Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
It’s another small detail, I know, but again I think very important.
Jesus is led away with two others, both criminals, and he will be put to death with them.
Why does this matter?
Because Jesus, the one we confess is the Son of God and Savior of the world, is condemned as a criminal. Which demonstrates just how surprising and unexpected God’s revelation and kingdom were and still are. So foreign is God’s activity in the world that we name it abnormal, aberrant, criminal. Yes, this reveals the power of sin to blur and distort our vision so that we cannot recognize God among us, but it also reveals just how surprising and unexpected God’s revelation was…and still is.
It also matters because Jesus, treated here as an outcast and criminal, identifies with all who have ever felt outcast, named unwelcome, or declared unfit. Jesus dies accused of a capitol crime, he is rejected as one of the worst of the worst, he is deemed undeserving of dignity or honor of any sort. Which means that God, in Jesus, has experienced all of this. And that means, in turn, that no one is beyond the compassion, concern, or reach of this God. The God who went to the cross as a criminal in Jesus has identified with all of us, seeks out all of us, and desires to redeem all of us. All of us. No one is left out.
Finally, it matters because Jesus goes to his death not alone but with companions. They are probably not the companions he would have chosen. Or, on second thought, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that they are not the companions we would have chosen for him. On thinking about it, I suspect they are precisely the companions he would choose, for they are those who are sinners, cast out of society, rejected, judged, and now condemned. Throughout Luke’s story, Jesus makes it clear that these are precisely those for whom he came. Heaven rejoices, he said on numerous occasions, over the recovery of one lost soul rather than over the safe keeping of a hundred righteous. And now he lives that out. To the end he seeks the company of the lost.
This is Jesus, the one who seeks out the lost – including you and me – and welcomes the outcast – including you and me – and offers worth, dignity, and love to all persons – including you and me – and identifies with all who have ever felt rejected – including you and me – and whose love is so unexpected that he was condemned to die as a criminal.
Yeah. I think that matters a lot.
Prayer: Dear God, so root us in your love that we might delight in being surprised by the reach of your grace and welcome those whom the world has rejected yet you have declared precious. In Jesus’ name, Amen.