What Kind of King Is This? Reflections on Luke 23:33-43
What kind of king is this who forgives rather than executes judgment on those who contest his power?
What kind of king is this? Who allows himself to be disrespected and abused without speaking a word in his own defense?
What kind of king is this who allows even criminals to mock him without putting them in their place?
What kind of king is this whose thoughts are on others rather than his own pain at the peak of his own undeserved suffering?
How can a crucified king bring us life? How can a forgiving king right the wrongs done to us and that we have done to others?
How can a peaceful king end the wars that rage within us and around us?
How can a compassionate king find the strength to lead us?
He can't, if we envision our role in this scene as standing on the sidelines and rejoicing in his sufferings.
The goal of the narrative genre is not to have the reader stand on the porch and look in the window, but to be drawn into the scene; to identify with a character in it and to be transformed along with them as the plots unfolds. This scene warrants the standard disclaimer that comes onto the screen before many television dramas: "This drama contains some scenes that may not be suitable for all audiences. Parental discretion is advised."
This ugly scene is not suitable for any audience in the sense that it contains nudity, blood, and brutality.
There is no way I'm rushing to joy as fast as "Listen to the Hammer Ring." Not before entering penitently into prayerful meditation on the courage and compassion of God shown to us in Jesus the Son, a courage and compassion that knows no earthly bounds.
What kind of king is this that we honor on this Reign of Christ Sunday? Not one we've ever seen before on this earth, but one who was, and is, and is to come. Thanks be to God!
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.