And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
(Matthew 27:33-44 ESV)
As we learned the other day, a crucifixion victim was paraded through the streets of the city to the place of crucifixion. He would have been naked and would be carrying the very cross he would be momentarily be nailed to. He would also have a sign hung around his neck with the charges against him. That sign would then be affixed to the cross above his head for all to see.
Over Jesus’ head the charge against Him read “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”. It was written by Pilate as a slap in the face to the Jewish leaders who Pilate knew railroaded Jesus to the cross [John 19:21]. Ironically, what Pilate meant to be derisive, was actually the truth, as Jesus had told Pilate earlier [Matthew 27:11].
While Jesus hung in agony on the cross He was derided by those who passed by as well as by the chief priests, scribes, and elders – the very leaders of the community. Even the robbers who were crucified with him reviled Him in the same way.
These people could not believe that the Son of God, could be crucified. It made no sense to them that God’s own son could be put through such humiliating torture. The fact that He did not come down from the cross was their proof that He was a fraud. But they didn’t understand.
They didn’t understand that Jesus was able to save Himself. But He chose not to. If He had there would be no forgiveness of sins available to us.
Notice that the people claimed that if Jesus were to come down from the cross they would believe in Him. Not likely. They had seen Him perform many miracles. In three days they’d witness His greatest miracle – coming back from the dead – and they still didn’t believe.
No, these people, like many today, already had their mind made up and nothing was going to change it because they were blind to their own sin. Nor did they understand God’s deep love for them that made Him hang on that cross to free them from the penalty of their sin.
The thought of God’s own son dying on a cross is foolishness to those who don’t understand [1 Corinthians 1:18]. They deride and mock the very idea. I understand. I used to too. Until I came to see my own sinfulness and realized that it wasn’t nails that kept Jesus on the cross. It was love.
It sure was, as the song from 4Him declares, a strange way to save the world.
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