(Reprinted from "Eyes on Jesus: Through Mark's Gospel")
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself.”
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (verses 29-32)
There’s an awful lot of concern expressed here over Jesus saving himself. “Come down from the cross and save yourself!” “He saved others but he can’t save himself!”
Jesus’ accusers clearly equate his position on the cross with powerlessness. How could he possibly be the Christ if he’s still on the cross? In their minds, any lingering doubt is removed. Their accusations are thrown against Jesus, but they’re meant to bolster their own position. “We got it right,” they think. “He can’t be the Christ – look where he is.”
Yes, look. The unforeseen wonder is that it was his purposeful intention to end up there. This is what it means for him to be “Christ.” He came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Yes, “he saved others,” but now he will do it to the uttermost. He will give his own life as a sacrifice of atonement so that the rest of us might live, forgiven and redeemed. Indeed, if he saved himself now, all others would remain unsaved. Salvation is taking place because he refuses salvation for himself. The mission (and the glory) of the Christ is so very different than anyone anticipated.
Arrogantly, the chief priests and teachers of the law position themselves as adjudicators of spiritual truth. “Come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” They have determined that this show of power would prove Jesus to be the Christ, not realizing that it is actually a showing of his power (and compassion and grace) that keeps him there – not realizing that were he to descend now from the cross, they would be choosing to believe in one who refused to complete the sacrifice necessary for their own salvation.
They didn’t realize they themselves desperately needed a Christ who would stay on that cross.
The book of Acts will later tell us that in Jerusalem itself “a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Perhaps it included some of those who here and now are so strongly embracing such a faulty criterion for belief. They needed a radical turn around, a new understanding of their own need for a Saviour, and a radically refocused vision of Jesus himself, just like the Pharisee, Saul, would later receive on a Damascus Road, far from Jerusalem.
Our Christ saves by not saving himself.
Lord Jesus, thank you for staying on that cross for me. Thank you for enduring the mockery and suffering and scorn. Thank you for not saving yourself, but saving me.
Reflect: Take some time to picture, in your mind’s eye, your Lord hanging on the cross. Give thanks. It was for you. Stop regularly during the day and do the same. Reflect and give thanks.