“So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “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. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.” (Matthew 27:41-44)
“‘He saved others, but he can’t save himself!’ Their words, spoken as an insult, were the literal truth. He could not save himself and others simultaneously. He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save the world.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this John Stott quote. Have you ever stopped to think that the crowd’s barbs — “He saved others; he can’t save himself” — were true? That, in choosing to sacrifice himself on the cross, your sin upon his shoulders, Jesus purposefully fulfilled the mocking crowd’s words? He, the true King of Israel, trusting God as none other, breathed his dying breath for one reason: He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save those the Father had given him. For:
He could not save himself if he wanted to save you.
He chose instead, with his dying breath, to buy life. Life for you. Life for me. Life for those whose sin must be paid for: Yours. Mine.
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.
As we enter into this week before Easter, more than all the fleeting or worrying or enticing thoughts that daily battle for my mind’s time, I want to think about this astounding truth: it was my sin that held him there.
But not only that.
It was his unimaginable love that held him there. He chose to sacrifice himself. Oh, the mercy! So immense and so free! And, oh this astounding thought: it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, should choose to die for me?
Another piece to read this Easter week: the true agony of the cross
Hymn: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, by Stuart Townend
Painting: Let Him Be Crucified, by James Tissot (1836-1902)