Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Today Jesus marches into Jerusalem, hailed as the coming King of Israel. Hosanna, which means, save us! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Who comes with the authority and affirmation of God Almighty! The King comes to His kingdom and those Pharisees shout, “Jesus, rebuke your disciples!” But Jesus replies, “if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.” He comes to save not just the people, but all creation and even Creation knows it’s King (Revelation 4:11)! Yet we remember what is coming. Last week we heard what happened yesterday, Mary anointing Jesus for His burial (John 12:1, 7). And those Pharisees who rebuked Jesus, will go on to condemn Him for blasphemy. The Pharisees and Sadducees pressure Pilate to execute Jesus, and Pilate eventually sends Jesus to His death on the cross. To the burial for which Mary has anointed Him. Today we look out over this Holy Week, as though looking out from a mountain top over the valley of the shadow of death, towards a much higher and brighter peak on the other side. There is so many things that happen, so many parts to the week, sometimes it’s hard to remember them all.
Yet traditionally that is what this Sunday is for, for you to remember this coming week before it happens, to recall all it’s events, to remember; and to follow Jesus into His kingdom. To re-member: to bring all these parts, all these members, of this week together into your life. We don’t often think this way about ‘remembering’ yet when we ‘remember’ we recall parts of our past life together into our present. When you remember an event in your childhood, about how you were walking near the footy field, smelt some horrid cigarette smoke and decided never to try them yourself; when you remember that memory, you unite it with yourself in the present, perhaps you smell the smoke again, or you see the footy field, or recommit to that old decision. However it is, you make that memory part of your body again, seeing again, smelling again, you make it a member of your body, your life, again; or, as we say, you remember it.
And it doesn’t even have to be part of your life, you can remember events in the lives of others. You can remember the abuse of your ancestors by those in power, the highland clearances of Scotland, the convict settlements here in Australia. You can remember the Papua New Guineans who helped and saved many Australian solders in WW2. And you can of course remember our Christian forebears and Christ Himself, and this His last week of life.
But then, what does it mean to remember this last week of Christ’s life? To remember His life, instead of our own? To unite His experience together with your own life today? What does this mean, but to live the life of Christ. To make this Holy Week part of your life, of your body, a member of your body, to remember it. To remember yesterday Christ anointed by Mary for His burial (John 12:1-11). To remember today His Triumphant entrance; Hosanna in the Highest! (John 12:12-16) To remember tomorrow Jesus cleansing the temple, removing all distractions from the worship of God (Luke 19:45-46). To remember the next day, Jesus teaching and His foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 20-21). To remember Judas’ betrayal traditionally being paid by the priests on Wednesday (Luke 22:1-6). To remember Thursday, the preparation for the feast (Luke 22:7-13). Then beginning on Thursday night, which is the beginning of Friday according to God’s counting; The Passover, Pascha, the institution of the Lord’s Supper; Jesus teaching and preparing the disciples as they walk to the mount of Olives; His prayer for all His people and all the world; His arrest, Peter’s betrayal, His trail in the dawn; the release of Barabbas and Christ’s crucifixion in the late morning; the darkness at noon; His words to the robber beside Him; His death in the afternoon; those strange words of victory, “It is finished”; His burial; then, to remember, in the night after the Sabbath’s dusk, the glorious peak of the first day of the New Creation finally revealed. (Luke 22-23; John 13-20). The glorious light of Christ, hidden in the dark night of this world. As we heard last week, hidden like that sown seed.
What does it mean to remember all this? To make this part and parcel of your life? It means to be united with Jesus Christ, to be forgiven and have eternal life. But how can we remember all this? In the past Christians have made their life revolve around this Holy Week. Of course, we still remember the praise of the people on Sunday and make it part of our lives as we sing together with them, Hosanna in the highest, as Christ comes to us. And traditionally Christians have fasted from rich food on Wednesday and Friday, the days when Judas was paid for His betrayal and of course, when Jesus died. It’s not just that fish and Friday start with the same letters. And of course we also have weekends because of observing the Sabbath, the seventh day of Creation, and celebrating the eight day or the first day of the New Creation on Sunday, the Lord’s day.
Yet not content to have their week revolve around Christ, traditionally especially pastors, monks and nuns have prayed at 9:00, noon and 3:00, continuing the practise of God’s ancient people (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10; from the offerings Exodus 29:39) and remembering Christ’s crucifixion, the darkness and then His death. Now to have your week revolve around Christ’s life, and even the hours of your day; these are helpful ways for us to remember Jesus in our lives. As Paul writes, ‘we are to have the mind of Christ’ and what better way to learn it than have our lives revolve around His (Philippians 2:5).
Good and true as that is, the repentant robber doesn’t say, I will remember you; no, He asks, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ It is important for you to remember Jesus, but you can only do that if Jesus remembers you. And that is what the robber asks for, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, He is crowned and exalted, with thorns on the cross, He rises and 40 days later ascends His throne as He who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18-20). Dealing with sin, defeating the devil and plundering the place of death, remembering the devil’s captives, He brings them into His everlasting kingdom, His never-ending reign. He does not forget Abraham, with whom He made the everlasting covenant, nor Noah, Seth or Josiah; even if we might have forgotten. Jesus remembers all the righteous dead when He comes into His kingdom, He recalls them and unites them to Himself; making them a part of His life everlasting; making them members of His body.
And when Jesus remembers you, He re-members you, Paul using that picture of grafting onto a tree (Romans 11:17-24). Jesus makes you members of His body, this is one part of the mystery that we are one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Jesus recalls, He calls you into His life everlasting, He remembers you and doesn’t forget you. Now, there is much more to this mystery, yet how/when/where does He remember you? Where and when does Christ reign? He remembers where He has promised to unite you to Himself, to bring you into His everlasting, sinless, undefeatable life, into His kingdom; When He forgives you, gives you life everlasting, and casts away your demons; chiefly and most assuredly according to His Word, in Holy Baptism, the Absolution, and Holy Communion. It is in these three that He has promised to unite you into His death, His eternal life, His righteousness, and His great love. He brings you into His body, He remembers you as He comes into His kingdom. So as we remember this Holy Week, as we make it a part of our lives today; remember that Jesus remembers you and the robber and all His people, bringing us into His life everlasting.
Today the King comes. Today Jesus remembers you. Today His kingdom breaks forth into this world, with forgiveness, salvation and life eternal! Today we are united into Christ’s life!
And so as you live out this Holy Week, Jesus remember you by granting the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from now and to life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.