When I sit down to write a wePRAY, I usually go through several ideas and iterations of what I’ve written. Some of the ideas have been overly whacky, whilst others have been uninspiring and tepid. Trying to find the write balance (spelling pun intended) can sometimes prove a challenge! Occasionally however a theme or topic lends itself to the free flow of fingers over the keyboard and lucid thoughts hitting the page.
Easter is one of those themes. As you read this you’ll likely be in the period within the Christian faith known as Easter Week which culminates with Good Friday and seemingly the end of Jesus. What begins as a celebration quickly sours as the man welcomed into the city as a King is executed as a criminal.
Whilst we know what comes on the Sunday, with Mary Magdalene’s discovery of the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection, it’s Good Friday I want to focus on. More specifically one of the two criminals who’d been crucified alongside Jesus.
You may recall that at Jesus crucifixion, there were two criminals who were being executed at the same time. In Luke’s Gospel account, one of these criminals joins the crowds in mocking Jesus. This mocking was largely based on the sign which hung above Jesus’ head announcing the crime for which he was being crucified – ‘The King of the Jews’. I’m sure that there is no irony lost on us that the man whose purpose was to save God’s chosen people and bring them back into community with God, was being crucified by his chosen people, in order to save them!
If we return to our two criminals alongside Jesus, it’s important to recognise that physically they were living a shared experience with Jesus. They knew the pain being endured; the slow suffocation of the body weight compressing lungs making it impossible to breathe; the shame of public disgrace and misery. One criminal chose to join the crowds and hurl insults, seemingly determined to end his days by spitting bile and vitriol until his last breath. Luke’s account tells us that the other criminal responds differently. There is an acknowledgement that his actions led to the place of crucifixion and an understanding that Jesus was unjustly hanging next to him. The thing that acts most as an encouragement to me at Easter, is a simple line from this criminal. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
Recognising that his life is ending, the criminal realises that ‘there is more to life’ than just death. Further still, he recognises that what ‘is more’ is found in Jesus. Even with his dying breaths he understands and sees the hope that only Jesus brings. What’s more, this recognition is honoured by Jesus who responds: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (v43)
In the space of just a few verses, this criminal acknowledges his sins, seeks forgiveness and is bought* back into God’s presence – the very picture Jesus death paints for all humanity.
As we head through Easter week, can I encourage you to remember the Hope found in Christ, a hope realised by a criminal on a cross, a hope freely given to sinners like us and a Hope that is at the heart of all east to west does.
*You may have read this as brought or thought there is a typo here. The reality is it is bought as Jesus paid the price to enable this to happen… it came at a cost.
This month we’re praying for Margaret, Family Link Worker at Goldsworth Primary in Woking. Margaret recently re-joined east to west after a spell living and working in France.
Firstly, I would like to thank God for the wonderful opportunity to return to east to west and join Goldsworth primary school.
I would value your prayers for the school, my family and myself.
Prayers for Goldsworth Primary.
Pray for the Leadership team as they lead and support the whole school, (including me) through these challenging times.
Pray and protect the staff who are pregnant or vulnerable and for those who are struggling in silence - pray they find the courage to seek help.
Pray for the all the teachers and support staff as they continue to do the most amazing job of keeping everything as normal as possible for the children and I ask God to continue giving them energy and enthusiasm.
Pray for the children and families as they settle back into the routine of school life, especially those who are struggling to adjust to the new measures to keep us all safe from Covid 19.
For myself and my family.
Please pray for myself and my husband, we have lived apart for too long and are looking forward to being together again very soon. He is currently in France closing down the house.
We’d appreciate prayers for us both over Easter – I’m driving down to the Dordogne over the Easter weekend to help him bring back assorted pets. Please pray for safe travels for us as it’s a long way. Please also pray for the time we’ve got to spend in isolation on our return, so I can safely return to school after the holidays.`
Pray for Michael (my son) as he prepares for his teacher assessed GCSE'
James (my other son) as he prepares to study abroad for a year from August this year
Amy (my daughter and RSW at Esher High School) that she continues to find satisfaction in all that she does.