’s the awesome power of the living God.
But how about a reality check for the good thief? Look at where Christ the King is! What’s to fear about the God who lets his King be killed this way?
The whole earth is soaked with the tears of the suffering—and broken humanity is like the flotsam and jetsam everywhere on the ocean of history. What’s to fear about God? Where is he?
On the cross—that is the answer. God is love, and all the power of God is there in the love shown by Christ’s painful death. To save us, and to bring us to himself in heaven, the incarnate God will suffer even the torment of death on the cross. Love that is willing to suffer is greater than power that is able to coerce, and that powerful love is there on the cross.
Someone habituated to mockery should fear this power. Sooner or later, the consuming fire of God’s love will burn away his mockery’s pretense.
But someone who fears God because God loves him will find Christ in the way the good thief did. Sooner or later, he will hear Christ say to him, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Then he will know the victory of Christ the King, and he will be victorious with Christ.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University