A Resurrection Day Meditation
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “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!”
As I came to this passage while meditating on the passion narrative two things came to mind – a question and a conclusion. The question: If Jesus did come down from the cross, would those who hurled insults and mocked him have believed he was in fact the Son of God? The conclusion: No, most if not all who mocked would not have believed. The reason: there’s a recurring theme in scripture that talks about the spiritual blindness of people. It’s described as having eyes to see, but not seeing. I’ll paraphrase it as missing the big picture.
Mockers at the Cross Miss the Big Picture
With the exception of the centurion who realized by his manner of death that Jesus was the Son of God (Mark 15.39), those at the cross who hurled insults were no doubt oblivious to the truth of Jesus’ identity and the many spiritual dynamics going on at the cross: That Jesus, the Son of God was, making atonement for the whole world (John 3.16) by dying in our stead on the cross. (1 Pe 3.18) And though Jesus could have commanded he be taken off the cross by angels (Matt 26.53); as Jesus had already pointed out to his disciples, if he did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way (Matt 26.54) – with his death on a cross?
Aside from my sneaking suspicion that even if Jesus had come down, they wouldn’t believe, it also seems apparent that in their ignorance those calling for him to come down likely missed the big picture: That on the third day God did a greater and grander miracle – by raising Jesus from the dead. It is only the small thinking of mere humans to meagerly try to avoid death. Rising from death is a much more powerful testimony, appropriate to the Son of God. In fact, as the apostle Paul points out – the resurrection from the dead is Jesus’ power-packed and unassailable proof that he is in fact the Son of God (Rom 1.4), the second person of the holy trinity.
Still, even with the testimony of conquering death, many will not believe. Why not? Some get so distracted or blinded by their assumptions they miss the point. That was the case with some responses to my previous article. Such get distracted by their own biases against God or scripture, or apparent contradictions in Gospel narratives that they themselves can’t explain, or a basic hardness of heart that keeps them from accepting the truth. Thus they miss (perhaps intentionally) the big picture. Let me give you one more example:
The death of Judas
The account of Judas’ death is told by both Matthew (Matt 27.1-9) and Luke. (Luke’s account is in Acts 1.16-20). The details vary, and that has caused some people problems concerning the reliability of scripture. In his commentary on Matthew, Don Carson explains well the apparent contradictions. So setting gospel harmony questions aside, if you take a step back and look at the big picture you see both passages make similar points: Judas finally realized what his greed had led him to do: betray the innocent Son of God to those looking for a way to kill him. And due to his lack of repentance he effectively acquired for himself the only thing left for him: a place outside of God’s kingdom: a field used to bury foreigners (catch the symbolism there?) called the field of blood. A name appropriate to both his act (betraying innocent blood) and his death (falling into that field and spilling his own blood there).
When Judas confessed Jesus’ innocence to the priests (Matt 27.4) they basically tell him they don’t care, that’s his problem. He then realizes the gravity of what he’s done. But he still does not see the big picture. He is still so lost, so bound to the deceits of the one he has really followed all his life – the father lies (John 8.44), that he does not realize, does not see that he has spent the last three years with one “full of grace” (John 1.14) to whom he could run. But his problem is he does not trust Jesus to be faithful and just in what the apostle John tells us to trust Jesus for: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9)
After all, could not he who forgave those who nailed him to the cross (Luke 23.33-34) have forgiven the one who turned him over to be nailed to a cross? Of course he could have. But Judas wasn’t forgiven. Why? Because Judas never saw the big picture of grace and forgiveness. So Judas never asked for forgiveness. Instead he chose the way of his father, another son of perdition, and chose the way of death.
Moses’ Question is for every Generation
Just before the children of Israel go into the promised land after their exodus from Egypt, Moses puts to them a choice:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
With the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth before us, that same choice is put to us, but now it’s in sharp relief. Jesus has proven time and again that he is in fact who he says he is:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
He proved it with Lazarus. And he proved it with his own resurrection from the dead. The only question now is which path will you take? Will you take the path of Judas, who though being with the Son of God for three years, still did not see the big picture and could not figure out that Jesus was in fact the only way to life (John 14.6), and so chose death? Or will you, like Thomas, stop your doubting, believe and choose and embrace the truth, the big picture of all of that happened that first Sunday after the Crucifixion: Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death, and offering life to all who will believe.
Recognize what Jesus has done for you and confess before him as Thomas did and say:
“My Lord and my God”
For the Lord is risen. He is risen indeed.
1. Verses that include the theme of eyes that don’t see, ears that don’t hear:
Ps 115.5, Ps 135.16, Is 6.9-10, Is 32.3, Is 44.18, Jer 5.21, Eze 12.2, Matt 13.14-15, Mark 4.12, John 12.40, Acts 28.26-27
2. The previous article was a warning to not ignore warnings (based on the seven headed beast of Revelation) But Instead of seeing a warning, many just saw what in their minds was nothing more than a fairytale. Such blindness results in foolish responses such as “What if I’m looking forward to eternal torment?” Like mockers at the cross, such miss the point of the warnings in Revelation. For my response, see here.
3. D.A. Carson, “Matthew” in the The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8, Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984, pp. 560-566
Carson explains well the difficulties, but such detail his beyond the scope of this article.
4. For those claiming Jesus never existed or gospel accounts are fiction, how does one explain the naming of the field of blood, it’s associated story, and its existence to this day?. Historian Dave Stotts points out a possible location of the field of blood in his series Drive Through History with Dave Stotts – Acts to Revelation – The World Of the First Christians, Ep 01, TBN Broadcast 5/25/2019
5. ό υιος ό απωλειας – ho uios ho apōleias – The “son of perdition” or “the one doomed to destruction” is used only twice in the New Testament, once referring to Judas (John 17.12), once referring to the antichrist (2 Thess 2.3). Thus in choosing death – he is behaving like the antichrist – who also perishes because he refuses “to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thess 2.10) – just like the people he deceives.
Resurrection Tapestry in the Vatican Museum ID 163660473 © William Perry | Dreamstime.com