“Forgiven by the King”

 

November 20, 2016: The Thirty-fourth Sunday Of Ordinary Time    (Proper 29)

“Feast of Christ the King”

Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6 / Psalm 46 / Colossians 1: 13 – 20 / Luke 23: 33 - 43

 

Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos

 

 

 

Today’s Collect says, “It is God’s will to restore all things in Christ our King.”  The will of God is to restore all things to Himself through Christ.  Colossians 1:20 says that it is the Father's good pleasure to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 5 says that God wants to reconcile all things to Himself and not count our sins against us.  We were under the domain (authority) of darkness; sin enslaved us and God saw this. God made a good creation and out of the malice of the enemy, the latter destroyed and vandalized the good creation.  What God did was to fix His creation, that which was damaged and marred, by sending Jesus.   What damaged God’s creation is an authority under Jesus Christ because He is above all rule and authority and dominion.

 

Sin is missing the mark; sin is living under the standard that God intended for us human being.  If we are sinning, we are living below that which God intended for us to live in.  When we disobey and rebel, this is not how God created Adam.   When we hate and don’t love, this is not how God created Adam.   When we are so self-serving and not serving others, this is below what God intended for Adam. This is the reason why there was the second Adam because the first Adam failed.  The second Adam showed us what being human really is and what it really means.  

 

The perfect human being is Jesus Christ.  He is also God at the same time.  This is why we are to reach His stature as Ephesians 4 says.   We don’t reach His stature as God; we hope to reach His stature as a human being. Jesus showed us how to be a human being by the incarnation.  Psalm 46 says that God is our very present help. He is present among us; He pitched His tent among us. Revelations says that God has tabenacled among us.  It says, “Behold, God’s tabernacle is among men, and He will be their God and they will be His people.”  God will never leave us nor forsake us. Thus, this brings comfort to us; therefore, we will not fear because He is with us – ever present.   He is abundantly available for help, in the midst of us, and He never leaves or abandons us.

 

Have you ever thought that Jesus at a certain point in history put on flesh? To Him, that is the point of no return. He will never get rid of His flesh.  He will forever be God-man.  He will forever be one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man.  This tells us that He will never leave man.  He is permanently with us.  This is our God; this is our King!  He is very present.  In the Incarnation, Jesus put on our flesh that is why we are encouraged to cease striving for God is with us. Know He is God who is ever present with us.

The Bible says God hates divorce. Divorce is missing the mark, which is the Divine nature of God in man.  The Divine nature of God is that He never leaves. He never abandons through thick and thin.  He hates divorce because it destroys the image of God in man. He doesn't condemn those who are victims of it and He prays for them.  He fixes them and He continues to love them.

 

Christ is not just present with us; He identifies with us; He empathizes with us.  Christ co-suffers with us; He co-struggles with us; He co-works with us.  Christ co-rejoices with us; He co-weeps with us.  He fulfills what St. Paul says in Romans 12, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”  Jesus loves us, but sometimes, we do the opposite because we don’t operate out of love.  We operate out of hate. What we do is that we sometimes rejoice when somebody suffers and weeps.  This is not love and this is not the standard of God’s Divine nature.  Sometimes, we weep out of jealousy because somebody rejoices and is blessed.  This is wrong. Christ empathizes with us; He goes through our struggles and our testing.   The next time you are in pain or struggling, remember: don't ask, “God where are you?”  Because He is with you as you go through your struggles, through your sufferings, and He feels the pain with you.” 

 

In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “To the extent that you do this to the least of My brothers, you do it unto Me.”   He is in the hungry. He is in the thirsty.  He is in the stranger.  He suffers with them when they are ostracized and when they are not welcomed.  He is in the naked.  He is in the sick; He took upon Himself our sickness and He still does.  He is in the prisoner.  He is with the poor. He is in the suffering; He goes through their plight with them. He is not getting VIP treatment, while His brothers and sisters, the least of them, are suffering.  He did suffer with them and He continues to do so.

 

From the Easter song “Christ is Alive,” one line goes, “In every insult, rift and war, where color, scorn or wealth divide; He suffers still, yet loves the more, and lives though ever crucified.”  Those who are being insulted, He suffers with them. Those who are being scorned, He suffers with them.  Those who are victims of war, He suffers with them.  He is in those who are dying in Syria.  If you are bullied, Jesus is being bullied with you.   If you are a victim of racial discrimination, Jesus stands with you and He feels your pain.  He goes through it with you.   If you are being put down because of wealth or class discrimination, Jesus is with you.  Jesus says, “To the extent that you do it to the least of My brothers, you do it unto Me.”  

 

St. Paul used to persecute the Christians – killing them; sentencing them to death.  When St. Paul was on the road to Damascus, what did Jesus tell him? Was it, “Saul, Saul, why are you are persecuting the Church?”  Or “Saul, Saul, why are persecuting Me?”  Paul had never met Jesus, but he encountered Him on those whom he persecuted. Jesus suffers with those who are suffering, and yet loves them more.   He can say on the cross, “Father, forgive them. They are being under the authority of sin.”  He was not justifying the people’s sin, but He came to overcome them.  He is forgiving them because they do not know what they are doing.  He reaches down to where we are, under the dominion of darkness, and lifts us up from the dust, from the ash heap, and He translates us from the kingdom of darkness, its domain, into the kingdom of life. 

 

This is what the Creed means when it says, “For us and for salvation, He came down from heaven. He suffered and died, rose again and ascended into heaven.”  Each time, He is with us.  St. Paul says, “If you want to be resurrected with Him, you suffer with Him, too.”  You become one with Christ, so that you participate in what He accomplished. He made us one with Him, this is why He put on flesh.  It is not just a theological concept, but reality.  He put on flesh so that He can be with us and experience life with all of its fallenness, with all of its experiences, struggles, suffering and death.  He experienced our very humanity and took it upon Himself and overcame our struggles.  This is why Jesus is the perfect human being.

 

Jesus said, “Fear not; I have overcome the world. What power and authority over you, I overcome and I overcome on your behalf also.” He forgave those who did not know what they were doing, took sin and its power over His people, He took it upon Himself and trampled them down.   While hanging on the cross, He did not say, “Father, forgive them once they have proven that they have repented.”   He did not say, “Father, let them suffer the consequences first, then, forgive them.”   He did not say to the thief, “Well, I think I will give you one year in purgatory first before I take you to Paradise.”  What He said was, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise. Today, you are forgiven, right here, right now.”  He did not say, “You have to come down from the cross first, show that you have amended your life, and I will forgive you, and maybe, I can take you with Me to Paradise.”  No!  What Jesus says, “Today!”  He did not wait, and this is love.  I am trying to define who God is because Jesus expresses who He is:  He is love! He forgives; He forgets.

 

There is this story of a little girl and Cardinal Sin.  The little girl asked Cardinal Sin, “Do you really talk to God?”  Cardinal Sin replied, “Yes, I do every day.”  The girl said, “Well, if you really talk to God, and He knows everything, can you ask Him about the sin I committed yesterday?”   Cardinal Sin said, “Okay, I will ask Him the next time I pray. Let us meet tomorrow and I will tell you if He tells me.”   They met the next day and the little girl asked, “Did God tell you?”  Cardinal Sin said, “Yes, I did talk to God and this is what He said, ‘I don’t remember.’”

 

God is love and love does not keep a record of wrongs.  When God forgives, it is as if we have never sinned.   I am not saying that we don’t learn from our mistakes or from other’s mistakes.  I am not saying that we don’t correct or rebuke or reprove.  We do this because this is our responsibility, but we do it out of love.  Parents should correct their children because they love them.  It is not because the parent is reading a very interesting novel and his child is disturbing him.  Children are corrected because we want them to behave and to be raised properly. We do things out of love because this is who our God is.

 

In the story of the prodigal son, the father did not say to his son when he came back, “I have a robe for you, but you smell.”  It is not that the prodigal son would sit on his father’s sofa dirty.  I am pretty sure that the son realized how dirty he was, so he took a shower.  I am sure he did what Zaccheus did.  Did Jesus tell Zaccheus, “Thou shall not do this and that?”   No, Zaccheus himself amended his life because He experienced God’s love.

Repent! By all means, all people must repent!  The best repentance is out of an experience of God’s love, not His law, not His wrath nor His fear.  If we evangelize, let us evangelize by giving the good news of God’s love. It is not saying the bad news that you are going to hell if you don’t repent.  This is out of fear.   Let them respond out of their experience of God’s love.  Zaccheus and Mary Magdalene, and St. Paul were not condemned by Jesus. 

 

St. Paul repented, and as a result of love, he responded by loving Jesus back.  How do we love Jesus back?  Love the least of His brethren.  If you love them, you love Jesus because He made Himself one with them.  If you bully them, you bully Jesus.  If you love them and you treat them right, you do that unto Jesus, too.  Jesus said, “Love the least of My brothers.”  How else do we love Jesus back?  It is by obeying Him.  He said, “If you love Me, you obey Me.”  Follow His example and that is how we love Him.

 

Jesus rules by humility and love. He saves others first.  Those who were mocking Him said, “He saved others. Let Him save Himself now.” He did not have to.  God the Father raised Him from the dead because He was obedient to the point of death.  He manifested God’s love by saving others.  Philippians 2 says, “For this reason, God highly exalted Him.”  Jesus did not have to exalt Himself.  God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name above every Name.” 

 

This is our righteous King!  This is our merciful King!  He forgives His offenders, mockers, and those who insulted Him. The thief beside Him deserved death, but he got the King’s mercy, he got reconciled, taken into Paradise and was translated into the kingdom of life.  Our King does not rule by a rod of iron.  When He comes, He comes to restore all things.  Jesus is held in the heavens until the restoration of all things.  Jesus is not held in the heaven until the day that He cannot hold His anger anymore and He wipes out all the sinners of the earth. No!  He rules not by the rod of iron, but His rod and His staff, they comfort us.  It is for correcting, yes, but it is for restoration nonetheless.  He rules by the meekness of a lamb.  In Revelation, that which is in the center of the throne is the Lamb.  He was meek; non-violent and “beatitudinal.”  

 

Revise your interpretation of Revelation because Jesus is forever God and God is forever love. Our King is God and our God is love, not wrath or hate.  The Bible says that God is love.  I have never seen a verse that says God is hate or God is wrath or anger.  God is love.  God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to save it, to restore it because it pleases Him.  John 3:17 says, “He did not send His Son to condemn the world.”  He sent His Son so that He could embody and He can incarnate the love of God.  

 

We are to reign with Jesus, our King, throughout eternity, and I look forward to this.  The parable says, “Some will rule over ten cities; some will rule over five cities.”  Ruling is not like the rulers of the world or the Gentiles who lord it over others.   Ruling is by serving. If we have reached a certain godliness, God gives us more responsibilities to prove that godliness, and this is by serving in the meekness of Jesus Christ.

 

In Jeremiah 23, God swore, “I Myself will make this happen.  I swear.  I guarantee the unchangeableness of My promise so I interpose or guarantee with an oath.”    This is His promise, in verse 3: “I will gather the remnant and I will restore and reconcile the remnant.  The result left by sin, I will gather.  I will reconcile and I will make them fruitful, and I will make them multiply.  They will not be afraid any longer.”  Perfect love casts out fear.  They will not be afraid any longer.  They will not be terrified nor will any be missing. 

 

I hope that I am succeeding in relaying to you the heart of God.  He is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish or be missing.  God said, “I will raise up a King who will act wisely.”  My Bible says, “I will raise up a King who will succeed in carrying out My will. He will save My people, they will dwell securely because this is righteousness.”

 

Colossians 1 says that it is the Father’s good pleasure for this to happen. This is the good news. This is God’s love. This is our hope, the love of the King; and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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