Good Friday ~ 20120406 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

04/06 Good Friday

He saved others; he cannot save himself

Matthew 27:41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “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.

Mark 15:31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

Luke 23:35 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!”

The mocking of the religious leaders is dripping with irony. They meant it to be ironic; he who saved others is now rendered completely helpless. But the irony is deeper than even they knew. Could Jesus save himself? What would be the implications of that? What does it mean to be saved?

Jesus claimed to be able to summon more than twelve legions of angels to come to his assistance (Mt.26:53). If we really understand who Jesus is, we know that it was not the soldiers and the nails that held him on the cross. Hours earlier, he had spoken a word and the whole group that came to arrest him drew back and fell to the ground. In a few days, he will appear inside a locked room. No, it was not the nails or the soldiers that prevented him from saving himself. It was not his weakened physical condition, so weakened from the beatings and blood loss that he could not carry a wooden beam to the site of crucifixion, that kept him from coming down from the cross.

To understand what it means that he could not save himself, we need to look more carefully at what it means to be saved. The religious leaders acknowledged that Jesus had saved others. He had rescued others from sickness, from disease, from physical disabilities, even from death. But Jesus also saved in a more profound way. When a small group could not access Jesus because of the crowd, they startled everyone by digging through the roof and lowering their paralyzed friend down through the hole right in front of Jesus. Jesus startled everyone even more by the way he responded. Clearly the friends brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus because they believed he could make him walk again. But Jesus intends to save him on a much deeper level. He says “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Mt.9:2; cf. Mk.2:5; Lk.5:20).

When the angel told Joseph to name his fiance's baby 'Jesus', it was because 'he will save his people from their sins' (Mt.1:21). The name 'Jesus' or Yeshua means 'YHWH saves'.

When people grumbled because Jesus went to eat with a tax collector, a sinner of the worst kind, Jesus replied “today salvation has come to this house” and he said “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk.19:9-10).

When a woman of the streets came in and wet Jesus' feet with her tears and let down her hair to dry them, everyone at the table was outraged, because of the reputation of this woman. Jesus highlights the fact that she was not just your average sinner, but someone whose sins were many, and he turned to her and said “your sins are forgiven” (Lk.7:48).

Each time Jesus claimed to forgive sins, the crowds were shocked, because they rightly understood that all sins are ultimately an offense against God, and only the offended party can forgive sins. Jesus was making, in their opinion, the blasphemous claim to be God. We know that he was indeed claiming to be God, and that he was telling the truth. But even God does not forgive sins without appropriate sacrifice. God will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex.34:7; Num.14:18; Nah.1:3). A judge who says to a rapist or a murderer 'it's okay, I forgive you' would simply not be doing his job. He has an obligation to the state and to society and to the offended party to promote justice. God has an obligation to himself, to his own character. That is why Jesus is hanging on that cross. Because my sin has dishonored the infinite God, it demands and infinite punishment. I, a finite creature, could be punished for an infinite period of time; or the infinite God could pay the infinite price in my place. That is what is happening on the cross. Jesus, the infinite God, takes the guilt of my sins on himself and suffers infinite punishment. So when Jesus says to the paralyzed man or to the tax collector or to the woman of the city 'your sins are forgiven', he is saying not only that he is God, the offended party, but also that he can justly forgive because he is about to pay the infinite price. Jesus said he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt.20:28; Mk.10:45).

When the rulers mocked Jesus, saying 'he saved others; he cannot save himself', the irony was that they spoke a truth deeper than they knew. In order to save others in the deepest sense, he could not save himself.

They also said “let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” This, too, on a superficial level was probably true. If Jesus summoned twelve legions of angels and supernaturally freed himself from the nails and healed himself of the scars and revealed his true identity in a blaze of transfiguration glory, the religious leaders would have to eat their words and would be forced to acknowledge that this Jesus must indeed be who he claimed to be. But that is not what believing, in the distinctly Christian sense, is. When a Christian says 'I believe in Jesus', what they mean is 'I am trusting in Jesus to forgive my sins based on the payment he made on the cross.' A Jesus who came down from the cross would be a Jesus who chose to disobeyed his Father. A Jesus who came down from the cross would be a Jesus who aborted the saving work he came to accomplish at its most critical point. That would be a Jesus who offered forgiveness but refused to make the necessary payment. A Jesus who came down from the cross would not be a Jesus worthy being believed in, in the truest sense of the word. For Jesus to be the object of our saving faith, he could not come down from the cross. He could not come down, not because of inability, but out of obedience and love. Jesus willfully chose to endure the cross so that we who believe in him could be saved.