Can human political systems save us? We elect national leaders, and are quickly disappointed. Let’s learn that only God’s government can truly bless humanity. Let’s contrast human governments and Christ’s government in Luke 23:33-43.
Luke 23:33-34 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. And they divided His garments and cast lots.”
This is a remarkable saying, “Father forgive them.” The people didn’t know what they were doing. Do we forgive others only after they apologize, after repentance? Here Jesus teaches us a new level of forgiveness before repentance, before a change of heart, forgiveness because of a deed done in ignorance.
Taking versus Giving
Luke 23:35-39 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” 38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
At the cross, human leadership failed: Romans, Jews, and the Disciples. Jesus said: Father forgive them. Human leaders, in and out of the church will disappoint us. We do not know what we are doing. We say of the suffering Jesus, “Let him save himself.” Human governments are devouring beasts.
A bad leader (1 Samuel 8) will “TAKE your sons and appoint them for his own… TAKE your daughters… the best of YOUR fields… TAKE a tenth… And you will be his servants.”1 Luke’s Gospel describes Christ’s government, giving and forgiving. He gave his life and forgave our sins.
Luke 23:40-43 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Every generation starts moving into adult life about the same way, thinking that they can create a better world and do a better job than their parents or national leaders. By the time we reach middle age, optimism can turn to pessimism as we are forced to face humanity’s failures.
By the time we are old, we begin to see the reality of death. We learn that our generation too has NOT solved the world’s problems. We don’t need to fret or turn to pessimism and despair. Let’s learn to pray, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus conquered the gates of hell. He ushered in a new government, a forgiving government, forgiving those who planned his death. His government willingly sacrificed for all. His government forgave a criminal based on his attitude alone. We represent that eternal government every time we forgive and sacrifice for others.
A failure of human leadership is unwillingness to sacrifice for others. A failure of human society is unwillingness to forgive imperfect leaders. Jesus showed us the way by giving his life for all and forgiving all our sins. What are we willing to sacrifice? Who must we forgive?
New King James Version (NKJV) Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. 3 “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord. 5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Thus ends the reading from Jeremiah
This woe to the shepherds or pastors includes not just local church leaders, but also national political leaders in its scope. Bad leaders scatter the flock, drive people away and do not look after them. Good leaders feed the flock, people don’t fear, are not dismayed and people don’t lack.
The Benedictus (Song of Zachariah) Luke 1:68-79
68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, 71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, 73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: 74 To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. 76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; 79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Thus ends the Song of Zachariah.
Reciting phrases taken from the Psalms, Zechariah’s Song is also a prophecy of the kingdom and salvation in the Messiah.
11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
The word of God for the people of God.
Made powerful by God, we are already delivered, already in God’s kingdom through the blood of Jesus’ cross.
Luke 23:33-43 in Rhyme
When they had come to Calvary
They crucified Him brutally
Criminals right and left of Him
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them
For they don’t know what they’re doing.”
They bet on His clothes, lots strewing
And the people stood looking on
Even the rulers said with scorn
“He’ll save Himself if not a fraud
If He’s the Christ, the chosen of God.”
The soldiers also came and mocked
Giving sour wine they did concoct
“Save Yourself, if You’re the Jews’ King.”
Made a sign in three tongues writing,
Said, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS
A criminal blasphemed his views
“If You’re Christ, save Yourself and us.”
But the other rebuked him thus
“Don’t you fear God, you’re condemned too?
We receive our punishment due
But this Man has done nothing wrong.”
“Recall when kingdom comes along.”
“I tell you, today in this place
You’ll be with Me in Paradise.”