Those who passed by 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. Matthew 27:39-42
Come down from the cross! As Christians, we are to be crucified with Christ, and whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross. This is man’s remedy. It is man’s way to show strength. It is like kids in the schoolyard, “You say you’re so tough? Prove it! Come over here and fight!” It reminds me of this verse:
And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:51-55
This was not the first time that Jesus had been tempted to prove himself, justify himself – glorify himself – with the words “IF you are the Son of God.” Turn these stones to bread! Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple! Come down from the cross! But Jesus always remained fiercely focused on the will of his Father – the salvation of the world. Love kept him focused. Love kept him nailed to the cross.
Man’s remedy is to come down from the cross. To call down fire from heaven. But what did Jesus command? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44). I like how the Message translation puts it.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. Matthew 5:43-45
Jesus said that this loving-your-enemies thing, this giving like God gives is to be daily. And it can only happen if we deny that self that wants to call down fire. It can only happen If we have been crucified with Christ, if we stay there hanging on the cross with him. Daily.
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (throughout the day) and follow me.” Luke 9:23
I am to be daily crucified with Jesus. Hidden in him, I am to be his witness. To be a representative of his love and forgiveness and salvation here on this dying earth. Henri Nouwen said it this way:
“Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with
(rendered idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative, deprived of force, influence, power, caused to cease, severed, separated, loosed from us, put an end to, annulled, abolished, destroyed, made of no effect, vanish away, made void),
that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7
I love that! The old me is unemployed. The one who wants to come down from cross and curse and hate and malign is inactivated.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you – don’t come down from the cross. In this time of insults and mockery and hatred, don’t respond in kind. Stay there on the cross with your Lord. Take it up daily. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:31). That is our mission. To draw all men to Christ. To make God’s unconditional love visible. To give God’s best. To love and forgive and bless no matter what. To be crucified with Christ.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross …”
Image, Coventry cathedral father forgive, by David Perry https://flic.kr/p/qfiB6r