Jeremiah’s promise of the execution of “justice and righteousness in the land” finds ironic fulfillment in the execution of Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. It appears so utterly contradictory that the king should be crucified with the criminal. This victory appears for all the world as ignominious defeat. Yet through the gate of death our Lord opens the door to paradise.
Readings and Psalm
Coming of the shepherd and righteous Branch who will execute justice
I will be exalted among the nations. (Ps. 46:10)
Hymn to Christ, firstborn of all creation; peace through his blood
Jesus is crucified between two thieves: you will be with me in Paradise
First Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Today’s reading builds on the common ancient Near Eastern metaphor of the king as shepherd. Judah’s unjust rulers have caused their people, their “flock,” to be scattered. Nevertheless, the Lord will raise up a new and righteous shepherd who will rule a restored Judah.1Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
5The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Psalm: Psalm 46
I will be exalted among the nations. (Ps. 46:10)1God is our ref- | uge and strength,
a very present | help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the | earth be moved,
and though the mountains shake in the depths | of the sea;
3though its waters | rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble | with its tumult.
4There is a river whose streams make glad the cit- | y of God,
the holy habitation of | the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall | not be shaken;
God shall help it at the | break of day.
6The nations rage, and the | kingdoms shake;
God speaks, and the earth | melts away.
7The Lord of | hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob | is our stronghold.
8Come now, regard the works | of the Lord,
what desolations God has brought up- | on the earth;
9behold the one who makes war to cease in | all the world;
who breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, and burns the | shields with fire.
10“Be still, then, and know that | I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted | in the earth.”
11The Lord of | hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob | is our stronghold.
Second Reading: Colossians 1:11-20
An early Christian hymn praises the mystery of the political, personal, and mystical Christ, the one who was present at creation and is eternally reigning with God.11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and 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.
Gospel: Luke 23:33-43
and slander from those who sarcastically call him Messiah and king,
Jesus reveals that to be Messiah and king is to give one’s life for
others. Here he uses his power to welcome a despised sinner to paradise
but puts his own death into God’s hands.33When
they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus
there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34⟦Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”⟧ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And
the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying,
“He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his
chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”