Sunday, November 20, 2016
Why we Should Choose Humble Honesty
Luke 23:39-43 (NRSV): Choosing the Better Way
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding [Jesus] and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other [criminal] rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:39-41)
I am always moved by the testimony of “the good thief” in the Gospel of Luke and how it reminds me that being humble and seeking God in all things is so important. Life tempts us to be critical and bitter. But the good thief’s testimony prompts us, instead, to embrace the humble way of Christ.
On Calvary, Christ is crucified between two criminals. As Jesus hangs on the cross, the religious leaders and soldiers mock him, even after Christ prays to the Father to “forgive them; for they know not what they are doing” (34). The audience is ruthless. Even one criminal crucified next to Jesus “[keeps] deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’” (39). In what looks like worldly, religious failure, the crucified Jesus is disowned, mocked, ridiculed, and denounced by all, even this rightly-condemned criminal.
One voice, dim among the group, however, shines. He, too, is a criminal dying next to our crucified Lord. And what he says on the cross is full of humble honesty. First, he rebukes the other criminal and says, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong” (40-41). The good thief points to Christ’s innocence and admits his own guilt. This humility directly contrasts with the other criminal’s self-willed pride.
In Romans 5:8, Paul says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” The good thief's humble admission testifies, then, to God’s unrequited love. And the sheer beauty is in Christ willingly giving up his human life on the cross for us all, even those who crucify, mock, and jeer at him.
God gives us the gift of free will to live and conduct our lives any way we choose. One choice is to function as critics, complainers, and antagonists much like the criminal who derides Christ. A better choice, however, is to humbly admit we are works in progress in need of God’s love, healing, and forgiveness. When we choose the latter, Christ turns to us, like he does the good thief, and says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (43).
Let us Pray:
May we all choose the better way of the good thief, a life of humble spiritual poverty.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
In Jesus Christ we pray, amen.
Have a blessed week!