In the Gospel of Luke, we find a recurrent theme that theologians refer to as the great reversal. These are unexpected, almost shocking statements from Jesus that cause us to stop and re-think our value systems. Sayings like: “Love your enemies,” “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it,” “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last,” “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Perhaps the most remarkable great reversal occurs when the penitent thief on the cross rises from the bottom of the first-century Palestinian ecosystem and expresses his faith in Christ. He repents, and without the benefit of the Lord’s instruction which the apostles enjoyed, he reaches out in faith, requesting Jesus to remember him when Jesus enters into his reign. A criminal, hours away from death and in pain, suddenly has the presence of mind to confess his sin and his faith in Jesus. Spiritual whiplash.
These great reversal sayings challenge us. “Love your enemies.” That is not easy. Reflecting on these great reversal sayings is often humbling. But Jesus reminds us that he honors the humble, that the humble will be exalted.
The value system of the Kingdom is much different than that of our culture. Jesus’ great reversal teachings challenge us to focus on the Kingdom rather than the world. We are called to use our energy, our love, and our gifts for the Kingdom.
When reflected upon and applied to our lives, the great reversal sayings cause our focus to shift from our needs to the needs of others.
There is reassurance. Reassurance that the Kingdom we are giving ourselves to, like our souls, is eternal and has eternal value.