The taunts in today’s Gospel (Luke 23:35-43) are interesting ones. They are not false statements; Jesus IS the Chosen One, the Christ, the King. Can something that is true still be a taunt?
Absolutely. We all—every single one of us, I’d bet—know this from personal experience.
Any part of our identity—gender, race, religion—can be cited with admiration, but can also be turned into a taunt. Whether it’s "you throw like a girl" or a derisive comment about one’s ethnicity, these snide comments can really hurt. They hurt even though we know what they truly are: evidence of a narrow, false understanding of what the label actually means. The person using the identifier as a taunt is stuck in a harmful tunnel vision, one at odds with the truth.
In today’s Gospel, we see something similar at work. Those who jeer at Jesus have an understanding of king that is dangerously narrow. To them, a king will get himself down from the cross and maybe smack a few heads in the process. A king will show physical might, not the moral courage of enduring suffering. A king will kill, not be killed.
Jesus shows us a fuller picture. He affirms that a true leader does not have to publicly proclaim his own power, and that a true king will sacrifice his own life for others. He proves that the taunts from others say more about their own lack of vision than about the truth.
Still, Jesus was human as well as divine, so it surely hurt to be jeered at in this way. That’s why the words of the second criminal must have been a welcome balm to His soul. Here, in the most unlikely place, is someone with a larger vision. Here is someone who is open to a new, rather subversive understanding of what a King really does. Here is someone who probably can’t grasp the whole picture of Christ—what human can?—but who nonetheless chooses to embrace its mysterious fullness.
Will we embrace Christ, too? Take this question to quiet prayer today.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of three books, including Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses and Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos. She is the author of our Blessed Conversations: The Seven Sacraments found here. You can find out more about her here.