Every year, on Palm Sunday, we hear the story of Jesus’ Passion and death. This year’s account comes from Luke’s Gospel. Luke invites us to think about what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and gives us some surprising answers.
The same crowd that shouted for Jesus when he entered Jerusalem is now shouting ‘Crucify him!’ The chief priests and elders are determined to see Jesus dead. Peter, first among the disciples, is full of bravado at the Last Supper, saying that he is ready to die with Jesus. But a few hours later, when Jesus has been arrested, Peter fearfully denies that he even knows him. ‘And the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.’ (Luke 22:61) But Jesus is looking at Peter with compassion and not with anger. He will be forgiven for his betrayal.
Luke shows us that there are some unlikely people among Jesus’ disciples – criminals and Gentiles. One of the thieves crucified with Jesus comes to believe in him, and is promised, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ That last act of faith, at the end of his life, is enough to save him. The Roman centurion in charge of crucifying Jesus recognises him as ‘a great and good man.’ Whoever we are, and wherever we come from, we can become disciples. All that the Lord asks of us is faith.