Luke 23:33-43 (NRSV)
Verse 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. Verse 34Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. Verse 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!" Verse 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, Verse 37and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" Verse 38There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." Verse 39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" Verse 40But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? Verse 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Verse 42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Verse 43He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The second half of this gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday has some of the most powerful words in the church’s grief ministry, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” When I enter the room of one who is dying and I bring a service called The Commendation of Dying, it is healing because of its promise of being with our Savior and Lord. This hope comes to the one dying, and to the family that is gathered. Our Easter promise of New Life comes through the death of Jesus on the cross. Our promise in the face of death is this: “We will be with our Lord.” Death does not have the final word. Jesus has the final word. And that word points to hope beyond the grave. Jesus is truly King.
Lord God of Hope, we thank you for your sacrificial death. Help us to see healing even in dying, because of your promise of new life. In Jesus Christ our Hope we pray, Amen.