The Rejected Challenge

Turning his bruised and bloody face toward Jesus, he asked, “Are you doing this for me?”

“Yes. And for that soldier with the club hanging from his belt, that he’s going to use at sundown to break your legs. And for the one standing next to him, thumbing the tip of the spear that he’s going to use to pierce my side. And for those four soldiers rolling dice in the dust for my clothes.

And for all in the future who will accept my sacrifice . . . and for all who I wish would, but won’t.”

Cruel crowds came—

Those who passed by hurled insults at [Jesus], shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Mt 27:39–40).

These rowdy gawkers had rushed to view the grisly execution—and picked up the abusive chant: If you are the Son of God, prove it by coming down from the cross.

He could have—could have dropped from the cross, and with a point of his finger pulverized the mob. But he didn’t. With silent resistance, he rejected their challenge. For their sake—and ours—he stayed on the cross.

Religious bigwigs joined in—

The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Mt 27:41–43).

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself.” They spoke the truth without realizing it—if he was to save others, he couldn’t save himself.

He put his trust in God, they hissed: So let God rescue him if he wants to.

God was silent.

Jesus had said that he could ask his Father, and he would dispatch more than twelve legions of angels—over 72,000—to rescue him. But Jesus didn’t ask for the angels, and his Father didn’t send them. For their sake—and ours—Father and Son rejected rescue.

Both the jeering rabble and the religious leaders implied that weakness kept Jesus on the cross. They were wrong. It was strength that kept him there, the strength of his love. It took more strength to stay on the cross than to come down from it.

They said they would believe he was the Son of God if he came down from the cross. We believe he is the Son of God because he didn’t come down from the cross.

The now-converted criminal said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Today you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus promised.

“Yes, I’m doing this for you. And for someone I’m seeing centuries from now—I’m doing it for ­­____________________.”

The rejected challenge: “Come down from the cross.”