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The Cross: Jesus Didn’t Save Himself

The God of Paradox

In the hours leading up to and while on the cross, Jesus endured some incredibly cruel mockery. Some of the mockery was physically painful (i.e. the crown of thorns), but some of the mockery was meant to be emotionally painful.

I’m thinking particularly of the religious leaders who mocked Jesus by saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:31-32).

Of course, the religious leaders didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ or the King of Israel, but they said they would believe if He were to come down from the cross at that moment.

Isn’t that what Jesus wanted? Didn’t He come so that people would believe in Him?

Well, yes and no. No, Jesus’ goal was not merely to demonstrate power so that people would be impressed by His strength. He would actually withdraw from crowds who merely wanted to see a miracle (see John 6:15).

But yes, Jesus came to be believed. He taught and healed and died on the cross so that people would believe in Him for eternal salvation.

So, when the religious leaders mocked him in that way, they were unknowingly proclaiming a profound truth: Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah, the King of Israel, precisely because He didn’t come down from the cross. Because He willingly bore the Father’s wrath against sin and didn’t exercise His ability to get down off the cross, He is qualified to be our Savior.

This seems absurd to our human understanding. How can a Savior not have the ability to save Himself? If you want to be trusted as the Savior, show us you have the power to save yourself.

But Jesus showed a much greater power than getting down from the cross. Jesus willingly stayed on the cross. In love for His people and with desire to honor His Father, Jesus did not come down from the cross.

They didn’t believe in Him because He stayed on the cross, but we believe in Him because He didn’t come down from the cross. If Jesus had been tempted by their taunts, there would be no hope of salvation for us.

In the death of the Son of God, God offers salvation to all who will trust in Jesus.

There are countless lessons for us in these truths. The one that comes to mind for our world today is this: Just because God doesn’t do what we want Him to do when we want Him to do it, doesn’t mean He is doing nothing.

We’ve asked God to demolish this Coronavirus. We’ve asked Him to slow the transmission of this disease. We’ve asked him to bring back our jobs and our sports and our normal. He could and may do that at any moment, but He may also have 10,000 other good plans that He isn’t finished accomplishing yet.

Just because Jesus didn’t look to the mockers like He was doing anything significant while hanging on the cross, does not mean that He was not redeeming a multitude of people and reconciling all things to Himself.

So, when it seems as if God is not answering our prayers; when it seems as if He has turned a deaf ear to our cries for healing or help, don’t assume He is not actively accomplishing His purposes. We must trust that He is doing things that we cannot see…and He is working it all for our good…all because Jesus did not save Himself.

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