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Luke’s gospel for the Feast of Christ the King presents Jesus, not in a royal palace, but on a dark desolate hill. He’s not surrounded by cheering crowds, but by people cursing his name. He has no crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. His robe lies torn from him, heaped on the ground soaked in his blood. His throne is a cross, and over the cross is the inscription: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The temptation is to see this scene as a failure. But listen to the gospel. One of the criminals calls out to the wretched figure hanging next to him: “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” And power goes out from him. “This day you will be with me in paradise.
The thief is an interesting figure in the gospel. He has no name, nothing is known of his life or his crime. There he is, desperate, thinking all is gone. Powerless, no one would take a chance on him. Who would bother with him or think him worthwhile? Who would come close to him? Only a God who in the person of Jesus Christ would come so low as to share a cross with him.
The thief has no name, but we believer that he bears everyone’s name. In the thief we see ourselves, our desperate, poor, powerless selves. Yes, that is how much Christ loves us. He is close to the sinners of this world, to us..