assignments were being handed out at a recent ministerium, I was told to preach
Luke 23:33-43. What a momentous passage. Jesus, King of another kingdom, has
been impaled on a cross and is certainly feeling excruciating pain; yet he
utters an absolutely kingly prayer: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know
what they are doing.”
So I went
right to work doing the usual preacher’s gymnastics with the Bible—searching,
pondering, and reading commentaries. And then it happened right in the middle
of verse 34. Footnote “e.” New Revised Standard Bible: “Other ancient
authorities lack the sentence, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they
do not know what they are doing.’ ” To be honest, other manuscripts do include
the prayer. But still. On Christ the King Sunday. When we are supposed to
celebrate spiritual authority’s triumph over earthly power and might.
Always some textual
critic in the crowd to go and mess with our Bibles. So that’s it? Jesus
crucified with a bunch of thugs while the soldiers throw dice to get the last of
his earthly belongings? Why couldn’t the footnote been about some meaningless
detail about the thieves? Why did it have to question the authenticity of this
powerful prayer of forgiveness? Just cut Jesus’ famous words out of the
Bible? Isn’t that the kind of kingship Jesus embraced?
What happens when we
omit forgiveness from our own stories?