Here's a Good Friday Reflection from David Ruis written in 2020
Strangely, I’ve been reflecting of late on what must’ve been going through the mind of the convicted felon who hung beside Jesus during the Crucifixion and would later be called the Penitent Thief, known as Saint Dismas (the name given him in The Gospel Of Nicodemus) in Church tradition.
I then stumbled onto a poem about this man written by spoken word artist, Michael Mark, called “Just Hangin’. It begins like this:
I tell you the truth
Full of fear
The end is near
I’m just hanging here
I couldn’t shake this image. “Just hanging here.” Stuck. Unable to move. I’ve been feeling a bit like that lately.
Of course, this poor bloke’s lot was of his own making, although we do not know his back story at all. Given his rebuke of another criminal who was deriding the crucified Jesus, and his uncanny ability to recognize Jesus’ kingship even though Christ was hanging there too, there must’ve been more than meets the eye going on. He discerns the disdain for Jesus as something to be reprimanded and he also sees Jesus for who he truly was. Though Christ was marred, beaten – and as foreseen in the stunning, upside down Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 - battered beyond human recognition, this future Saint, recognizes a king. The King.
This perception of Jesus seemed to stir something deep within him and he cries out. Unable to do anything about his condition, and most certainly afraid of deaths threshold imminently before him, it seems that now he has hope. One translation captures it this way, “Jesus, … remember me when you finally become king.” Although Dismas has had an epiphany of Christ, he has only gotten it partly right. And, it sounds like a lot of our prayers when we are stuck, whether of our own making or because of things beyond our control. When we’re just hanging there.
“One day, Jesus – when you finally get this all sorted out – don’t forget about me. Would you send back some help? Please don’t forget!”
Yet as NT Wright notes, Jesus’ answer is quite startling. “… Jesus surprises us, as he surprised the brigand, by his response. He is becoming king, here and now. No more waiting. ‘Today.’" (Lent For Everyone: Luke Year C, p. 110)
His presence - His face - His position - may not be what we expected or imagined a King to look, or be, like. Hanging on a cross? Scandalous at best – moronic at worst (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). We may be tempted to think, like the ‘other brigand’, that Jesus is just as stuck as we are. He won’t rescue us. He can’t even rescue himself. Yet if we can see with eyes of faith, we’ll see not only his kingdom coming, but his kingdom come. Today. Though we may be stuck, yes, on a cross even, for we all have one to bear, we may taste paradise in even this dangling moment for he is with us. The kingdom is within our reach. Though we may be locked down by a relentless virus that has upended so much of our lives in such rapid fashion, Jesus is King. Jesus is present. So, this basileia, the present rule of reign of Christ, is upon us. Now. Repent. Look again. He has not left us. He has not forsaken us.
As we are currently pinned down by forces beyond our control, isolation imposed upon us and we feel like we are “just hanging”, ignore the taunting voices and look to Jesus. See Him hanging on the cross and the love revealed there. It is a sweet balm in even the most hellish of circumstances – when we are hanging too. We will see paradise. We can taste it now. “Taste and see that He is good.” Today.
Let the kingdom come.