SUNDAY’S READINGS | November 20, 2022
Jer. 23:1-6 • Cant. 16 or Ps. 46 • Col. 1:11-20 • Luke 23:33-43
In many depictions of the crucifixion, a Latin inscription is placed above the head of Jesus, abbreviated by four letters, INRI: Jesus Nazarenus, Jesus of Nazareth; Rex Iudaeorum, King of the Jews. He is indeed the King of the Jews, but not merely of the Jews. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to whom are subject all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, all dominions, rulers, and powers (Col. 1:16). The kingdom over which Jesus reigns is no less than the cosmos. He is the Christ-Pantocrator (pantokratwr, ruler of all) who, hidden under his human features, rules majestically and yet compassionately over heaven and earth.
This great and glorious king is presented today not as the one seated upon a throne but as the one crucified, scoffed at, mocked, and derided. The people stood by and looked at him with bloodlust and for their personal amusement. Meditating on this image, St. Paul says, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Why?
We glory in the cross because the Lord’s passion, death, and descent among the dead are the instruments by which we are rescued “from the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13). Leave aside the cross of Christ and there is no salvation. An early Christian hymn makes precisely this point. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:5-11).
The cross is the full interpretation of the Incarnation. He became what we are even unto death — our death, every death. He entered the hell where we are trapped, taking the hands of our first parents, Adam and Eve — and, with them, all our ancestors shackled by the power and fear of death. Jesus redeems and reconciles all humanity and all things to himself. As St. Paul says, “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin” (Col. 1:13-14). “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:19-20).
There is no moment of pain and loss, sorrow and death, agony and betrayal, which is unknown to Jesus. He knows it all, feels it all, and bears it all. He is our wounded Savior, yet he is not trapped as we are by suffering. In the power of his divinity, he transfers us to a new realm in which he is King forevermore, and we his beloved children.
Two truths: (1) We suffer and die. (2) The curse and sting of death are removed by the victory of Christ. Thus, we live confidently and joyfully in Christ, our Lord and our God.
Look It Up: Colossians 1:17-22; the Collect
Think About It: Not personal salvation but cosmic redemption — “all things.”