Dan Pezet

(mis)Interpreting the Cross

Ok, I admit it… I watch How I Met Your Mother. It’s a funny show. There was one episode where Ted was teaching his first class as a professor of architecture. As he begun, some students tried to ask questions, but he had a passionate speech prepared, and asked for questions to be held until the end. Twenty minutes into the lecture, he said, “If you are not truly passionate about architecture, then you’re wasting my time and your time, and you may as well leave right now.” The whole class got up to leave. That is how he discovered that he was in the wrong room. He was an architecture professor lecturing to an economics class. Ted totally misinterpreted the students and his present situation.

Most of the time we can laugh at these kind of misunderstandings as they happen in our lives.  There are other times, however, when getting it wrong is no laughing matter. Take the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus, for example. Before their death, they each appealed to Jesus on completely different levels of meaning. The first criminal tried to get Jesus to save his physical life. He knew that they would die on the cross, and knew that, at least supposedly, Jesus had the power to save them. He said,

Luke 23:39 “Are you not the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”

Wow, did he interpret the moment incorrectly! He was in the presence of the Divine! He did not need to fear his bodily death. The whole Messiah thing went right over his head. His hope for eternal salvation was right in front him, and the only reason he was appealing to Jesus was to save his skin (and only his skin).

The second man interpreted the moment differently. This is how he replied to the first man:

Luke 23:40-42 “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The second man obviously understood what was going on in his present time. He knew that he was in the presence of God. The first man was worried about his bodily life and death, but the second man knew that his relationship with Jesus was the important matter at hand. He took care of the relationship that was before him. At that very moment. Jesus told the second man that he would be with him in paradise.

As I go through my day today, I hope that I can be like the second man. Out of all the things that might seem important today, I pray for guidance to be able to interpret my present time wisely.

Luke 12:57 “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” -NRSV