The Unlikely Promise

The Rev. Dean Lawrence

Jesus makes a bold promise to the second criminal on the cross. To offer paradise, a perfected garden of plenty, a direct allusion to the garden of Eden, should have seemed ironic at the very least. Yet here’s Jesus, hanging on the cross, making this proclamation that the kingdom of God can be right here and now, even in the bitterest moment.

We don’t know how this criminal, the one who confesses his sins instead of criticizing Jesus, received Christ’s promise or what he believed about the Kingdom of God. We don’t know if he was convinced that the Kingdom was earthly or heavenly or what it might look like or feel like, but we do know what Jesus believed about this kingdom because he talked about it a lot.

In the fourth Chapter of Luke, Jesus entered a synagogue and read from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah as he proclaimed the kingdom of God. It was a promise of good news to the poor, release for the captives and the oppressed, and sight for the blind. It turned the world’s structures of oppression and dependence upside down.

The church, at its best, is a glimpse into this kingdom. When we give of ourselves, our works, wisdom, and wealth for God’s purposes, we begin to restructure the world, undoing the things that bind people to despair, blind them to each person’s dignity, and pit us against each other in false narratives of hate and difference.

Christ the King Sunday provides a moment in which we imagine the world differently than it is. We are not naïve and know that we fall short, but we step out with hope, aware that God wants so much more for us.



In what ways do you experience God’s promise?

Members of the early church saw the second criminal as their voice in the crucifixion story. How would that change your perspective on this text?

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