Last Sunday, we read about James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” who were two of Jesus’ disciples. Immediately after Jesus predicts His own betrayal, torture and death (for the third time), these two come to ask Jesus to grant them power. “Let us sit at your right and left hands when you begin the revolution,” they say. Jesus simply asks if they can handle experiencing what He is about to experience. They blindly proclaim that they can. I wouldn’t be surprised if, once again but this time silently, Jesus wept.
There were only two people in the gospel who are given the place at Jesus’ right and left sides. These two men were the criminals on the cross with Jesus. These two men are the only ones who are said in the gospels to have literally born their crosses. But their reactions to Jesus are as different as night and day. The first hurled insults at Jesus as he hung there. “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us!” Not a literal cry for mercy; just the meanest thing he could think to hurt Jesus. It is said that in our deepest darkness our soul is revealed. The second rebukes the first with a tight bit of logic. “We are suffering justly, for we deserve this. But this man hasn’t done anything. He is innocent. Don’t mock Him, for of the three, He is least deserving.” It is said that humility is understanding and accepting your true place in the world. This man recognized both his own guilt and Jesus’ innocence. Truth, humility, and honor hung there next to Jesus.
And so when he makes one last simple request – “remember me when you come into your kingdom” – Jesus grants it. I wonder if Jesus was thinking back to the Last Supper He shared with His disciples, a meal where He proclaimed that every time they ate it, they should “remember me”. I wonder what this echo of His own words just a few days before did for Jesus. Regardless, Jesus answers, “Honestly, today you will be with Me in paradise.”
Which of these two men most reflects your spirit? When things get really hard, do you tend toward blame and cursing, or toward humility and truth?
“Jesus, remember me.”