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cross convictions

And those who passed by derided him (Jesus on the cross, AD 30, Jerusalem), wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 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: 39-44
The crosses we draw when we play noughts and crosses are different from the crosses which we draw to describe the indicate the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The X - the non-religious cross – is a sign of reversal, of crossing from down to up, up to down, left to right, right to left. 

But it is also a sign that something nearby is incorrect – is quite wrong. Having used the cross to describe reversals, Matthew described three groups of people who were there – and who got it totally wrong. A non-religious group, a religious group and two criminals.

The non-religious group were passers-by. Strangely, Matthew wrote that these were “shaking their heads” when speaking. Were they shaking them up and down? Or shaking them left and right? Maybe both? But, in their words, they were ridiculing the dying man. 

They were saying, “So, you’re going to destroy the temple and build it again in three days? Then save yourself! Come down from the stake, if you’re the Son of God!” 

‘A belief is what you hold; a conviction is what holds you.’ (Anon.) 
Were they thinking that the Son of God had zero power? Was it gross weakness which enabled him to give himself to an awful death? Did he not, full of suffering, take the place of others who were and are his enemies – but who would turn? 

'At all costs save yourself' – was the cry of the religious bystanders, certain in their own minds that he had zero power to do so.. 

What about the religious group, headed by the chief priests with the lawyers and senior citizens joining in? They laughed at Jesus, taunting him, saying, “He saved others but he can’t save himself! It’s the King of Israel! He must come down now from the stake! Then we’ll believe in him. He trusts in God. God must rescue him now if he wants him. He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 

First, they mock him for being unable to save himself despite the fact that, before his crucifixion, he’d saved others. He’d healed the multitudes. He’d brought back Jairus’s daughter to life – as well as the widow’s son in Nain village and Lazarus who had already been buried. The religious group had triumphed. They’d been successful in having him killed. He couldn’t possibly raise himself from death.

Second, that group said, “He’s the King of Israel! He must come down now from the stake! Then we’ll believe in him." A sarcastic promise that, if he came down, they’d go from unbelief to belief. 

But what do you think? Would you believe in a Jesus who had powerfully escaped death there in AD 30, instead of going through with it? And being raised three days later.

‘You never know how much you really believe anything until it becomes a matter of life and death to you.’ (C S Lewis, writer and academic, 1898-1963)
Third, they reached a rational conclusion. “He trusts in God. God must rescue him now if he wants him. After all, he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” They were vociferously claiming that he was clearly not the Son of God – for if that were so God would have saved him from this cruel stake. Would he?

What, in fact, did God the Father want from His Son? My own view is that, like any earthly father, God would want his son to obey him and to act and think like him – like God His Father. And that’s exactly what he did – at Golgotha.

Matthew ends with a report on the opinion of two criminals. “In the same way the robbers who were being crucified with Jesus also rubbished him.”

These Xs, these crosses, these incorrect answers, suppositions and conclusions – are they continuing today? Of course they are – because those who hold them are, as far as they know, right.

Sinner Syvret

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