Christ’s bitterest foes arrayed themselves around the cross, like the hungry dogs and bulls of Bashan which David spoke prophetically of in Psalm 22, mocking, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”  Yes, they even acknowledge that Christ’s gracious power had delivered many from terrible diseases!  But in their heartless, hypocritical religion, they make His kindness towards the son of men an object of ridicule rather than one of praise.  They too spoke unintentionally a Gospel truth, for though Christ has delivered many by His saving power, in order for that salvation to be effective He could not deliver Himself from the cross.  He had power as God to do whatsoever He pleased, but it would be against the will of God to betray His own purposes and destroy His perfect counsel of salvation.  Therefore, because of the will of God and His great desire for the salvation of sinful men, the same Christ Who has delivered others could not deliver Himself from the torture of the cross.

The chief priests, the scribes, and elders, derided Him, daring Him to prove Himself the King of Israel.  Still they were stupidly unaware that Christ’s kingdom was not of this world, and that “they are not all Israel which are of Israel.”  The teaching of John the Baptist and of Christ had never penetrated their stupefied consciousness, that it did no man any good to be a physical son of Abraham if he were not a spiritual son.  These men proved here for all the world to see that the word Christ had spoken of them was true, that they were of their father the Devil.  They had witnessed so many of Christ’s miracles that it is impossible to believe their taunting boast, that if He were to deliver Himself from the cross they would believe Him.  Nay, they would have been quick to nail Him there again, so cold and impenetrable was their unbelief.  But, bitterest of all, they hurl at Him the taunt that He had trusted in God, that He had even declared Himself to be the Son of God.  “Let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him.”  Again, we see in God’s marvelous providence that Christ’s own enemies were speaking a profound truth, even if to them it was a calumny and a lie.  Christ had always trusted His Father with sublime, undoubting reliance.  No man ever rejoiced in his God as did Jesus Christ.  But, even so, that same glorious God Who was well pleased with His beloved Son, would not, yea, could not deliver Him.  It was according to His own determinate counsel that Christ had been taken by wicked hands to be crucified and slain.  The Father had in the ancient days of eternity purposed a great host of sinners to salvation, and that will could only be accomplished through the immense suffering of His beloved Son.  The time to prove Christ’s acceptance before all men and angels would come shortly, but for now He must be utterly forsaken of God, to suffer the full penalty of One Who had been made sin.

Not only did the bystanders and religious leaders mock our Lord Jesus, for Matthew says that the suffering thieves were not so absorbed in their own suffering but that they “cast the same in His teeth.”  This becomes far more marvelous when we compare Matthew’s account with Luke’s, where we discover that on that same cross from which He derided the Lord Jesus, one thief’s heart was changed, and He pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, remember me when Thou art come into Thy kingdom.”  And our gracious Lord, rather than reviling His former tormentor, graciously promised him a place in paradise that very day.  Every one of us stands before God like one of these two thieves.  All are condemned, all doomed to die, but on that one middle cross is hope for the condemned.  If we, like the penitent thief, turn an eye of faith towards the suffering Saviour, we can be delivered from condemnation; we too, may be assured a place in paradise with Christ, if only we will repent and hate our sin, and trust in Him.

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