Jesus came to save. That’s true. Yet to save the world, he had to die to take on our punishment upon himself. Jesus’ victory and his display of his ultimate power came on the day of resurrection. Not on the day of sacrifice and crucifixion. He would not save himself.
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:26-27, 32-43
The rulers, the soldiers, and one of the criminals all challenged Jesus with the same statement: “Save yourself!”
If you are the saviour of others, save yourself. If you are God’s Messiah, the Chosen One, save yourself. If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself. Of course, Jesus was able to save himself. He was able to invoke his powers and take himself off the cross. But he would not.
This exchange, to me, is reminiscent of Luke 4 where Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God…” Jesus wouldn’t be caught up in Satan’s temptations and lies. His purpose was clear. Using his power to save himself or to serve himself was not consistent with the mission to save us.
Jesus came to save. That’s true. Yet to save the world, he had to die to take on our punishment upon himself. Jesus’ victory and his display of his ultimate power came on the day of resurrection. Not on the day of sacrifice and crucifixion.
Although Jesus wouldn’t give in to the taunts and temptations, he did save someone on that cross. The criminal beside him realized Jesus was innocent and he believed Jesus is Messiah. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus promised the man, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
And so we see again, during the hour that darkness reigned, God’s mercy shines through in grace and forgiveness. This is our God. This is our Saviour. Jesus Christ.