Summary: The Chief Preists and Teachers of the Law challenged Jesus to save Himself, come down off the cross... then they’d believe in Him. Why didn’t He do that?
OPEN: April 15th was just this past week, and I ran across this bit of information about the IRS that I wanted to share with you this morning. According to the "Newhouse News Service:"
Over the past 193 years, the federal government has received approximately $4 million in unsolicited funds from guilt stricken Americans who feel they have cheated the government and want to clear their consciences.
Such money is usually received anonymously and is added to the Treasury Department’s obscure “Conscience Fund” almost every day. In recent years, the fund has received a check for 16 cents to cover the cost of two 8 cent stamps the donor said he had illegally reused. Another check was for $50 to cover the cost of a theft the donor said he had committed at an unnamed railway station 58 years earlier. Occasionally, the amounts are substantial. A few years back the government received, out of the blue, a $139,000 payment to settle old income tax debts.
The 1st deposit of conscience money is believed to have been made in 1811 during James Madison’s presidency and amounted to $5. Officials at the Treasury Dept. say that money has arrived in a steady trickle ever since, usually accompanied by brief letters explaining why the donors are sending the funds and offering their apologies, like this excerpt from a recent donor:
“While I was in the U.S. Air Force for 4 years, I took a few things that did not belong to me. I am now a Christian and would like to make it right. I don’t know the exact value but this $100 should cover it.”
APPLY: People react in unpredictable ways to the things of life that bother them.
Some have their consciences stirred and they attempt to make right what they once did wrong.
But then there are other people, who not only don’t let their conscience bother them… they go out of their way to destroy and humiliate anything or anyone who makes them feel inferior or small.
That’s what we see happening at the foot of the cross.
People seem to go out of their way to humiliate and taunt Jesus as He hangs helpless and dying.
Notice, nobody says anything to either of the thieves that hang on the crosses on either side…
BUT it appears that just about everybody gangs up on Jesus
Mark 15:29 tells us “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads…
In Mark 15:31 - In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him…
Luke 23:36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him…
And then: Matthew 27:44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Seemingly everybody who was there felt it was worth their time to degrade Jesus and verbally abuse Him.
I. But why? Why would these people do that?
I thought about that for a long time. It seemed inconceivable that anyone would do that type of thing to any person enduring such torment. It baffles the mind that anyone could be that callous. But then, I began to realize there might be many good reasons (if you could call them "good") why those who mocked Jesus would treat Him like that.
* One possible reason might be: that’s just how people are. There are many people who enjoy kicking others while they’re down. Like school yard bullies they get their enjoyment out of picking on the helpless and downtrodden.
ILLUS: Have you ever noticed in the check out lane - those "news" magazines that are on display? Actually, they are more trashy than newsy. I have always wondered why anybody bought those terrible things. But then, as I was working on this sermon, it became obvious… these magazines were allowing people to do something they could never do in real life - kick others when they are down. If you look at the cover of any of those magazines, you find they are exposing someone’s adulterous or immoral relationships, that they’ve had a baby out of wedlock or they are have been victimized by treacherous lover. Sometimes there is the picture of a famous actress engulfed in tears or a politician with an embarrassed look on their face.
Why do those magazines sell? Because they allow the reader to vicariously engage in kicking the beautiful and the famous while they are down.
ILLUS: Or consider some of the reality shows on TV. Some are known as "Mean TV" because of the degrading atmosphere they plunge their participants into. I had the misfortune of being trapped in a hospital waiting room while one of these "reality shows" was playing out and I watched as the women on the show were interviewed. Their comments about each other were belittling and mean spirited. Why would the producers of those shows dwell on this type of bitter behavior? Because they believe that is what their viewers want - the opportunity to silently take part in the destruction of other people.