One on the right and one on the left
One on the right and one on the left
This is the way that we hear about the criminals who were crucified with Jesus. It is clear that Jesus is the centre of attention — quite literally in this case. He’s being made an example of. After all the commotion that he’s caused, it really isn’t a surprise is it.
But the bit about the right and the left has come up in the scriptures before. Do you remember the request from James and John in Mark, or the request of their mother in Matthew’s version? Here it is from Mark:
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
Now clearly “sitting” and “being crucified” are two different things — except they aren’t in Jesus’ reply. The cup that we drank from last night, brought us into a covenant with Jesus that binds our lives to his. The baptism that we were baptized into was not just a baptism into his resurrection. Actually it was a baptism into his death as well. That point is so clear, that we actually have it as part of our funeral rite. Here’s how it reads:
When we were baptized in Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Wanting to sit at the right and left of Jesus is understandable. It’s even understandable for James’ and John’s mother to request it for her sons — even though I can imagine them cringing when they hear what their mother is asking for.
we were baptized into his death.
We may even want to sit at Jesus’ right or left. There was a time, not that long ago, (well maybe more than a few decades ago) where being a member of a church brought a certain prestige — depending on the church, and the connections. Being close to Jesus certainly had its advantages.
We were buried therefore with him
by baptism into death,
While most of those advantages are gone these days, being close to Jesus is still what we aim for as Christians — our goal is the imitation of Christ — our aspiration is to live as he lived.
Unfortunately, living as Jesus did, comes with a real price. It isn’t about being exalted as James and John (and their mother) had hoped for. It is about enduring the cross as the criminals did. I don’t mean that God wants us to suffer — that is the one part of this story that I still need to wrap my head around. I do mean that God wants us to understand the power of forgiveness.
so that as Christ was raised from the dead
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live a new life.
Scholars debate who the “them” is in this passage. Is it the people who are crucifying Jesus? Is it the criminals who are with Jesus?
For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
In this day and age, I even wonder if it is us. Do we know what we’re asking for, in order to be like Jesus? Do we know what being in covenant with him really means? Are we willing to forgive in life as he did? Are we willing to forgive, as we have been forgiven?
we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Maybe that’s what it’s like to be Christ-like — to be willing to forgive to the point that it hurts.