“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.“Luke 23:43
Notwithstanding the solitary nature of the crucifix, this Word reminds us that Jesus did not die alone.
Jesus was tried and executed by the state, capital punishment, a public execution. On one side was a man who jeered Jesus, asking, in derision the same question asked by the disciples after Jesus calmed the storm: “Who is this man?” If you really are who you say you are, save yourself and us.
On his other side, there is a man who acknowledges Jesus’ identity and his relationship to Jesus. “This man has done nothing, I have, when you achieve your Kingdom, please remember me,” he asks. Jesus, in reciprocity, then acknowledges him: “today thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
There is another notable place the word paradise is used in the New Testament, when Paul describes “a man in Christ,” who “was caught up to paradise.” The man he boasts about, according to almost every exegesis, is himself. What balances this trip to paradise and keeps Paul humble is a mysterious, “thorn in my flesh.”
Jesus on the cross is the fulcrum of a scale that bears these two things in our nature that Paul struggled with, the angry, mocking, bitter flesh on one side and the self-aware, compassionate, well intended, and vulnerable soul on the other.
“Oh, oh, oh! How this splinter gores me now!” yells Ahab in Moby Dick. “Accursed fate! That the unconquerable captain in the soul should have such a craven mate!”
“Sir?” wonders first mate Starbuck thinking he’s the object of derision.
“My body, man, not thee,” says Ahab.
Another reference I’ll make is from Sade’s Paradise.
I'm yours, you're mine Like paradise I'd give you the world if it was mine
Paradise is his to give, but you have to ask him for it.
Choral Response: Quae maerebat et dolebat, Stabat Mater, Pergolesi