Thought for the day
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8
Chennai: Church of South India Synod Mission and Evangelism Department has engaged in the Summer Camp for the Missionaries organized by the Board of Mission and Evangelism, Madras Diocese on 2nd May 2019 in Marakkanam Area in Villupuram Revenue District. It is popularly known as “Kodai Kala Narcheythi Mugam” in Tamil (A Summer Mission Camp).
A Summer Mission Camp is the time and opportunity to reach the unreached people in the peripheral areas where marginals and grassroots are thickly populated in a less-privileged living situations. All areas are under developing and yet to go miles and miles for the sustainable developments.
“Through the Summer Mission Camp, we are planning to cover 200 villages this year which are purely unreached people”, said Rev. Paul Dayanadhan, the Mission Director for Madras Diocese. He further added that Summer Mission Camp is our passion in which all missionaries are taking part. They will be camped in one place and divided into groups which comprised of ten plus members and visited different areas of that camping place. Every year we are conducting the Summer Mission Camp, because it’s our passion for mission to reach the unreached”, he added.
More interestingly, through this missional engagements, missionaries are propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ through verities of mediums like House visits, Tract distributions, ‘Padakkazchi’(Film Show), ‘katha Kalakshepam’( religious story telling through folk arts and singing), skits, street play, dancing and preaching. Many people are gathering to listen all these activities, especially children.
An Exposure visit to the Summer Mission Camp was made to the Marakkanam Fields near to the Eat Cost Road (ECR). Both sides of the roads are heavily populated by the less-privileged group of the society. The Right side of the ECR were occupied by the Dalits community whereas left side of the road were settled by the fishermen community. Both areas are still in under developing condition where we could able to see the unquenching spirt for the sustainable transformation in each level of the life.
The Team for the exposure visit has went to see the working areas such as Edaikazhinadu, Kadappakkam, Kadappakkam Colony, Vellom Konda Agaram, Ekkiyar Kuppam, Kilpettai and Marakkanam. The visit was accompanied by Rev. Paul Dayanandhan, Mission Director in Madras Diocese, Missionaries Mr. Njana Selvan, Mr. Paul Daniel, Mr. Issac, Mr. Lazar, Mr. Dhinakaran, Mr. Joshua and Rev. Maxcin John along with other missionaries.
It was an eye-opening and heart touching experience to visit the Summer Mission Camp. All missionaries are enthusiastically involved in the mission. People are welcoming missionaries to listen the gospel activities. Children are so happy to listen and they were more curious to listen the missional activities through various art forms. More specifically, people are maintaining creative rapport with the missionaries.
Undoubtedly, this summer camp will be impactful and fruitful for the people which will open new and fresh venues and new horizons for the missional engagements. The Rt. Rev. Dr. J. George Stephen, Bishop in Madras Diocese, Rev. Paul Dayanadhan, Mission Director for Madras Diocese, The Board for Mission and Evangelism in Madras Diocese, All Missionaries and other mission well-wishers and supporters deserve much appreciation for their passion for Mission.
Director for Mission and Evangelism, CSI Synod.Back
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 34 “FIFTH WORD ON THE CROSS: I THIRST”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev.B.J Moses Shanthi Kumar, Presbyter, CSI Medak Diocese gives a meditation “FIFTH WORD ON THE CROSS: I THIRST”
Lenten Meditations- Day 34 (for 13th April 2019)
“FIFTH WORD ON THE CROSS: I THIRST”
Selected Texts: John 19: 28-29 | Psalm 42:1 | Romans 8:18-25
Jesus’ cry for thirst echoes the cry of many human beings, and all creatures of the earth as they do not have access to safe drinking water. Water is one of the precious gifts of God. It is a basic human need and a basic human right; every human being should have access to safe drinking water. But today water has become a commodity; God’s precious gift is sold as bottled water. In spite of having many natural resources and various water bodies in India, there are millions of people who are crying “I Thirst.” The cry of the thirsty is not just the cry of human beings but also the cry of all kinds of living creatures. Many wild animals are coming out of their habitats into villages where human beings are living, as they do not have water to drink. Therefore, in this grave situation, the fifth word of Jesus from the cross, “I Thirst” represents the cry of all the living creatures who are deprived of their basic right, clean drinking water. Interestingly in the Gospel of John, Jesus not only asks for water but he also gives living water. (John 7:38).
In the gospel according to St. John, Jesus is portrayed as both divine and human; as a divine being Jesus has the power to give or take his life. (John 10:18) The cry of Jesus, “I Thirst” reminds us to affirm life. As a human being, Jesus experienced physical and mental pain caused by flogging, mocking, and carrying the cross until Golgotha, where he was left to die. Jesus responds to the urgent need of his body, severe thirst. However, instead of giving him water the soldiers offer Jesus sour wine. There are various explanations as to why Jesus was given sour wine. It is held that this was the common person’s (Soldiers) drink, it was given to ease pain and some others opined that it was cheaper than regular wine. Some other scholars have suggested that the sour wine mixed with gall is given in fulfillment of Scripture (Psalm 69: 21; Ps 42:2; Ps: 63:1). But a close examination of the passage indicates that the wine did not contain gall. However, the sour wine was given using a long pole. The drink was a hyssop sponge (John 19:29). John Nolland comments, “The third-century B.C. Antigonus Carystus reports the use of sponge tied to poles as the means of bringing up water.” So the point is when Jesus was asking for water he was given sour wine. Jesus was denied a basic right, access to drinking water.
In the name of development, people are bombarded with big budget projects and denied their basic necessities. For the sake of constructing dams, Dalits, adivasis and tribals are alienated from their lands and are deprived of their livelihood. For the sake of constructing express ways several thousand hectares are forcefully taken from them. Rivers are sold or privatized so as to benefit the transnational beverage, mining and steel industries. Jesus’ cry for thirst reminds us to affirm life in the midst of such devastating situations. Jesus affirms life by asking for water.
Water is given prominence in the Bible because it is both a sign of the reign of God and source of life. Water cleanses and refreshes; water drowns and kills. In the Protestant tradition, water is used in both the sacraments, namely Baptism and Eucharist.
The thirst of Jesus is the thirst for justice, peace and integration of all creation; Jesus’ cry encourages us to show compassion, preserve natural resources and protect nature. Oceans, lakes, rivers and seas are polluted and are used for illegal constructions. One such lake in Chikkalsandra, Bengaluru which had life and which could be rejuvenated is currently being used for creating sewage plant. Another example of pollution is the Coca Cola factory in Plachimada, Kerala which has been closed for the past 14 years, yet its impact continues to be felt even today. The people of that village have to walk five kilometers every day to fetch drinking water from the nearby village. This factory has created thirst in India and is directly responsible for the loss of livelihood and even hunger of thousands of people across India. The people are denied their basic right to life as they are deprived of safe drinking water. Jesus’ thirst awakens us to strive for justice, peace, and integration of all creation as the whole creation is groaning in labor pains. (Romans 8: 22).
The cry of Jesus from the cross expresses humanity’s longing for God. As Augustine of Hippo says, “Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” As the Psalmist prays “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God,” (Psalm 42:1) and without God life is like “a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). However, the cry of Jesus not only expresses humanity’s longing for God but it also expresses God’s longing for us.
The water crisis that we are experiencing due to pollution, over-use, misuse and exploitation of natural resources, the cry of Jesus from the cross is a call to protest, protect, preserve and prudently love nature. It is a call to protest against the denial of basic rights, protect natural resources, preserve creatures and creation from exploitation, prudently love nature and strive for justice peace and integration of all creation.
Hymn (His are the thousand sparkling rills)
O Love most patient, give me grace;
Make all my soul a thirst for Thee;
That parched dry lip, that fading face,
That thirst, were all “for me”.
Gracious God, we thank you for your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross so that we might have life. Help us to be sensitive to the needs of the people and all creation. Challenge us to use our natural resources sensibly and enable us to be committed to the well-being of all creation. May we continue to long for Thee and strive for justice, peace and integration of all creation; for we pray in Jesus’ name, who is the source of living waters. Amen.
Rev. B.J. Moses Shanthi Kumar
CSI Medak Diocese
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 33 “FOURTH WORD ON THE CROSS: MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. C. Christopher David, Presbyter, CSI Vellore Diocese gives a meditation “FOURTH WORD ON THE CROSS: MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME”
Lenten Meditations- Day 33 (for 12th April 2019)
“FOURTH WORD ON THE CROSS: MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME”
Selected Texts: Mathew 27: 45-49 | Mark 15: 33- 36 | Exodus 10: 21-23 | I Peter 2:9
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mathew 27: 46
The world where we live in is filled with bittersweet experiences. Everyone faces desperate situations and separations from the beloved ones whom they think, are close to their heart. It is uncommon and unusual as we see Jesus’ cry and anguish in the passage (Mathew 27: 45-49/Mark15: 33-36). He experienced segregation and deep sense of separation from God and the people who are close to his life. Every Human being encounters such situation of bitterness and exclusion as Jesus experienced on the cross. The words that Jesus uttered from the cross are close to our minds; He spoke in his vernacular language to express the deep sense of loss, disconnection and alienation from God. The people who were around the cross misunderstood that Jesus is calling Elijah to vindicate him from this situation, some of them even suggested to wait and see that Elijah would come and rescue Him from this bitter experience. Most of the time we express our feelings in our mother tongue rather in foreign language. We get different descriptions and interpretations of our problems as Jesus received from the people. Jesus’ authentic humanity is clearly exemplified in the fourth word saying that from the Cross. This passage clearly raises the fundamental question of the suffering of the innocent and just. As we read in Psalm 22, the righteous can face sufferings but they can be relieved from their circumstances.
As we perceive in Jesus’ condition on the brutality of the cross the emancipation is not accessible as per Psalmist’s imagination. The Gospel writers portrayed Jesus’ loud cry and groaning to get rid of the unbearable agony. Another important aspect we get it from this passage is, Jesus’ question to God. Jesus accepted the form of incarnation; His connection with God was intense, but, here Jesus experiences the loneliness and discomfort for not having the connection as He had with God in the past. Darkness is a powerful symbol in the Bible. The element of darkness preceded creation (Gen. 1:2-3), represented God’s judgment on Egypt (Exo. 10: 21-23) and concealed God’s glory from the people (Exo. 20: 21). Darkness is also used as a metaphor for people’s ignorance of God (Mt. 4: 16) and their hopelessness without God (I Pet. 2:9) picks up all these meanings, but above all it conveys a sense of doom and hopelessness as God seems absent. Lamenting is another powerful symbol which exposes the agony of sufferer. The lamentation is a powerful tool of dissent in the history of Israelites (Lam1:11-12). Even Jesus cried out in distress at being separated, though temporarily from His Father: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
The lament of Jesus, clearly projects the brokenness and abandonment of God. Such occasions of pain and agony give different ideas and perspectives on our lives. At the same time it kindles us to suspect and question: Can God leave us alone? Or Can God allow suffering? Having had the sense of doubt and question it is very important to face the challenges and tribulations of the world. Jesus’ experience teaches us to overcome the trials and tribulations through our faith experience.
As we meditate this verse, there are heart burning issues that common folk faced in everyday life. One of the incidents was the cyclone effects of Gaja, especially to the farmers. If we approach this incident from farmer’s perspective, we come across, exploitation, desperation, separation and deep sense of loss. Though they did not expect such an unexpected catastrophe it has distorted the normal course of the common people. Here the same question arises, “Why God?”
Another important context is the plight of the farmers in India. Farmers are the backbone of the economy of India and the supporters of life of our nation. But, the farmers are not recognized by the government. For the sake of development huge amount of money is spent on the technological and scientific sectors, at the same time Government is not ready to spend money on agriculture which is the vital source of Life. Farmers’ voices are not recognized by the authority. In the name of developmental projects most of the farmers’ lands are taken and they are in desperate situation, their cries are sloganeering. At present our farmers are facing desperate sense of loss, pain and segregation by our own government. The suicide rates among farmers are increasing day by day. Their pleas are not heard and they experience the deep sense of separation as Jesus experienced on the Cross. Why God?
It is very important for us to re-think our commitment to God. When we face desperate situations, we fail to overcome but we raise the question “why should this happen to me”. Jesus had overcome the problem by questioning God. He had overcome by asking questions and finding remedy for them, he realized that the Cross is the resolution for separation. Another important aspect is, we see the intimacy between God and Jesus. The intimate relation made Him to accomplish the task that is given by God. It’s a personal experience of every individual’s life. Most of the time we never find the alternative way to get things done. Sometimes we have to face the tribulations but at the same time it can be taken out with our alternative way of thinking and approach with focused mind and commitment. Jesus had taken the alternate way that dying on the Cross alone can emancipate him, so He takes the risk. We never take challenges and come out of from safe zones. We want salvation for sale. As a Christian community let us unite and make our commitment alive and be focused to win the battle as Jesus had overcome trials and tribulations on the Cross. As Martin Luther King Jr says, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” so, love is the transforming force which can change an enemy into a friend. As a Christian community let us be united in the love of Jesus Christ and march towards to win the race by witnessing Christ in our deeds and action.
1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
2. What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
for this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
outlive my love for Thee.
-Bernard of Clairvaux
Merciful God, we seek your mercy to move forward to witness for you in our actions and deeds. God of hope, we believe that you are our power to overcome trials, tribulations and desperation that we face in our everyday life. Grant us knowledge and wisdom to win the battle and be the testimony of Jesus Christ till we depart from this world. God of justice, we seek your presence for the people who face exploitation, separation and segregation all over the world, let your divine presence be upon them to overcome the circumstances that they face. Lord, help us to be constantly in contact with you even if we go through trials and temptations. Amen
Rev. C. Christopher David
CSI Vellore Diocese
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 32 “THIRD WORD ON THE CROSS: BEHOLD YOUR SON, BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. M. Belshiya Ruth, Presbyter, CSI Diocese of Madras gives a meditation “THIRD WORD ON THE CROSS: BEHOLD YOUR SON, BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER”
Lenten Meditations- Day 32 (for 11th April 2019)
“THIRD WORD ON THE CROSS: BEHOLD YOUR SON, BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER”
Selected Texts: John 19:26-27 | Ruth 1:16-17 | Eph. 6:1-4
Paradigm for Responsible Community
Crucifixion was a form of Roman Imperial terrorism, invented by the Persians, developed by the Carthaginians and perfected by Romans. Josephus refers to it as ‘the most wretched of deaths’. Cicero called it ‘a most cruel and terrible penalty …incapable of description by any word, for there is none fit to describe it’. So terrible was the crucifixion that no Roman was permitted to undergo it. But they reserved this cruel punishment for the very special victims. Apart from the torture, suffering, humiliation and tormenting death the much agonizing part was, nothing remained left from the crucified body for the burial. Why because the victims were often crucified low enough to the ground that not only the carrion birds but also the scavenging dogs could reach them. Knowing all these “… there stood by the cross his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, Mary Magdalene and his beloved disciple.”
The Jews were present at the crucifixion to satisfy their fiendish craving for His death; the Roman soldiers were there to perform their duty; but here is the group who had been drawn there by affectionate devotion for the sufferer. They were not looking on from a distance, nor mingling with the crowds they stood by the cross. Especially for Mary, neither her own Danger, nor her sadness of the sight around, nor the insult of the crowd, could restrain her from the love for her son on the cross. There was no show of feminine weakness, no wild outcry of uncontrollable anguish, no unconsciousness, not a word from her lips, apparently she suffered in unbroken silence and stood at the cross. Mary’s struggle was an unceasing one, started before the birth of Jesus, continued while growing up her children as a young widow, and the climax in watching the crucifixion of her son.
Fulfilled Prophesy Mary, the mother of Jesus being there at the cross, seeing her son’s wounds, his bleeding body and his agony helps us not to over spiritualize the crucifixion and minimize his physical suffering. Often Jesus’ death is considered as an atoning sacrifice (I Cor 5:7), cultic sacrifice (Rom 3:25) and perfect sacrifice, according to the divine plan for the salvation of humanity. But this third word is an outburst of human emotions and deals with the blood relations, and forces us to understand that Jesus was fully human, true son of a mother and his pain was real. Witnessing the tormenting suffering of Jesus, Mary now realized that the prophetic word spoken by Simeon more than thirty-three years before… “yet, a sword will pierce through your own soul.” (Lk 2: 35)
There will be no doubt that our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirements of the fifth commandment, at the same time His great love and concern for His mother made him to arrange things for her future. Jesus as a responsible Son uttered this word. Some argued that Mary a young widow gave her only son to die for the humanity. Though we have the reference of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, that could also mean cousins or spiritual siblings. Their argument further states that Jesus was addressed as “Son of Mary” and not “one of the sons of Mary” and thus Jesus was the only son and Mary will be left alone after his death. So he gave her to His beloved disciple.
Some other commentators argued that, Jesus’ brothers reproached him for not performing a miracle at the feast of tabernacle. (John 7:5). After this incident, they distanced themselves from Jesus and they did not believe in Him. Thus by thinking that Mary will be left all alone after his death, he handed over the responsibility to John where she would find a believing and supportive relationship. As a respecting son he addressed her as ‘woman’. The Greek word ‘gynai’ means ‘woman’ in English has been used in Bible in many connotations. But here in this verse it is used in much respectable form. Jesus used this word to reduce her pain and partly to conceal her from the mob and their insults. Moreover, in the Jewish context addressing people as ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in public places were the much respected titles.
Paradigm for the church
Jesus assured Mary of His love and he gave His beloved disciple to be her adopted son to care for her. Here the beloved disciple John was honored for his love and faithfulness to be in the place of Jesus in Mary’s life. We, the Church as a community of God are expected to follow this paradigm of Jesus to be the responsible community. As a church we need to address the more pertaining needs of the people. Recently, one of the major issues found among the congregation members is childlessness. Most of them tried many treatments which ended up in failures and leads them in frustration. For these faithful couples the new hope that comes from the cross is the concept of Adoption and surrogacy. Though these thoughts were introduced with very positive objectives, later it was widely misused for the commercial purposes.
In India most of the poor women are willing to be the surrogate mothers in order to support and fulfill the financial needs of their own families. Having known the economic conditions of the poor women in India, the corporates and the money minded people started to exploit them. As a church we should work for the fulfilment of its original purpose for which they were introduced. We should work to make our congregation understand the true meaning of the surrogacy. The basic ideas of Adoption should also be given to the congregation with proper biblical explanations. The adoption should be encouraged based on the biblical, moral and ethical values. Adoption could be the suitable paradigm for the families to rule out the problem of childlessness. At the same time if the government of India could relax the terms and conditions of adoption process; then most of the families will be benefitted.
Finally, this third verse from the cross should be viewed through the lens of gender justice. The virgin birth, the Magnificat, the compassionate voice for the voiceless at the wedding of Cana and the courageous act of standing near the cross prove that Mary is a True revolutionist. Jesus did not simply entrust Mary to John, but with a great emphasis that Mary should be incorporated in the ministry, and her courageous thoughts and knowledge should be utilized was His concern. Thus accepting and utilizing the ministry of women for the extension of the Reign of God was the command from the cross to the Church to be the Paradigm for the responsible community.
Our Loving Parent God, help us to be the responsible community to honor our earthly parents, and to help our brothers and sisters to come out of their frustrations of childlessness by adoption, and to give equal partnership for women in ministry. Give us your divine wisdom to lead a life worthy of your calling, and to be the responsible community in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Yenga Sumanthu Pogereir ? (Tamil Hymn)
Rev. M. Belshiya Ruth
CSI Diocese of Madras
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 31 “CHRIST WITH CRIMINALS: HOPE FOR THE DYING”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Joseph Samuel, Presbyter, CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese gives a meditation “CHRIST WITH CRIMINALS: HOPE FOR THE DYING”
Lenten Meditations- Day 31 (for 10th April 2019)
“CHRIST WITH CRIMINALS: HOPE FOR THE DYING”
Selected Texts: Luke 23: 39-43 | Isiah 7: 1-14 | Galtians 6: 15-18
....and Jesus said to him, “truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”. (Lk.23:43)
A famous dictum in the judicial scenario goes like this, ‘ a single comma can kill a person’. For instance, if we write “kill him, not let him go”, it means the end of life, however, we put the statement, “Kill him not, let him go”, it rather means the continuation of life. Such inscriptions show the in depth issues that still entangle the dominant discourse of the Indian Judicial system and the dangers of the same system when it fails to administer justice to the people equally and fairly. According to the World Prison Brief data, in 2015, there were 4.5 million prisoners in Indian prisons who were 114% over the official capacity of the prison system. Out of this prison population 70% are pre-trial detainees and remanded prisoners. Unfortunately, no such data are published during the recent years by the government. Prisons are adversely criminalised in the dominant social and political discourses and more and more victims are identified and relocated to the jails and police camps through the charges of naxalism and sedition. We may probably have to interpret the second saying of Jesus from this context. Here in the text, Jesus, in fact declares the final verdict on the criminals and offering them a new hope for life even while going through the gruesomeness of death.
Hope in Deridings
Luke the evangelist narrates the passion and the death of our Lord Jesus Christ in a particular theological style of universalised and inclusive perspective of salvation. The Nazareth Manifesto or proclamation that we encounter at the very beginning of Jesus’ public appearance constitutes the missional agenda for the life of Jesus in the gospel of Luke. Jesus’ programmatic recital of the Isiahnic liberation hymn contains the Messianic intention to set at liberty of the captives. In the process of fulfilling that vision of a just community of the Reign of God, on the penultimate plot of the salvation history in the passion of Jesus of Nazareth, as depicted in Luke, we see Jesus engages in life-affirming conversions with criminals on the cross. These two criminals might be from the zealot or social banditry movements in the first century CE who fought against religio-political nexus of the Romans and the Jewish aristocracy that exploited the common people. There were many Messianic renewal movements within Judaism especially in the Galilean region who involved in armed rebellion against Roman Empire to establish reign of Yahweh. The imperial and Jewish authorities pacified such resistance through massacres and crucifying the rebels publically. As Kosuke Koyama states, we are confronted by the “ultimate Sincerity” of God in the crucified Christ. We hear the distant railings of the oppressors and the spectators to ‘save himself from the cross ‘, now very close to the cross of Christ. The first criminal vents his anger and frustration on Jesus and even he is ready to try Jesus in his messy life situation. He is repeating the tempting and testing slogans of the bystanders and onlookers to Jesus at the feet of cross to save himself since he saved others. This is in fact a Christological challenge to question the messiahship of Jesus. The neighbourhood of the cross experience too become detrimental for Jesus and to his liberative life of the gospel. Though the first one responding to Jesus is on unbearable agony of being nailed on the cross, he too is sucked in by the railings of the people around. The other-oriented sincerity of Jesus liberated all others except him, because cross is a space and point in human history where we see God standing against all suffering that comes when one resists the suffering of others. He saved others by not saving himself and by giving up his life.
Hope in the Dying
The second criminal, being conscious of the innocence of Jesus criticises initially his friend and then the whole Roman imperial judicial system for punishing the powerless and the poor. Rome tried to win over the world with the brutality of the cross. But the passion of Jesus on the cross has made the same cross as point of questioning the justice of the world and its dominance. This man shares the mind of Jesus, as again Kosuke Koyama suggests the “crucified mind “for liberation of the entire humanity. We see and hear a discipleship faith and response from the second criminal, because he invests his life and hope in a suffering, dying and crucified God. He exemplifies the core of Christian faith and he becomes a discipleship paradigm at cross-event of Christ. The early Christianity boldly affirmed their faith in crucified Jesus and had been a challenge to Roman imperial administration and Jewish aristocracy. Jesus’ movement gained its momentum in the early Palestine territory through such vivid affirmations. He sees a glorious future in a dying Jesus.
Hope for the Dying
Jesus reacts to the pistis (faith) of the criminal, and he offers company and companionship to him, for Jesus extends his presence to him. He considers the criminal (he is not such one at least now) as a disciple, for Jesus has chosen the so called twelve to be with him. Cross is here becoming a womb of life and hope, promise and prospect. He extends the space of Reign of God to a criminal. On a contextual observation, Jesus “decriminalizes” the life and the destiny of this man on the cross with Jesus offering him a liberated identity in the future of the Jesus’ movement. This future is, in truth, the TODAY. The future and hope of the suffering and oppressed is radically affirmed TODAY, for the real HOPE matters for TODAY in the life of Jesus.
In Christ alone, our hope is found
He is our light, our strength, our song
This corner stone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love
What depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
Our comforter, our all in all
Here in the love of Christ, we stand.
Loving God, we affirm our faith in you, though we face death in our life situations. Thank you for extending to us hope for the future in today through life of the church. Help us to see your grace in the people who are labelled and doomed as criminals and wicked. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Rev. Joseph Samuel
CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese