A woman told the story of how her husband had died of cancer, becoming more and more bitter and angry as each treatment failed, regretting the choices he’d made in life, lashing out at those who tried to care for him, and she ended by saying ‘I don’t want to die like that’. The person listening to her asked a searching question: ‘So how do you need to live, to make sure you don’t die like that?’ That question changed the woman’s life, as she started thinking about the choices she was making, the way she was relating to other people, the legacy she would leave behind when her time came.
This week’s Gospel describes how Jesus died, just as he lived, suffering for the sake of others, forgiving those who were hurting him, offering eternal life to anyone who asked for it. We worship him as a king unlike any other ruler. His throne is a cross, his power is gentleness, his judgement is mercy.
The rulers who had him crucified and the soldiers who carried out their orders literally did not know what they were doing. They thought they were putting him to the test. They thought that if he was the Son of God he would save himself from the pain they were inflicting. The first criminal hanging next to him was suffering the same delusion. The second criminal, as guilty as the first, could see what was really happening – the sinless one suffering for the sins of all – and knew how to ask for the gift that Jesus is longing to give to everyone. His prayer was answered, so let us make it our own: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.