On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The readings for the first Sunday of Advent, 2016

First Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5

1The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2In days to come
  the mountain of the Lord’s house
 shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
  and shall be raised above the hills;
 all the nations shall stream to it.
  3Many peoples shall come and say,
 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
  to the house of the God of Jacob;
 that he may teach us his ways
  and that we may walk in his paths.”
 For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
  and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4He shall judge between the nations,
  and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
 they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
  and their spears into pruning hooks;
 nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
  neither shall they learn war any more.

5O house of Jacob,
  come, let us walk
  in the light of the Lord!

Psalm: Psalm 122

1 I was glad when they said to me, 
    "Let us go to the house of the LORD."

2 Now our feet are standing 
    within your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is built as a city 
    that is at unity with itself;

4 To which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD, 
    the assembly of Israel,
    to praise the Name of the LORD.

5 For there are the thrones of judgment, 
    the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 
    "May they prosper who love you.

7 Peace be within your walls 
    and quietness within your towers.

8 For my brethren and companions' sake, 
    I pray for your prosperity.

9 Because of the house of the LORD our God, 
    I will seek to do you good."

Second Reading: Romans 13:11-14

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Gospel: Matthew 24:36-44

[Jesus said to the disciples,] 36“About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Greek Study of Matthew 24:36-44

Greek Study Matthew 24:36-44
οιδεν (οιδα) perf. "[no one] knows" perfect here is best expressed in the present tense.
της ημερας (α) gen. "[that] day
ουδε ..... ουδε "neither [the angels in heaven] nor" - comparative construction.
ο υιος "the Son" (missing in some manuscripts) 
ει μη "except [the Father alone]

v37 ωσπερ ..... ουτως "just as ..... so also” comparative construction between the days of Noah and the days of the Son of Man. In both people were caught up in their daily life when faced by unexpected divine judgment.
του Νωε gen. [the days] Noah was alive
η παρουσια (α) "the coming" a word is best understood as a divine appearing in judgment; e.g. the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was a "coming".
του υιου του ανθρωπου (ος) gen. "of the Son of Man"

v38 τρωγοντες (τινω) part. "eating" literally “eating noisily

v39 ουκ εγνωσαν (γινωσκω) aor. "they knew nothing" were unaware, suspected nothing.
ηρεν (αιρω) aor. "took" - took up απαντας (απασ) adj. "them all
η παρουσια του υιϑου του ανθρωπου "the coming of the Son of Man" – 
παραλαμβανεται (παραλαμβανω) pres. "will be taken" - futuristic present. It is interesting how we automatically assume that the person is taken to heaven but of course, the one "taken" may be the one "swept away". 

v41 αληθουσαι (αληθω) pres. part. "[two women] will be grinding" - [two] grinding. 

v42 γρηγορειτε (γρηγορεω) imp. "watch" a figurative meaning be prepared
οτι "because" introducing a causal clause explaining why one should keep watch.
ποια ημερα (α) dat. "on what day" dative of time which may be properly translated "you do not know when the Lord is coming."  
v43 γινωσκετε (γινωσκω) pres. imp. "understand [this]" an emphatic imperative, "keep this in mind"
ποια φυλακη dat. "at what time of night watch" the night watch consists of blocks of three hours.
διορυχθηναι (διορυσσω) aor. pas. inf. "be broken into" actually to be dug through, or broken though like digging through a mud brick wall. 

v44 δια τουτο "so" ετοιμοι adj. "you must be ready

οτι "because" ωρα (α) "at an hour" you are not expecting he will come!

The Advent Wreath: Not as ancient as you think.

My friend and brother of the Society of the Holy Trinity, Frank Senn, both a parish pastor and a Seminary professor, wrote this entry on his web site concerning the Advent Wreath. It might be good fodder for thought. Enjoy it.

Here is the link

LINK! Click me!

Come and Be Our Judge!

“This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.”  - John Wycliffe, 1384.

The First Sunday in Advent which is graced with these tests follows Christ the King Sunday, which in turn brings Pentecost season to an end. The end of Pentecost has a character of its own in the Common lectionary. It deals with matters of “the end.” By the first Sunday of Advent, the idea that: “all things must pass,” has been spoken in most pulpits. Christ the King Sunday asked a question of its own: “In spite of this, and in spite that Jesus Christ died on the cross, will you have Faith?” Faith is a heroic thing. It casts its lot, it bets its life on this Jesus. At the end of Pentecost season, on Christ the King Sunday, it might have been good to recall the words of Henry Nouwen: “The words heard most often in heaven are: Oh, that’s why!” 
Advent begins, maybe regrettably, with texts that seem to carry on the theme of end and destruction. Advent ought not be about that though. Unlike the last weeks of Pentecost, Advent is not about teleology but about Hope, though the two are never neatly separated.
That theme of Hope is evident in our Old Testament and Epistle readings. Jerusalem will see the Lord redeeming and setting right all things. The night is almost over now, says St. Paul, it will be daylight soon, prepare yourself. We can stand ready in fear and trepidation as the bumper sticker suggests: “Jesus is coming! Look busy!” That sentiment is not for Advent. Advent awaits the Lord in longing. One keeps the lamps full of oil because one is looking forward to meeting the Lord. (Matt 25:1-13) One keeps the house in order because one eagerly awaits his return, one treats ones fellow “wait-erers” with grace because one longs for the whole house to express a joyous sense of awaiting. (Matt 24:45-51) One expresses ones hope by working as if one knew him and his graciousness, for the way we do our work says something about our attitude towards the one for whom we do it. (25:14-30) One expects his judgement to be based on the theme: have you done as one belonging to my house would have, have you been eager to meet me to the point that you served everyone as if they were me, for serving all is what I have done? (Matt 25:31-46)
Advent also has a penitential character to it. The history of Advent as a season is penitential. It is not clear when it became a Season of its own, but when it did, it became a purple season. In the 6th century it seems to have been observed from November 11th all the way to the Feast of the Nativity.  It became a four Sunday season - the Sunday closest to the feast of Andrew (November 30) and embracing four Sundays - sometime in the 10th century when it also became very much a fast, a penitential season in preparation for the Christ Mass. 
Hope is not without its enemies and often hope is placed in things other than the Kingdom and the return of Christ. Some sense of penitence is therefore not out of order. Hope found in places other than the Christ has causes, not the least one being that, well, we have waited a long time and he ain’t here. When will he finally get here? Am I going to wait until I die? (in most cases, yes, by the history of faith) In waiting is the temptation of getting distracted. Distraction causes chaos in all places where it occurs, be that faith or the operation of motor vehicles, be that worship or roasting the Thanksgiving turkey. The interweb is full of videos of the results of traffic or  cooking gone wrong by distracted operators. 
Distraction brought on by a sense of spiritual exhaustion is not unknown to the spiritual guides of the church. Evagrius (346-399) is one of the earliest sources to devote some time writing about it. His term for it is “Acedia.” One caught that way does not want to pray but wants something else - anything else. He does not want to wait for the Lord, he wants to be about other business whatever that might be. He asks: “why do I live different,” but has no sense of how to live better and so drifts into the life around. (Jude) Evagrius feared that acedia barred its victims from the drive to repent, as they no longer cared about the things of God and began to be distracted by just about anything that demanded their attention or allegiance. Acedia drives away the possibility of sanctification.
How then do we find hope again and make our lives a joyous waiting for the Lord that spills out into a life that is always ready for his return and is seen as such? If they see us do they think that we are waiting for one whom we trust or do they think we fear his return? Are we calculating his “day” so we can be ready for that day on some schedule or do we pray the Lord hasten the day? And why do we want it to be hastened?
I am a Kraut. I am of the post war generation that spent their youth sharing the loathing over the character and honor of our country. There was a sense that we were all ontologically guilty - somehow. And something had been lost but no one wanted to say. Something and someone was missing. It was not spoken. It was not talked about. Stories of the 40's, if mothers and grandmothers told them, were told in hushed voices often with tears. Beneath the surface of my elders there were dark pools. There rested the memories of brother, sisters, friends no longer seen, laid in graves unknown if they had been buried at all. In those pools rested memories of which no one was proud. Memories of being swept up in the moments, memories of doing what had to be done to survive.  
As my generation came of age, we stirred up some of the dust because it was time to know. What happened, dad? What happened, grandpa? How could you?! And we shouted those accusations into loving eyes that were downcast in guilt and shame and those eyes, those faces, favored our own ever so strongly. After the rage was over. After all the self justifications were said, refuted, after all the helpless cries saying: "I don't understand myself," had faded, my generation is now left with faces in mirrors that we know are capable of the greatest evil in our time. There were no excuses. There are no excuses. The devil did not make our grandparents do this. Luther, often blamed for making Hitler’s hatred of the Jews possible, did not make them do this. They - we - did this. 
As German Lutherans, as human beings with a conscience, we know that what was done was wrong and evil. It is all right there to see. Luther would have condemned it in one of his all so famous tirades if he had seen it. The problem is that my generation will not let you be so quick to say that you see and you condemn. We have seen faces of very good people who saw but went along. We know that no one is above it all, no one is so wise to see it all, no one is omniscient to foretell it all. No-one but God. The “certainties” of often merely a year ago and the realities of today give proof to our failure to be all that we imagine we are.
I use the word "charmed" to describe what happened to my people in the 1930's. You, yes, you who read this, can be charmed by evil when it holds out its bright shining objects of false hope. It does us no good to find rationalizations that make us feel better about what happened once the evil is exposed and our participation is clear. We are not any good at telling good from evil. The snake lied. The snake also did not eat the fruit. We did. The next Holocaust is within your grasp. You are capable of it. It can happen here.  You, yes: you, may very well shout adoring praises as the next Pol Pot rides by in a limousine escorted by goose stepping soldiers. 
It gets dark around Hamburg, the town of my youth, at about 4 PM in the winter. At my house Advent candles were lit and Christmas decorations were made on dark winter afternoons. The stories of the war were told by grandmother and mother, with wet eyes cast down. It was at no other time in the year that these stories really came up. But in this season souls that had seen what people can do to one another were crying: "Redeem, Lord Jesus! Redeem." This is Advent for me. The cry of the soul: "This all must be answered for. This all must be judged. We must be judged. Come, Lord, judge the nations beginning with us."

Advent is a contemplative cry for the Lord to return, having done self examination and realizing the need for the world to be visited by the kingdom of heaven. Hope, repentance, and sanctification meet in these places of tears, guilt, remembrance, and longing.  “Oh, happy towns and blessed lands that live by their true King's commands,” begins the 3rd verse of “Fling Wide the Door” (LBW 32) These happy towns, may they, like Jerusalem of Isaiah 2, welcome the Lord and his ways. These happy towns, may the Word of God be for them and govern them so thoroughly that it governs from within and becomes of them as much as it is for them. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Texts for Christ the King Sunday 2016

First Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6

1Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

5The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Psalm: Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength, 
    a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, 
    and though the mountains be toppled into the
                             depths of the sea;

3 Though its waters rage and foam, 
    and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

4 The LORD of hosts is with us; 
    the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

5 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
    the holy habitation of the Most High.

6 God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be overthrown; 
    God shall help her at the break of day.

7 The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken; 
    God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.

8 The LORD of hosts is with us; 
    the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

9 Come now and look upon the works of the LORD, 
    what awesome things he has done on earth.

10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; 
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
    and burns the shields with fire.

11 "Be still, then, and know that I am God; 
    I will be exalted among the nations;
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

12 The LORD of hosts is with us; 
    the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Second Reading: Colossians 1:11-20

11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Gospel: Luke 23:33-43

33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34⟦Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”⟧ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Greek Study Luke 23:33-43

Greek Study Luke 23:33-43

33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

v33 τον καλουμενον (καλεω) pres. pas. part. "called" Κρανιον "skull" - in Aramaic the Greek rendering is "Golgotha", but Luke drops this name for some unknown reason. 
εσταυρωσαν (σταυροω) aor. "they crucified" - none of the gospel writers describe Jesus' actual crucifixion.
τους κακουργους (ος) "the criminals" (Mark has "bandits", i.e. "terrorists" or "freedom-fighters" if a Jew or "insurgents" if you want to sit on the fence! Luke avoids the political innuendo using the word “criminal” – but also departs form the tradition (and the main rationale for Roman culpability) – wat’s up with that?

v34 αφες (αφιημι) aor. imp. "forgive" - This prayer is not found in all manuscripts.
αυτοις dat. pro. "them" Who, the priests, Romans, people, or all of them?
οιδασιν (οιδα) perf. "they [do not] understand (know). 

v35 θεωρων (θεωρεω) pres. part. "staring” participle is adverbial.
εξεμυκτηριζον (εκμυκτηριζω) imperf. "sneered at" - Luke does not separate the officials from the people when it comes to abusing Jesus. 
λεγοντες (λεγω) pres. part. "they said" attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they continued mocking him and said."
σωσατω (σωζω) imp. "let him save" rescue/heal himself…
ο εκλεκτος "the one picked out" – I.e. the Messiah, the one God has chosen.
ενεπαιξαν (εμπαιζω) aor. ridiculed/made fun of. Some argue the offering of sour wine was how they mocked him - a king would never be offered poor wine (Ps.69:21).
οξος "wine/ vinegar" - low cost dry red wine, like they serve in most restaurants today!

v37 ει + ind. "if" - Introducing a first-class condition, hypothetical, where the stated condition is assumed to be true for argument sake.

v38 επιγραφη (η) "notice" – a placard or formal notice detailing the criminal's name and charge.
ουτος "this one”- not used in Mark. While this is derogatory in context, it is interesting that the charge doesn't have "claimed", although the exact wording of the inscription varies "king of the Jews" is a common.
εβλασφημει (βλασφημεω) imperf. "hurled insults" - a durative – i.e. the insults flowed; "he spoke with sarcastic disrespect."
ουχι - "[Are] not [you the Christ]" – the negative here indicates that the question expects a positive response, although it is clear that he doesn't believe Jesus is Christ.
v40 επιτιμων (επιτιμαω) pres. part. "rebuked" serves as an adverb so "rebuckingly? This is purely a Lukan account and is so startling that it has caused great debate as to its authenticity. It is often suggested this criminal initially derided Jesus, but then responded positively, but such is conjecture.
ουδε φοβη (φοβεω) pres. pas. "don't you fear [God]" - The second criminal recognizes Jesus' messianic credentials and expresses the danger of affronting God.

v41 δικαιως adv. "[we are] justly condemned"
απολαμβανομεν (απολαμβανω) pres. "we are getting" what we deserve.
δε "but" - adversative
ατοπον adj. "wrong/improper/wicked” Jesus has done nothing deserving crucifixion. Luke is underlining the innocence of Jesus, not suggesting this criminal has a knowledge of the law, rather he senses the innocence of the man crucified next to him.

v42 μνησθητι (μιμνησκομαι) aor. pas. imp. "Remember me kindly / show me your kindness" an epitaph found on gravestone inscriptions of the time.

v43 σημερον adv. "today" – the coming day - a common technical phrase used of the messianic kingdom, does not mean "this day" but rather "the coming day." Jesus is responding to the criminal's understanding of paradise as a holding place for the righteous prior to the final establishment of the kingdom. The theology of death as asleep is inferred by this, the timeless nature of the resurrection is at the heart of this statement.
τω παραδεισω/ (ος) "paradise" - Originally a Persian word used of an enclosed garden, later a holding place after death where the righteous awaited the coming kingdom - Jesus likely means "heaven" in the sense of a new garden of Eden.
Text Notes 

33. criminals: Mark and Matthew use the Greek word λεσται, "peasants who have been repressed and separated from their land and village. This is usually the result if they have been excessively taxed and forced to sell their land, have had their land confiscated by elites, or have broken an law enforced by the elites." Barabbas was a λεστεσ (Luke 23:18-19). Jesus had been accused of political crimes (Luke 23:2; 38, 39). In Luke the Greek is κακουργο, literally, "malefactor;" a common thief. This is Luke’s way of dismissing the earthly, political issues. Jesus’ crucifixion between two criminals is seen as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12 (Luke 22:37).

34. "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing": "to whom do they refer? Scarcely to the Roman soldiers. Apart from the fact that the soldiers have not yet men mentioned (see v. 36), the ‘ignorance motif’ of Acts would have to be invoked to explain the sense of ‘them,’ i.e. the Jewish ‘leaders’ of the context, those who were crucifying and mocking him" (Acts 2:36).

they cast lots to divide his clothing: An allusion to Psalm 22:18.

35. See Psalm 22:8.

He saved others, let him save himself: This is an acknowledgement that Jesus had saved others. The reading concludes with Jesus’ statement to one of the criminals in verse 43, "today you will be with me in paradise," indicating that both he and the criminal will be "saved," not from the cross but from separation from God.

the Messiah of God, his chosen one: In Luke 9:35 "chosen one" is coupled with "my son" in the Transfiguration narrative. Jesus is God’s chosen one, the one anointed by God (at baptism, and now with the baptism of death (Mark 10:38; Romans 6:3).

36. The soldiers also mocked him: They continued their ill-treatment of Jesus which began in 22:63-65, now with the added tone of ridicule.

37: "Satan had offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world (4:5-7). The soldiers challenge Jesus to demonstrate his kingship by saving himself…. For Luke this is of course a high point in his narrative. Jesus is the King of the Jews. His only crime was to be what he truly is, and the cross is the place of his enthronement, for greatness is won through renunciation of self." 

38. This is the King of the Jews: Literally, King of the Judeans. Jesus’ answer to Pilate’s question, "Are you the king of the Judeans," an affirmation of the assertion, though it leaves Pilate with the determination of how to understand it. Luke adds the demonstrative pronoun, "this" to the title to indicate the Roman taunt directed against both Jesus and any other royal pretenders. Other Judean kings would be treated as this one had been treated.

39. One of the criminals: In Mark 15:32 and Matthew 27:44 both robbers revile Jesus. In Luke only one criminal attacks Jesus, the other rebukes the first.

43. paradise: This is a Persian loan-word meaning a garden or park. It took on the connotation of the garden of Eden (Revelation 2:7). It is used as a synonym for heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4.

This is a different kind of king. The passage bristles with irony, which reflects the Markan account and must have arisen from Jesus’ first followers who made the connections. After all Jesus taught that the greatest would be the one who serves and He called the dominant models of power into question. Yet at the same time other forces pull in a different direction. Jesus the loser becomes Jesus the winner, but who wants to focus on losing? Paul spoke of the powerful powerlessness of the cross. Crucifixion confronts the norms of power with a new way of being God. 
Luke follows Mark for the most part, but with variations in order and important additional details. Jesus is crucified on the grounds that he is subversive. That subversiveness is associated with the notion of ‘messiah’. ‘King of the Jews’ makes the charge explicit and stands over the cross as a warning against other would-be messiahs. Such a figure was widely expected to overthrow Rome. The notion was, however, rather flexible and may not have entailed military intentions at all but these finer points of Jewish theology would have been lost on a busy Roman administrator like Pilate.  His chief concern would have been to suppress any form of popular movement that held potential to undermine stability. Fear is often ruthless. He understood enough to know there was no need to round up Jesus’ followers and execute them. You cut the head off the snake and the rest will die. But it didn’t die and Christians acclaimed Jesus messiah and not the kind of messiah that warranted an execution. In this sense the charge against him was false. Thus it makes sense to bring Barabbas into the story for he too belonged as did those who were crucified with Jesus. Outside of Luke’s Gospel they are called ‘lestai’, a term commonly used for revolutionaries. This all goes together to create an ironic situation in which one falsely charged for being ‘King of the Jews’ and messiah is being hailed as the ‘King of the Jews’ and ‘messiah’ by Christians.
The way out of the dilemma is to emphasize that Jesus was no threat at all. It was all a terrible misunderstanding. Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God, the kingdom within, and it had nothing to do with the broader political concerns. And you can read Luke this way: that forgiveness of individual sins is the goal, a forgiveness that is offered generously even to those who despise him 23:34 shows and even available for ‘criminals’ as 23:39-43 illustrates. Luke has even removed from his narrative the dangerous suggestions that Jesus may have spoken against the temple, which Mark reported as an echo of the Jewish trial and for which the tearing of the curtain of the temple was an advance sign. In Luke it is now more a sign of divine grief (23:44-45).
Was Jesus then a messiah of a rather harmless kind, concerned primarily with the inner world? Did those who colluded in his execution just miss the boat? Was it all a terrible misunderstanding? Luke is at pains to emphasize Jesus was innocent, he even has both Pilate and Herod Antipas say so. But there is no smoke without a fire. Something was smoldering in the movement of Jesus even if not military intervention. It was, however, something which gained a following that presented a clear and present danger to Roman stability. It is impossible to make sense of this without recognizing that there were indeed elements of subversion within the Jesus movement.
So Luke presents Jesus from the beginning as one who is addressing Israel’s hopes of liberation. The songs of the birth narratives are filled with it. And Jesus marches into the synagogue to link his mission to Isaiah 61 where He announces good news to the poor, hungry, and those who weep. He asserts the value of the valueless. He gathers people and announces change. He is not beginning a school for meditation nor is he promising a utopia at some other time and place. He is announcing a change that it already manifesting itself in Him and His community. And this was certainly NOT harmless for those with invested in the status quo. Was he one with Barabbas and the brigands? No; yet we need to see that in some sense He would have more in common with them than with Christian quietists.
To affirm that Jesus is king is to affirm a different kind of kingship. But it is not a kingship which abdicates into an inner world of meditation. Powerless is passivity if no power is taken up. Jesus was enormously powerful and aggressively assertive. He did not come to create a set of doormats but to spread a revolution of love and grace, which entailed identifying and embodying a new kind of power. The feast of Christ the king is very assertive. The paradox and irony of the passion is not be dissolved by saying Christ’s concerns lie elsewhere. It is rather to be entered as representative of a fundamental conflict in the here and now: about God, about Christ, about being Christian. 
‘King’ is a male gendered expression but the issue is larger than this. Asserting Christ the king as an image of splendor with all the trappings of ancient royalty, in word and song it reinforces standard images of greatness, might and domination. Asserting Christ the king is a counter image to a world that keeps the poor poor.  Christ the King is a subversive declaration. It is a way of locating what matters most because what matters most in the end is God.


The Scripture readings (Jer. 23:1-6, Col. 1:13-20, Luke 23:35-43) does not allow us to push Christ’s kingship off to a heavenly place. They remind us reconciliation applies to "all things, whether on earth or in heaven" (Col. 1:20). The peace of the gospel required a violent and unjust death.  But Christ rules those who have received the redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness as a result of that death. We would never expect that one described as the incarnation of divine fullness (Col. 1:19) would enter into his rule dying like a common criminal. The Gospels underscore the irony of the crucifixion by describing his mocking and Luke rubs the message in by repeating this mocking three times (Luke 23:35-39): the rulers of the people mock the idea of a savior who cannot save himself, the soldiers mock him as a powerless king and one of the criminals mock him because he cannot save either himself or those dying with him.
But then people expect that divinely anointed leaders of the last days will redeem them. The promise of a divinely installed shepherd from the Davidic line (Jeremiah) does not point to some other world. It promises that the Jewish exile will end and the people will dwell securely in their land under the leadership of a king whose name will be "the Lord is our righteousness". Such a promise undercuts other rulers’ claims to legitimacy or divine support. But the rule of justice and peace will not be created by the political figures of this present age either.  God condemns them for destroying what they should have protected. 
Luke makes the rulers of the people the first to mock a crucified Jesus while the people stand in mute witness. Yet such mockery has an ironic quality. When the Roman soldiers who represent the real power mock Jesus as king of the Jews, they include both the people and their leaders in this gesture of contempt. And these soldiers do not expect Jesus’ act of saving himself to include them. Jesus merely provides the occasion to express their disdain for a weak, vacillating people. His execution demonstrates the power of Rome. But Luke’s version of the crucifixion does not permit mockery to turn the scene into a piece of political irony. Instead, Luke uses a tradition about the repentant criminal to provide a dramatic example of how Jesus in fact becomes savior even from the cross. During the trial scene, Pilate repeatedly states Jesus is innocent. The second criminal reminds us Jesus has done nothing to deserve the death. He then goes beyond mere recognition that Jesus is innocent to Jesus is King. So in the end Jesus is not a failure he is on the way to kingship, which is a lesson the risen Jesus must teach to his own confused disciples (Luke 24:26) 
The criminal recognizes both the justice of his own sentence and the possibility for salvation in Jesus. His reward; greater than what he requested, is a place with Jesus. "Today you will be with me in Paradise." Is paradise the Magic Kingdom? Not hardly. We can only enter Jesus’ kingdom if we shed the flawed, human perceptions of power and like the thief turn toward the ultimate dichotomy, a Crucified Messiah!