Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 6. Helpless
Mt 27:40 “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
We said in an earlier meditation that ‘crucifixion’ tends to refer the event while references to ‘the Cross’ tend to refer to the significance (in theology if you like) or meaning of it, but we have to amend that for there are references that use the word ‘cross’ where it is no more and no less than that physical means of killing someone, the place or means where Christ eventually (and it was an ‘eventually’) died.
And thus it is in our verse above. Christ is now hanging on the wooden cross in agony and here, in this glimpse, this quick frame in history, we see something that is incredible, something I find that almost takes my breath away. It is Christ’s voluntary helplessness. The same thing is implied a few verses later: “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” (Mt 27:42)
Just think about this, not what we know of Jesus who is the Son of God who has left heaven and come down, but Jesus the miracle worker, Jesus the caller of men. For three years and throughout the pages of the four Gospels we see Jesus in total control. He resists Satan’s temptations (e.g. Mt 4:1-10), and when a crowd manhandle him out of the synagogue and go to throw him down a hill, he simply “walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Lk 4:30) He walks on water (e.g. Mt 14:25), he stills a storm (Mk 4:39), he heals hundreds (Mt 4:24, 12:15, 14:14 etc.) delivered from the demonic (e.g. Mt 9:33, 17:18 etc.) and he raised the dead (e.g. Lk 7:12-, 8:49-, Jn 11). He would not be cajoled into premature action (see Jn 2:3,4, 7:1-6).
No, what we see in all these examples, and we could add even more, is the Son of God in complete control of the circumstances. He IS the Son of God with all power and authority given to him, an authority which caused men to marvel (e.g. Mk 1:27) and yet, now, we find him hanging on a cross, gradually dying, with passers by (v.40) and the religious establishment (v.41,42) deriding and mocking him – and he takes it!
It has been commented upon by others that in this we see the incredible humility of God. At his arrest he held back impetuous Peter with, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt 26:53) We might say all of the power and resources of heaven were at his disposal but that was not the way. Instead it was the way of total submission to the forces of evil in mankind and utter helplessness. Worship him!