The Crucifixion of Christ (Part 3)
As Jesus hung on the cross in agony, "the people stood looking on" (Luke 23:35). The scene had an awful fascination which many could not resist. Even the rulers sneered at Him saying - "He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God" (cf. Prov. 24:17,18). Ironically, they unknowingly speak the great truth of the atonement here--Jesus would not save Himself so He could in fact save others for all eternity (and not just temporarily via miraculous healings).

They claimed that they would "believe Him" if He came down from the cross (Matt. 27:42), yet His being "lifted up" on the cross (coupled with His resurrection) was the very act which would convince them (John 8:28; cf. Matt. 12:39,40).

The Jewish authorities had perhaps feared that He would save Himself, but now they jeer at Him, confidently thinking that He could not do so. They were not willing to let Him die in peace. In their view, this was the only time they had ever gotten the best of Him, and they intended to savor every moment!

"Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days" (Mark 15:29). They remind Jesus of His words about destroying the temple, when they were committing the very act! Jesus had not referred to the physical temple, but the temple of His own body, which they would destroy (kill) and He would rebuild (resurrect; cf. John 2:19-22).

"The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine" (Luke 23:36). Why should they sit quietly and watch when they can join in the "fun" (cf. Psa. 69:21)?

"If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself" (Luke 23:37; cf. Psa. 22:6-8). If He really was a king, they desired that He show His authority as such by coming down from the cross. They did not understand that although Jesus desired such and could have saved Himself from the cross, He simply would not--because it wasn't the Father's will! His flesh strongly longed to escape the torture, but His spirit longed even more strongly for the salvation of men. Thus, He stayed on the cross and refrained from calling the legions of angels that He could have summoned. It wasn't the nails that held the Son of God to the cross, it was His love (cf. John 3:16; 10:11)!

"Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him" (Luke 23:39). All of His mockers assumed that since God did not rescue Him, then He could not be the Messiah. Of course, this criminal takes the mockery a step further by taunting - "Save Yourself and us."

Luke records that one of the crucifixion victims blasphemed Jesus, and the other defended Him. Matthew and Mark both make a statement about the crucified robbers reviling Him with the same thing as the others had. Thus, there are two possibilities: either both of the robbers initially mocked Him and one later had a change of heart or the statements in Matthew and Mark must be interpreted in a general way (i.e., one robber reviled Him, and thus it could be stated that "the robbers," in general, blasphemed Him).

"But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?'" (Luke 23:40). He seems to be saying: "Why join in with these spectators at our own crucifixion? Don't you realize that we shall shortly have to stand before Almighty God and give an account of ourselves (cf. Rom. 14:10; Heb. 9:27)?! Obviously, this thief understood something of the fear of God as he spoke this rebuke.

"And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23:41). The thief makes it clear that Jesus was dying a death that He didn't deserve. They, on the other hand, were receiving the penalty for their wrongdoing. How did He know that Jesus had done nothing wrong? Perhaps he, due to Jesus' popularity, was acquainted with His teachings, miracles, and what others had said about Him. Also, it is certain that being in the presence of the Lord as He suffered so honorably would have had an influence upon the man (e.g., Jesus praying for His enemies).

We will continue our study of the crucifixion of Christ in our next lesson.