Summary: Lent Midweek 5: "If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross." The words of those who mocked Jesus. Ironically, by staying on the Cross, the Lord demonstrated his power. If He had come down - He would not have been worth believing.
Note: This is an original sermon, however it is a message based on a Lenten series titled, "The Ironies of the Passion." This message was developed from an outline provided at a Lenten workshop where it was offered along with other resources for use during Lenten worship.
Never kick a man while He is down. Seems like good advice for those who understand the concept of fair play. Never let it be said that the religious leaders who had Jesus executed knew about fair play. “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.” There’s profound irony in their words. The Jews mocked Jesus, challenging Him to come down from the cross. And ironically, they probably would have “believed” in Jesus if He had come down. But then, if Jesus had used his divine power to come down from the cross – to save Himself - He would not have been worth believing in.
For whom were the religious leaders speaking? When they, in no uncertain words said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross and we will believe.” The echoes of someone else saying, “If you are the Son of God,” still reverberate. These are the words of that dark and evil personage – the devil - who tempted our Lord in the desert. If you are the Son of God, turn these stones to bread and satisfy your hunger pangs. If you are the Son of God, jump off this high place and prove that God will protect you. Had Jesus yielded to this temptation, He would have become simply a puppet of satan. If Jesus had used his divine power to escape the temptations of satan, ironically, He would have lost.
“If you are the Son of God,” said those who mocked the Lord as He hung on the Cross. Ironically - much as we despise the treatment of our Lord - we too participate in this taunting. You see, Jesus came into the world knowing that He had a hard road to travel. He knew about the beatings. “I must suffer many things at the hand of the chief priests,” Jesus told his followers. Ironically, we do the devil’s work when we deny the need for that walk. Peter tried to get between Jesus and the Cross only to hear from the Lord, “Get thee behind me, satan.”
Jesus disciplined Peter because the Lord knew that our tendency is to love the power and the glory. Our tendency is to desire the Messiah who comes on the powerful white stallion. We want Him because He will elevate us to positions of glory and honor. The mother of James and John asked for her sons to sit one on the right the other on the left of Jesus when He came into his glory. She didn’t understand that in God’s economy ‘glory’ meant the Cross. The road to the empty tomb goes right through the Cross.
If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross. Who would believe that this poor wretch – beaten and bloody is the Holy One – the Son of God? Isaiah wrote about Him: “He had no beauty of majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire Him.” And so, aren’t we justified in calling to Him and saying, “Come down from the Cross – show your power, defend Yourself – and then we will believe?” After all, a show of might such as coming down from the cross would probably have convinced the Jews that Jesus was the Son of God. Ironically, the weakness of the Cross is the power of God. Ironically, we would ask Jesus to abandon the Cross in order to demonstrate his power.
But what would we believe if Jesus came down? Surely, the Lord could demonstrate to us that He is the Son of God. And we would believe in Him as the Son of God. We would watch in awe as legions of angels arrived like a mighty army and made minced meat out of the Roman contingent that escorted Jesus to Golgotha. We would cheer as the Lord Himself would transfigure before Caiaphas and watch as the high priest’s jaw dropped to the floor. They would believe He was the Son of God and so would we. After such a tour-de-force, we could have no way of denying it.
But if He did do these things, we would not believe in Him as our Savior. We could not believe in Him as our Savior. We would accept the power. We would desire to be in his good graces. At Christ’s return in glory, all will believe that Jesus is the Son of God. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” say the scriptures. But even such a demonstration will not bring men to believe in Him as the Savior. What’s more, they could not have believed in Him as such, because He could no longer have been the Savior. That path to become Savior – it goes through the Cross.