“Come down from the cross.“ – Vs 40 (NASB)
As Jesus hung on the cross, He continued to suffer verbal abuse from His accusers and those who had gathered to watch the grisly spectacle of His death. Matthew records that they were “hurling abuse” at Him, mocking and taunting Him. They shouted, “So! You can destroy the Temple and build it again in three days, can you? Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross” (Vs 40). They were reacting to a statement Jesus had made earlier in His ministry and that had been brought up again at His trial. John records it in his gospel. When Jesus had cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem, kicking out the money changers and overturning tables, the Jewish leaders had demanded a sign to confirm that He had authority to do what He had done. Jesus’ response was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 – NASB). This was the main accusation brought against Jesus in His trial by false witnesses. They claimed that Jesus had said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days” (Matthew 26:61 – NASB). But John makes it clear that Jesus had been speaking of the temple of His body. He had been predicting His bodily resurrection.
Now, here He hung on the cross and was being taunted to come down. In their minds, this would be what it would take to convince them of His claim to be the Messiah. Not that they even remotely believed He just might do it. But I find it interesting that they were asking Him to do the one thing He could not, or would not do. Come down from the cross. That is exactly what the enemy would have loved to see Him do. Come down from the cross. Stop the one thing that would bring redemption and hope to mankind. Stop God’s divine plan for man’s ultimate salvation. If Jesus had called down angels and had them rescue Him from the cross, many would have probably believed. But they would not have been saved. Their sins would not have been payed for. They would still have been required to live according to the Law, attempting to satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God, in their own strength. And they would have failed, like all those before them.
“Come down from the cross!”, they shouted. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the king of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him! He trusted God––let God show his approval by delivering him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God'” (Vs 42-43, NLT). This whole event made no sense to them. If He was the Messiah, then He wouldn’t be on the cross in the first place. And if He was the Messiah, then God would avenge Him by delivering Him. If THAT was to happen, then they would believe. But it wouldn’t happen, because it couldn’t happen. Because our hope lay not in God delivering Jesus from the cross, but from death. Jesus’ victory was not going to be over the cross, but over sin and the grave. “For the power of the life–giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:2 – NLT). Had Jesus come down from the cross, it would have accomplished nothing. Sure, it would have been impressive, but it would not have been redemptive. It would not have saved. He had to die in order that we might live. He had to be sacrificed in order to satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God. Coming down from the cross was NOT an option. And because Jesus chose to remain where He was and suffer the full brunt of sin’s assault on His life, we have eternal life. “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24 – NASB). God delivered Jesus from death, not the cross. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Father, thank You for the victory of Jesus Christ over death and sin. Thank You Jesus for enduring the cross, for remaining where You were and enduring what You didn’t deserve – all for me. Thank You that You chose not to save Yourself, so that we might be saved. Yours was a life of selfless service right to the very end. And I am eternally grateful. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men