” Remember me “, the thief on the cross yells across to the God-man, Jesus. It is a profoundly haunting human question. To die, a life expired… is it a button pushed and all memory of you is wiped from the hard drive of existence.
I struggled with this scene at the end of the gospels for years. It was like the early theologians had written this cleverly constructed story… the piece, like the last piece of a puzzle. You pop it into place… and with an air of satisfaction, under your breath you exhale, ” I’ve solved it.”
But for me that last damn piece, that scene of the thief and his question… just didn’t fit. It was like the thief grabbed the puzzle and through it in the air and it lay as rubble on the landscape of humanity.
The story is Jesus came to sacrifice his life for our sin. His Father ( aka God ) hated sin so much he had to find something to spew his hatred and violent temper on to. And to show how nuts you are, if you can’t find someone on the face of the planet who’s good enough like a Ghandi, Mother Teresa, a Martin Luther King… you make one. You birth a son into the midst of humanity… and when you think the time is right you murder him. Oooops… no you tell people it was sacrifice.
Here’s what nags me, like my old grade five teacher Ms, McIntosh that used to poke her finger into the top of my head, yelling, ” Ronnie, use your head… Think!!!
If it is only about sin… that is all you’ll ever see. It will consume everything.
But here’s this thief, convicted criminal… no statement of faith, no confession of sin, not a disciple… gasp!, shit, we don’t even no if he’s a ” believer.” And, yet he asks something not religious, but profoundly human…” remember me. ”My wild scandalous redemptive imagination consumes me… I keep pulling back the curtain back and gaze, stretching my eyes to see something on the horizon of the infinite that might be more redemptive. But, my deepest hope is “now”… can we re-imagine the story to bring heaven to earth, this profound vision Jesus had of re-creating the world.
What if… Jesus is more about redemption than sin. I have been a follower most of life…I still sin, and will sin till I die. There will always be sin. Ok, this might be a shock, but here goes… Jesus death does not stop sin.
But… maybe his death has the power to redeem sin. What if it was the underbelly of humanity… the principalities and powers of darkness that build oppressive empires, corporate powers the fuel and perpetuate injustice, greed, violence, racism… religions. This is the reality that Jesus confronts all through the gospels. This is the power that stands against the redemptive imagination, power and beauty of the world Jesus imagined and lived in.
What if this is what murdered Jesus? What if God said ” Hell No ” no to this destructive power and force and resurrected Jesus world of redemptive imagination and abundant human life.
What if… we live our lives in the power of this redemptive imagination standing against the principalities and powers of darkness in the midst of our world… to the point where were willing to live and die to see Jesus world come to life now. Is it possible to re-create, to act as co-creators and build a new world.
It is a mystery how this unknown thief pops into the end of the story just to mess it up by asking, ” Remember me.” And Jesus says, ” this day you will be with me in paradise.”
Thief, sinner, no confession, no statement of belief… jumps the que, and he’s in. Thank you what ever your name is, because we will remember you…you’ve confounded and confused us. Hopefully we can see something as redemptive as you did with out all the bull shit.