Non Sequiturs: Jesus in the Temple and Dismas

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.[1] Lk 2: 46-47

I never noticed before, but the give and take in this scene is peer to peer, not teachers to disciple. While the first part of the sentence would indicate that Jesus was only an inquisitive student, listening to them and asking them questions, in the second part, the tables are turned: the teachers are bowled over with his understanding and, not questions, but answers! Cool!

Perhaps this is the way Jesus deals with us, listening and asking questions, helping us to clarify and understand Him better,…and in our conversation with Him [aka prayer], we are in awe of His understanding of us and His answers to our questions.

 

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Lk 23:42

It has been pointed out that poor Dismas, whose name is from Greek: “dying,” is the only person in any of the Gospels to address Jesus by his first name, Jesus, without a qualifier, e.g. LORD or Son of David or Teacher. As the late exegete Fr. Raymond Brown put it, “The first person with the confidence to be so familiar is a convicted criminal who is also the last person on earth to speak to Jesus before he dies,” i.e. in Luke’s Gospel.

When you go through a horrific ordeal with another person, there’s little room and no time for formality. You are thrown together by providence and see the other in the worst possible conditions; you know each other without the conventional facades of society. Being crucified with another certainly qualifies as one of these situations. Since the banter had been scorn and ridicule to that point, it was a true gesture of acknowledgement of what Jesus was going through, of who He was, of what His kingdom consisted, when Dismas spoke to him. Dismas’ very words indicate that, in some way, he recognized that Jesus was indeed the Christ, but not in the then popular conquering hero sense, but in a new way, an after death way, a beyond suffering in this life way. Like Peter’s declaration: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God [Mt 16:16], Dismas’ recognition is a sign that he is blessed, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to him but Jesus’ heavenly Father. [Mt 16:17] He recognized that Jesus would live beyond the grave, a recognition in a vague, unclear, but total sense, that this Jesus would exist beyond death and would, indeed, take his place as a rightful king. And it is this King who answers him, not just a plain answer, but prefaced by the formula that indicates that this is a pronouncement of momentous truth, for it is said by God: Amen, I say[2] to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. [Lk 23:43]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Like the I am statements in John, the I say statements in the other Gospels, as well as the prefaced Amen, or “truth” in Hebrew [from Semitic root a-m-n “to be trustworthy, confirm, support”] indicate God not only being but proclaiming truth. Online Etymology Dictionary, “Amen,” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=amen