Jesus vs. Christianity: Week 5

Jesus includes, the Church excludes

Week of October 10, 2021

Opening Prayer:
Heavenly Father, as we enter a season that can be marked with increasing busyness and demands on our time and resources, we thank you for the chance to intentionally pause and connect with you and with each other. We ask that you would grow our understanding of inclusion and your radical plan for it through the loving example of Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen.

Historical Context:
The prayer of Luke 23:34 is unique to Luke among the Gospels. Jesus desired forgiveness not only for those who crucified him but for everyone. God’s forgiveness is extended to everyone, even to those who were responsible for his crucifixion. The taunt from the rulers for Jesus to save himself (Lk 23:35) is ironic given that Jesus is accomplishing salvation in the very act of dying.  Additionally Jesus received insults by one of the criminals, while the other criminal recognizes that as condemned men they should fear God the Judge and not mock an innocent man. This second criminal recognizes the justness of his condemnation given what he has done and then declares Jesus’ innocence. Following his statements of his own guilt, the criminal addresses Jesus by name, recognizes Jesus’ kingship on the cross, and entrusts his future into Jesus’ hands as he entreats Jesus to remember him when Jesus rules beyond his crucifixion. In response, Jesus assures the man he will join Jesus in paradise.

Read Aloud:
Luke 23:32-43  (CEB)

Jesus on the cross
32 They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.

35 The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”

36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”


Engaging Scripture:  
  • In verse 34, Jesus asked God to forgive the group of people ultimately responsible for His death.  Even though He was suffering and in immense pain, Jesus sought inclusive grace for those who rejected Him. What kind of precedent did that set for His followers back then?  How does that example resonate today?    

  • In verse 43, Jesus accepted the humble plea of a criminal.  While we do not know the criminal's name or the crime he was convicted of (common crimes leading to crucifiction back then included murder, theft, piracy, slave rebellion, and sedition against Rome for example), what is known is that crucifiction was most applied to slaves and non-Romans.  Jesus extended radical forgiveness to a person who was on the fringe of society and, even more, He promised to include him in God's kingdom.  How does that one inclusive showing of love demonstrate God's plan for His creation?  What is the greatest showing of that love?  (Perhaps, an example connected to this scripture reading?)            
 
Application Questions:
A central feature of Jesus’ ministry was his inclusion of people who were typically on the outside. Story after story shows Jesus interacting with sick people, women, children, and the non religious who most religious leaders would ignore. Jesus' care and compassion for these people is the example and challenge for how we should live our lives.

  • Think about your personal journey with inclusion. Has it been easy for you? Was there a pivotal moment or experience that helped you understand the benefits of being inclusive vs exclusive.
  • Think back to a time where you have been on one side or another of inclusion or exclusion. What was it like? If you were excluded, how would being included have impacted you or changed your experience?
  • When reflecting on your life, are you doing everything you can to live showing radical inclusion? What is one area of your life you can implement more inclusion ?

Closing Prayer:  
Lord, there are too many times when we know that the radical inclusiveness demonstrated by Jesus is the right way, but our efforts fall short. We feel our hearts opening and we intend to do more, to love more, but distractions get the better of us.  We ask for your forgiveness.  Please open our eyes and hearts to those who are excluded, rejected, lonely.  Fill our paths with people who feel as if they are less than and give us opportunity to share your all encompassing love.  In your Holy Name we pray, Amen.      

Taking it Further:
Check these out to take the heart of this series and our discussion further this week.

  • Luke-Acts Series, BibleProject, 2021 January
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH0Szn1yYNec6O3ZOZzAMb2WW2abJwzZ-

  • The FWord, Episode 21
https://subspla.sh/4km2jpt

https://www.freedhearts.org/

  • The Reformation Project:
https://reformationproject.org/


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