Tag Archives: Crucifixion

Peace with God

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. (Psalm 6:2 ESV)

These words describe part of what Jesus endured as He was executed, hanging on the cross. When He was given to the Roman executioners, His physical torment began. They tortured Him to death. Roman executions began with the humiliation of scourging and ended with the beaten and broken body of the condemned hanging on a cross, exposed, until death. Pilate released a known criminal and Jesus, an innocent man, having never sinned, was murdered. “Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26 ESV; see Luke 23:25). 

Jesus knew what would happen to Him. On many occasions, He predicted His manner of death. “They will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified” (Matthew 20:19 ESV). During His execution, Jesus was so physically battered and weakened from the scourging He could barely walk, let alone carry the beam to which they would attach Him with spikes. “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross” (Matthew 27:32 ESV; see Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26). 

Jesus died on the cross, but the two crucified with Him remained alive. Passover was near, so the religious leaders asked the Romans to break the legs of the others so they would die before Passover. The Romans did not break Jesus’ legs. His bones, His limbs and body, was troubled, stressed by the turmoil of the experience, but not one of His bones were broken. “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken’” (John 19:36 ESV; see Psalm 34:20). 

David’s words perfectly describe Jesus’ experience. His body was abused to the point of exhaustion and death. He had no strength left to live, which was the intent of the Roman executioners. His bones were disjointed. But more than the physical torment of His body, He faced the immediate presence of sin and its eternal consequences, which is separation from God. Jesus bore the brunt of our condemnation for sin, both physically and spiritually. Jesus did not remain separated from God. He fulfilled the just sentence for rebellion, and then was resurrected by God and brought into His presence. 

God showered His grace and mercy upon Jesus once His sacrifice accomplished the purpose of God. Gracious means to show favor and pity, to have mercy upon. Healmeans to make healthy and restore to wholeness from the sufferings and injuries inflicted. Jesus died. Jesus was raised from death. Jesus now sits at God’s right hand making intercession for those who are His. “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV). 

Paul also declares our Intercessor has God’s ear.

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”

(Roman s 8:33-34 ESV)

Isaiah, 700 years before the birth of Messiah, tells us the same.

“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12 ESV).Though physically assaulted and executed, Jesus’ death purchased peace with God for those called by God into His presence. God is gracious to Jesus and those who have taken refuge in Him.

Advertisements

Peace and Rest

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.(Psalm 4:8 ESV)

Peace and rest go together, like justice and righteousness and repentance and faith. You cannot have one without the other. Peace and rest do not demand a circumstance outside of knowing God and being known by Him. Temporal circumstances may rob temporary peace and rest but cannot change that which God has established in eternity. Peace and rest are spiritual realities sometimes reflected through physical circumstances.

In this world there is neither peace with God, nor rest in Him, outside of a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. In the Psalms God tells us He intimately “knows the way of the righteous” (Psalm 1:6 ESV). They are those He has declared righteous because they are in His Son. He then directs those who are unrighteous to “kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). He offers an escape from His wrath through His Son. Jesus Christ is the One who is their life and the Righteous Judge of all. Only in Jesus Christ is there deliverance from the sentence of sin and rescue from separation from God for eternity. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8 ESV). Only in Him who faced God’s wrath as a righteous man, living His earthly life without sin, is there peace and rest. Only in eternity with God is there life and rest and security from the presence and effects of sin.

It is better to have the eternal blessings of God than the temporal, haphazardly found lack of conflict that masquerades as peace in the world.

As Jesus walked among the people, working and teaching and confronting sin, He never acted or spoke out of a place of turmoil or desperation. His actions and speech were measured and filled with pointed compassion for those He met. He was not in a hurry, driven by anyone to do or act or be in a particular place.

As Lazarus lay dying, Jesus and His disciples were a two-day journey away. When word reached Jesus that Lazarus was sick, He did not immediately arise and go to him. John tells us Jesus’ feelings toward the sisters and brother. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5-6 ESV). He knew Lazarus would die but still told His disciples “this illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 ESV). How could Jesus say the illness would not lead to death knowing Lazarus would die? Jesus knows what He will do. He will raise Lazarus from the dead, restoring his life, even after four days in a tomb. He will do this as evidence of who He is and of His purpose for coming.

Knowledge gives control. He who knows all, has control over all. God is both omniscient and omnipotent. Jesus works from a place of peace and rest, able to lie down and  of His peace with God, who gives Him rest from the havoc of sin and makes Him dwell in safety.

Everything Jesus did fulfilled the purpose given Him by God for coming into this world as a human. After raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, where He would endure an agonizing death. As completely God, He eternally knew the outcome of His sacrifice would bring absolute glory to God. His sacrifice is the ultimate worship of God. As a servant found in human form, He faced the physical and emotional anticipation of His coming agony.

Jesus was both eager to complete His mission and troubled by what He would endure. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27 ESV). Facing death, Jesus felt inward agitation and was anxious and distressed. His human part wanted release from what awaited Him outside of Jerusalem. Though facing the opposite of peace and rest, Jesus submitted Himself to God and finished that which He purposed from eternity.

God answered Him for people to hear. “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’” (John 12:28 ESV). God is glorified by what His Son does on the cross. His sacrifice brought peace with God to those whose sin He took upon Himself and who are covered by His blood. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). In peace He, and we in Him, lie down and sleep, even die. For God alone makes us dwell in this world and throughout eternity, in His secure presence. Jesus is our refuge and our peace and in Him is eternal life, and with life, eternal rest.

Peter’s Denial of Christ

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 22:31-34, 54-62 (see also Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

It is the night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Jesus knows what will happen in a few hours, having foreseen His coming trial, execution and resurrection. For this reason He came as a man. He and His disciples are eating the Passover meal. Passover is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. God instituted the Passover as an annual celebration, so the Jews would remember when He brought their nation out of Egypt. God instructed the Jews to eat the first Passover meal before the last plague to strike the nation of Egypt and before Pharaoh before released the Jewish people. When the Angel of death passed over the land, He struck down the first born of all who had not covered the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13 ESV)

God knew what He was going to do from creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, and systematically told His people and the world the events that would accomplish His redemption of those who are His. Passover is an annual reminder that God has redeemed those who are His by the blood of His Son. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples before He became the sacrificed Passover lamb whose blood covers those redeemed by God.

During the meal Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of his relationship with Him. Jesus used Peter’s given name twice. Then He tells us something we could never know had He not divulged the facts. Satan had demanded from God that it might tempt Peter. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat”  (Luke 22:31 ESV). Demanded means to be given over for torture or punishment. Satan is concentrating its strength on the leader of the disciples in an attempt to destroy the continuity Jesus had built into the group over the years of His ministry. Like Job, Satan wanted to tempt and try Peter to see if his faith was real or a fabrication. Like Job, God gave permission for Satan to do its work (see Job 1:6-22 and 2:1-10).

Jesus does not leave Peter to his own strengths. Faith is a conduit God uses, through which God delivers all the tools needed to live for God in a world that hates God and persecutes Christians. Jesus tells Peter that “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). Jesus’ prayer is eternally powerful. Though Peter must endure the assaults and attacks of the enemy, through the strength provided by God, he will endure. If Peter had to rely upon his own strength, his failure was assured. Peter received God’s strength in him under God’s control. He would fall because of his sin, but would rise again to work for God because of God’s strength. Knowing this, Jesus gave Peter his marching orders. His purpose was to strengthen your brothers, all those who follow Christ and must endure the assaults of the Deceiver.

In Peter’s mind and heart there was no possibility of him rejecting Jesus. Peter made a brash statement, boasting of something he would soon regret.  This is a characteristic of very person who tries to live for Christ using their own human strength and wisdom. “Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death’” (Luke 22:33 ESV). Peter declared he was ready to die for Christ. He heard Jesus tell them they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. Having followed Jesus this far, he was convinced of his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus.

Jesus, knowing the hearts of men, allows for temporary failure to build eternal success. Jesus knows what will actually happen because He is God and knows all things. “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34 ESV). Roosters do not just crow as day is breaking but while it is still dark in the early morning hours. Peter, adamantly convinced he would never forsake Jesus, denied he knew Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, while it was still dark.

This prediction must have devastated Peter’s sensibilities. He could easily have been angry and hurt by what Jesus told him. In his mind and heart, he would do what he said he would do. When Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who struck the servant of the High Priest with a sword. “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” (John 18:10-11 ESV). Peter was rebuked by Jesus, even after being told to bring a sword, because he used the sword. His discouragement and confusion must have been great.

But Peter had already heard Jesus’ words. He may not have remembered them until later. “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). God used his failings to prepare him for greater service.

Arise, O LORD!

Meditations on the Psalms

Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!(Psalm 3:7 ESV)

This is the cry of a person in physical and emotional distress, whose hope and help remains only in God and is nowhere found in self or the world. They are desperate, for they have reached the end of their abilities, have exhausted their resources and have nothing left. They are hopeless and helpless, on the verge of depression and complete emotional breakdown.

Arisemeans to stand, to come upon the scene, and also means to confirm, ratify and establish. Again, the writer uses God’s proper name of because of their intimate relationship. He could be saying “Stand up, God, and impose Yourself. Show Yourself mighty and able to protect.” His cry is for God to save and liberate Him from those who hate and revile Him and give Him victory over their rebellion.

Jesus prayed in a garden on the night He was betrayed. He took with Him His closest friends, eleven of the disciples. Judas was not there for he left earlier to betray Jesus and gather those who would ultimately murder Him. Jesus asked His remaining disciples to stay awake and pray with Him. They did not stay awake and pray because they were sleepy. It was the middle of the night, the time to sleep. They did not have the discipline to stay awake even a short time. Plus, they were under spiritual attack. “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41 ESV; see Mark 14:7, Luke 22:45). His mild rebuke could not keep them awake for they fell asleep again as soon as He walked away to pray.

What was Jesus praying? Jesus felt anxiety as He faced crucifixion. From eternity, before Jesus’ incarnation, He knew this historical moment would come. He knew what He had already decided to do and its outcome.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.(Luke 22:41-44 ESV)

Jesus knew, in His nature as a true man, His servant nature, that He was going to be tortured to death. It is not death which causes fear but the manner in which a person dies. He felt agony,which is severe mental and emotional anguish, a struggle for victory, because He knew the cost. He sweated huge drops as He wrestled with the knowledge of emanate torture and death. Did He need more strength than He already had? Luke tells us an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen him. Jesus was truly Man the way God intended and God in flesh. He did not sin but experienced all of the emotional and moral tugs and pulls of the flesh.

Then Judas, the disciple and friend of Jesus, arrived with a band of soldiers to arrest Him.

Jesus was not afraid to walk to His death because He knew the resurrection followed. Jesus finished what He started because of His love for God and for those He created in His image.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. (John 10:17-18 ESV)

Jesus cried out to God. Only He could save Him from absolute separation. Jesus carried the judgment and sentence of all so that all might be saved. His burden is heavy and beyond measure. Only He could bare such a weight.

 

 

Unafraid

Meditations on the Psalms

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.(Psalm 3:6 ESV)

Jesus faced both great acclaim and heated opposition throughout His earthly ministry. Those who hated Him included the Deceiver, who did everything possible to frustrate, obstruct and stop His ministry, and the religious leaders of the nation. These religious leaders hated Jesus because He challenged their authority and position of leadership over the people. In addition, the Roman’s hated anyone, not particularly Jesus, who might incite the people under their dominion to rebel against Rome and the emperor.

Those who opposed Jesus were not just politically or religiously motivated. There were many who simply did not care about Him. Or, they cared about His words and ideas for a moment but when He confronted their covetous attitude toward what they considered their stuff, they would turn their backs upon Him and walk away. They cared more for their place in the world than their place in eternity.

God tells us to not be afraidof those who oppose Him because Jesus was not afraid of them. Afraid means to dread, fear, stand in awe, as well as to have reverence and to honor. To setthemselves against means to station, to take a stand, to lay waste, fix their mind in opposition to whatever Jesus represents or commands be done. Those who are hostile toward the authority of the King of kings, either actively fight against Him or passively ignore Him. In either case, their actions, or inactions, destroy the foundation of the relationship they have with God.

We have already seen those who mutiny against God will come to a physical and spiritual end. Their defiant words and works are judged and they are sentenced, then separated from God, the Giver of life. His judgment is a completed action from eternity, yet still works out in space-time history. For God it is done. For those living in the world it will be done but is not yet completed. Jesus was not afraid to stand before the religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, because He foreknew the outcome. He willingly endured the torture of crucifixion because He knew the final and absolute results brought the greatest glory to God.

During Jesus’ ministry, He chose and trained twelve disciples. These disciples, whom He also called apostles, were given responsibility to exercise authority in His name. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 10:1 ESV; see also Mark 3:13-15, Luke 6:12-16). As Jesus trained them He was forthright in telling them what they would face and endure. Their and our temptations and trials are myriad and used to test. God does not test anyone to discover what they know. He tests so we can discover what we do not know, especially about Him. Throughout our training we are His and there is no reason to fear.

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26-31 ESV; see Luke 12:4-7)

Jesus’ disciples, throughout history, whomever they are and whenever they live, stand before those in worldly authority and give testimony about Him. Instead of removing us from the world He leaves us to declare, through words and actions, the evidence of His grace in the gospel. He also leaves us in the world to train and fit us for eternity. Being a Christian in the world brings trails and persecutions. The thinking of our hearts is on full display before the world and before God as we face the same opposition Jesus endured.

Fear is both debilitating and freeing. When we fear we can see that which is in the thinking of our heart. Fearing the world tells us we do not trust God and want that which the world offers more than what God gives. When we fear God, by honoring Him as Creator, placing Him first, then nothing we encounter in this world can potentially or actually remove us from His presence.

I Cried Aloud

Meditations on the Psalms

I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:4 ESV)

Trust is an emotional response to a promise given by One fully capable of delivering upon that promise. In a world filled with people corrupted by sin, only God is trustworthy. It is to the only trustworthy God Jesus cries out, fully expecting an eternal, righteous, good and true answer.

To cryis to call out, to utter a loud sound, to proclaim, summon and invite. Thus, He cries out to God because He is surrounded by those who are trying to murder Him. All His adversaries consider Him incapable of ruling them and refuse to obey His commands. Instead, they conspire to kill Him, removing Him from authority over them, so they might rule themselves. His cry is for help from the One who has given Him dominion and ownership over the world and all it contains.

He who cries out expects an answer, knowing God hears and responds. Jesus is the only righteous One who lives, the blessed Man (Psalm 1:1). He acts and speaks with God’s full authority, being King over His kingdom. Jesus is God in the flesh and knows God will respond. God does answer, and His answer is eternal, fixed and finished.

Yet, the circumstances under which Jesus cries out to God look hopeless, final, showing a conclusion which seems to defeat the purposes of God. Even in the darkness, God is in control, working all things out according to His purpose and for His glory.

Jesus is on the cross, reviled and mocked by everyone. Then, darkness covers the face of the world as it appears God turns His back on His Son.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matthew 27:45-46 ESV; see Mark 15:34).

Jesus hangs helplessly on the cross, appearing to all as forsaken by God. Upon His bleeding, hyperextended shoulders, with arms stretched out, the weight of His body borne on the nails in his arms and feet, God places the sentence of death due to all because all people sinned.

Jesus became the propitiation for sin. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 ESV). Paul uses the same word. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith”(Romans 3:22-25 ESV). The word translated propitiationin the New Testament means mercy seatin the Hebrew Scriptures (see Exodus 25:17-22, Hebrews 9:5). It was upon the mercy seat, the covering of the Ark of the Covenant, the priest poured out blood once a year to atone for the sins of the people. The blood poured out would cover the broken Law, the Ten Commandments, from God’s sight. Jesus, the Mercy Seat, poured out His own blood for the sins of the people. His blood covers those who are His. For those who are God’s, He no longer sees their sin but the blood of His Son.

Jesus knew why God turned His back on Him. There was no other way to bring sinful, rebellious people back into His eternal presence other than someone fulfilling His demand for justice. Because of sin, someone had to die both a physical and a spiritual death, as demanded by God in the Garden.

God answers Jesus from eternity, His dwelling place. When Jesus died He “cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit”(Matthew 27:50 ESV; see Mark 15:37). Luke tells us His cry. “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last”(Luke 23:46 ESV). He intimately knew God, trusting Him to fulfill the purpose for which He was sent into the world. Jesus died, knowing death could not keep Him.

Jesus told His disciple beforehand all that would happen, including His death and resurrection. Nothing happened which was not ordained and decreed by God from eternity. Nothing can hinder the will of God.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.(Hebrews 5:7 ESV)

We cannot ignore the anguish and suffering Jesus endured, both physically and emotionally, while in this world. His crucifixion and death is His passion, a Latin word, passionem, which means a short period of suffering and enduring. Jesus endured intense suffering. During His ministry, His suffering was emotional. During His passion, His suffering was physical, compounded by the emotional. He suffered for us. God answered His prayer given for us.

Persecution

Meditations on the Psalms

how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul,there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2 ESV)

Even when surrounded by His enemies, Jesus never complains but looks to God for His deliverance. Foes means narrow and tight, an adversary, enemy or oppressor who is in close quarters. His enemies are rising or standing against Him with murderous hostility. Many is two different words. First, many means to increase, as in a mob of people that grows the longer it exists. Secondly, many means abounding, numerous, strong and great. Both words convey the thought everyone is against the One who is praying. Peoples and nations thunder in anger against the Lord, led and taught to do so by the kings and rulers of nations. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2).

Just as there is a tri-level, parallel statement describing the ungodly in Psalm 1, so there is a tri-level, parallel statement of those who seek to kill the Lord’s Anointed in this Psalm. Jesus’ first exclamation is to identify those who are seeking to murder Him, His many foes, followed by the truth of their rising up against Him followed by their mocking and ridiculing Him.

Jesus faced these three worldly reactions to His divine presence while nailed to a cross. Great crowds of people, including the religious leaders who condemned Him, came to watch the spectacle of a crucifixion. Plus, the place where the Romans crucified their victims was on a major road into Jerusalem. Travel wasn’t convenient at that time. This was the road many people had to use to enter and leave their capital city for commerce or religious reason.

While hanging helplessly on the cross, Jesus endured verbal abuse from the religion leaders instrumental in having Him murdered by the Romans. They mocked Him throughout His ministry and during His trial before the High Priest. They brought false testimony against Him to justify their actions. They knew His words and works and still mocked Him as He hung, tortured and dying, on the cross. “And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’” (Luke 23:35 ESV; see Matthew 27:28-43, Mark 15:29-32).

There was a second group of mockers at the foot of the cross. Pilate wrote and placed a placard and instructed the guards to hang it  over Jesus’ head while on the cross. “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38 ESV; see Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, John 19:19-22). Pilate specifically asked if Jesus thought He was the king of the Jews during His part of the kangaroo trial. The placard was an insult to the Jewish people. It suggested a crazy man was hanging below it on the cross. In addition, those directed by Pilate to crucify people had no political acumen or understanding of what they were doing. Trained to view people as objects, the soldiers heaped abuse on the Man. “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:37 ESV).

Jesus hung on a cross between two men found guilty of crimes against the people and empire of Rome. We do not know their crimes. “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left” (Luke 23:32-33 ESV; see Matthew 27:38, Mark 15: 27-28, John 19:18). One of the condemned criminals took up the chant of the religious leaders and Roman soldiers, chiding and mocking Jesus as He died with them. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39 ESV).

What is the taunt hurled at Jesus while on the Cross. It is what He prayed as revealed in the Psalm. “Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.”

The other criminal did not taunt Jesus but saw Him as innocent and undeserving of torture and death. “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41 ESV). He then spoke to Jesus, believing the Man dying on a cross next to him, dying as he would die, was the King of kings. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 ESV).

Jesus did not come to save Himself from the cross but to save everyone from the wrath of God and eternal separation from the absolute source of life. Jesus promised the man dying next to Him “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 ESV). Only God can deliver on such a promise.