Those who passed by [Jesus] 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!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “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. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
When we look at the crucifixion of Jesus in retrospect, through the lens of a believing Christian, it is easy to feel sorrow at the events that transpire. However, how would we have acted had we been present then? It is a serious question.
In this passage, we witness the taunting and jeering of the passers-by. They hurl insults at Jesus, challenging him to save himself if he truly is the Son of God. The religious leaders also join in the mockery, adding to the scorn and contempt directed toward Jesus. They taunt him, saying, "He saved others, but he can't save himself." They had heard of Jesus' miracles and acts of compassion, but they failed to grasp the significance of his sacrificial death. Their hearts remain hardened, closed off to the transformative power of God's love. Even one of the criminals crucified alongside Jesus joins in the reviling.
Would we have acted any differently, accustomed as we are to following the crowd mindlessly? The world says, "Jump," and we jump through hoops even without question, much less protest.
However, there is some hope to be found in this story. The other criminal crucified with Jesus takes a different stance. He rebukes the mocking criminal and defends Jesus, acknowledging his own guilt and Jesus' innocence. He recognizes Jesus' authority and makes a humble request, saying, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." In his simple but sincere plea, this repentant criminal demonstrates a glimpse of faith and receives a remarkable response from Jesus, assuring him of his place in Paradise.
Let us examine whether we have truly understood the depth of Jesus' sacrifice and the significance of his kingship. Do we recognize Jesus as the Son of God, the Suffering Servant who willingly endured the cross for our redemption? Are our hearts open to the transformative power of his love and grace? These are not questions just for unbelievers, but for believers too.
May the Spirit be with you.