Sadly, there have always been those who scoff at others or make fun of them, generally because they themselves feel threatened in some way. The victims of such bullying behaviour often feel powerless and demeaned. There should be some comfort for victims in today’s gospel which presents a serious case of bullying and two dignified responses that undermine the destructive power of the bullies.
The first dignified response is that of Jesus who refuses to retaliate when the Roman soldiers mock him or when another convicted criminal [‘one of the criminals hanging there’] derides him.
Another dignified response comes from ‘the other’ criminal. This man has the insight to recognise that Jesus is innocent and the courage to challenge the injustice of what is going on around him. Having offered his challenge, he then turns to Jesus and addresses him by name: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.
His request reveals his faith in Jesus as the human face of God. It also reveals his knowledge of Jesus’ mission, first announced in Galilee: ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose’.
Jesus points to God and God’s kingdom or empire. Jesus’ convict companion points to Jesus and Jesus’ kingdom or empire. They are one and the same. In that moment, this criminal becomes a disciple and receives the assurance of a share in Jesus’ life with God: ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’