Luke 23:33-43 (CEV)Couple of recent news stories. One is Donald Trump's election. A man who came to power promising to break down the Establishment elite, celebrated by sitting on golden thrones with his family. Those that don't like Trump thought maybe that was a bit tactless to his supporters - some of whom are working class families going through genuinely hard times. But I've not noticed that any of those who supported him are complaining. Maybe that's the point of their support. Maybe they believe that they're electing someone who will enable them to live the American dream.
When the soldiers came to the place called “The Skull,” they nailed Jesus to a cross. They also nailed the two criminals to crosses, one on each side of Jesus. Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people! They don’t know what they’re doing.” While the crowd stood there watching Jesus, the soldiers gambled for his clothes. The leaders insulted him by saying, “He saved others. Now he should save himself, if he really is God’s chosen Messiah!”
The soldiers made fun of Jesus and brought him some wine. They said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” Above him was a sign that said, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals hanging there also insulted Jesus by saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and save us!” But the other criminal told the first one off, “Don’t you fear God? Aren’t you getting the same punishment as this man? We got what was coming to us, but he didn’t do anything wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into power!”
Jesus replied, “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”
Meanwhile in Britain, the Queen's house is getting a facelift. £390 million pounds over ten years, apparently. Well, you know how you get behind with the maintenance. And they're very busy people. Probably been years since Philip went up a ladder with some paint. People are up in arms about how it's being paid for - people are comparing the money to be spent on Buck House with savings that local authorities are being expected to make.
There's another kind of "throne" worth thinking about - give a bit of contrast maybe. Today (Saturday) is - apparently - World Toilet Day. And Toilet Twinning are taking the opportunity to raise as much money as possible. I'm presuming they are being deliberately funny in referring to this campaign as a "Big Push".
But it's no joke. Lack of a toilet is something that puts the women and children of these communities at risk. In communities that are already poor, often devastated by war. They are the most vulnerable. The ones with least. The ones with nobody to protect them.
On which side is the King of Kings? The one that the disciples thought would lead a rebellion? The one who the crowds thought was going to throw the Romans out of Judea? The King who John and James had come up to - said when you come into your kingdom, let us sit on thrones on either side.
He's taken as a member of a conquered race. He's been arrested on fake charges. He's been convicted by a man who can sit in judgement on him. He's whipped, dragged through the crowds on a party day in Jerusalem, nailed up naked as an example to any others who would challenge the Establishment. Left to die - a rebel on his left, and another on the right.
Whose side is Jesus on? The men on thrones and the ones who cling to power? The ones who are invested in unbalanced power and injustice? The ones who think a world where they are getting on OK but turn a blind eye to the terror and poverty of others?
To put it another way - who is on Jesus's side? Not the soldiers, the crowds, the leaders, the establishment. Just a group of weeping women, and a dying rebel hanging nailed and naked and exposed to the world. Who sees one last hope of seeing a real Kingdom of God and goes for it.
It's obvious which side Jesus is on, isn't it?
To close, best to quote God's priorities from someone quite close to Jesus: his Mother.
His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty.
That night, there's a rebel and thief in Paradise, and a cross of shame has become a throne fit for a king. All the oppressors of the earth have been warned that their rule is temporary. Their thrones will fall. The Evil One has seen his power broken. And the real King is starting his reign.