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Taunts Answered by the Resurrection of Jesus

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March 27, 2016

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)

The suffering of Jesus came in many forms.  At the beginning of his passion, he was abandoned by his friends.  Then he was abused by his enemies who flogged him, struck him and spit on him.  He was falsely accused and denied justice.

The role of the law is to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.  But in the case of Jesus, the full force of legal condemnation and the death penalty were brought against an innocent man.  Pilate, who presided as the judge of Jesus, said, “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38).  The judge said this!

In the case of Jesus, the law was used, not to enforce justice, but to impose the will of the people.  Then, when Jesus was nailed to the cross, he suffered the taunts and the mockery of many people.

Christ endured all that hell is on the cross, and mockery is part of the misery that sinners inflict on one another in hell.  The Scripture points to this quite clearly.  In Isaiah 14, there is a scene where a powerful ruler arrives in hell and immediately is greeted with taunts about how he has lost his power.

You too have become weak as we!

You have become like us!  (Isa. 14:10)

You are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you:

Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms?  (Isa. 14:15-16)

Klaas Schilder was a Dutch theologian who wrote about the crucifixion of Jesus at greater length and with greater insight than anyone else I have ever read.  I return to his books very often, and especially as we approach Easter.

This is what Schilder says about the mocking and taunting of Jesus: “The Bible itself teaches us the nature of the mockery of hell… One soul spews out his misery and despair against another… Each lost person gloats over the misery of the one who is lost with him in the eternal darkness.” [1]

When you see that, you will immediately recognize that there is a taste of hell in the taunting of Jesus.  The mocking was part of his enduring all that hell is on the cross.

What Were the Taunts?

Many things were said in mockery of Jesus as he hung in agony on the cross.  But of all that was said, the taunt that was most often repeated was the call for Jesus to save himself.  That taunt was repeated by no less than six different groups of people.

 1. The rulers

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)

2. The soldiers

The soldiers also mocked him… saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:36-37)

3. The criminals

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)

4 and 5. The priests and scribes

So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself” (Mark 15:30-31).

6. The priests, scribes and elders

The chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself” (Matthew 27:41-42).

Six groups of people all taunting Jesus—rulers, soldiers, criminals, priests, scribes and elders.

They say different things, but they all unite around one theme: “Save yourself!  You said you could save others, but you cannot save yourself.”

You can see there echoes of the taunts of hell that we saw in Isaiah 14.  “Look what has become of you!  You say you are the Son of God but you are just like us!  You have become as weak as we are.  You cannot save yourself!”

Jesus Chose Not to Save Himself
Because He Came to Save Us

When the mockers taunt Jesus by saying, “He saved others,” they give an unintended, an unconscious witness to the reason for his coming into the world.  Why did Jesus come into the world?

  • The angel said to Joseph that Mary would “bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
  • “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
  • “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

It is quite clear from the taunts of Jesus’ enemies that “He saved others” was something that was widely said about Jesus.  He had healed a blind man, a man who was lame, and a woman with a hemorrhage.  He had raised the daughter of Jairus, the son of a widow from Nain, and his own dear friend Lazarus.  Word had gotten around and people said, “He saved others.”

Jesus made it very clear that he had the power, at any point in the course of his suffering, to save himself.  When Jesus was betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew a sword as if to defend him.  But Jesus said, “You put it away, and here’s why: Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mat. 26:53).

But Jesus chose not to save himself, because he came to save us.  What would have happened if Jesus had saved himself?  The answer is that it would have been the end of the world.  If Jesus had saved himself, human history would have ended 2,000 years ago.

Here’s why: The day when we crucified the Son of God was the day when our human rebellion against God reached its fullest and foulest expression.  If ever there was a day when the judgment of God must fall on the world and on the human race, this was it.

But when Jesus was nailed to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  In these words, Jesus was isolating himself under the judgment of God.  He was saying, “Father, I know your judgment must fall today.  It’s inevitable.  But let it fall on me and not on them!  Forgive them!  Extend grace to them!”

Schilder says about the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them,” that “this statement [was the] means [by] which He kept the world together through all ensuing centuries” [2]

If Jesus had not said, “Father, forgive them!” none of us would be here today.  But Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world.  He came so that the world, through him, might be saved.  And saving us meant not saving himself.

The logic of the taunters was that if Jesus had the power to save others, he should prove it, by showing that he could save himself.  But if Jesus had saved himself from the cross, he would not have been able to save others.

Saving others meant bearing our sins, enduring our hell, and going down into death in order to make a way through it for us.  So the only way Jesus could save others was by not saving himself!  Saving himself would have meant condemning us.  Thank God Jesus didn’t listen to the taunters!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.

Sealed my pardon with his blood: Hallelujah what a Savior! [3]

Jesus Answered the Taunts of His Enemies
by Raising Himself From the Dead.

The Bible speaks of the resurrection of Jesus both as the work of the Father and as the work of the Son.  Someone has said, “The resurrection was God the Father’s thundering ‘Amen!’ to Jesus’ loud cry, ‘It is finished!’” [4]

  • This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses (Acts 2:32).
  • Paul, an apostle…through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (Gal. 1:1).

But equally, the Scripture also speaks of the resurrection of Jesus as an act that Christ accomplished by his own divine power.  This should not surprise us.  Jesus said on one occasion: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19).  The Father and the Son are one in nature, one in love, one in purpose and one in action.

So our Lord speaks very clearly about raising himself from the dead.

  • Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
  • 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 (John 10:17-18).

This is how Jesus answered the taunts of his mockers.  He did not save himself from the cross.  He did something better: He raised himself from the dead!  And he did this for us!  He died for us and he rose for us.  Saving others meant not saving himself from the cross.  Saving others meant raising himself from the dead!

Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25).  Later we read these marvelous words: “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10).

At the heart of the Christian faith stands a risen Savior, a living Savior, who came into the world to save us.  The reason he is able to save us is that he did not save himself, but endured all that was involved in bearing our sin, our death and our hell.  And he is able to save us because he rose from the dead and he offers himself, and all that he has accomplished, to all who will receive him.

Jesus offers more than a creed to believe in or a code to live by, he offers himself, the Savior who has triumphed over sin, death, and hell and is able to deliver all who belong to him.

The taunters said to Jesus, “Save yourself!  Come down from the cross and we will believe in you.”  His unspoken answer was, “I will not save myself from the cross.  But I will raise myself from the dead and I will become the sovereign Lord who offers salvation to others.”

That’s who Jesus is and Jesus Christ offers himself to all of us today.  And this risen Savior is able to say to you what no one else can say to you: “I can take away sin for you.  I can change the nature of death for you.  I can block off hell and open an entrance to heaven for you.  I am able to do this because I am the Lord.  I am ready and willing to do this because I am the Savior.  And to that end I offer myself to you!”  Who else do you know, or have you ever heard of, who can offer anything remotely like this to you?

Jesus Christ calls all of us to believe in him.  There is a real choice here for every person.  And it comes to us in a fresh way this Easter: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! Quit trying to be your own lord and savior and give that over to him.

Will you take your stand with Jesus Christ today?  Christ offers himself to you.  Why would you not make him yours today?  Believe in Jesus, the Son of God, who died and rose again.  Here’s what that means: You’ve got to place your life into his hands—all that you have been, all that you are, and all that you hope to be.  Ask him to deal with your past sins.  Trust him to help you in your present struggles.  Look to him as the one who will usher you into the joys of his everlasting life.

As you do, you will be able to say with all who embrace him as Lord and Savior: “He bore sin for me, so I could be draped in his righteousness.  He endured hell for me, so I could enter his heaven.  He suffered death for me, so that I may enjoy life with him forever and ever!”

Thank God, Jesus did not save himself from the cross!  Thank God, he raised himself from the dead and he is our living Savior!

[1] Klass Schilder, Christ Crucified, p. 211, Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001.

[2] Ibid., p. 228.

[3] Philip P. Bliss, from the hymn, Hallelujah! What a Savior, 1875.

[4] Albert N. Martin, The Glory of Christ’s Resurrection, in Free Grace Broadcaster, Issue 235, p. 4, Mount Zion Bible Church, 2016.


© Colin S. Smith

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