Taunts and Testimonies – Matthew 27:41-43

audio version

Computers are marvelous instruments. I bought my first computer while visiting here on a visit from Calgary in 1987, and I haven’t looked back. I’m not sure anymore that I could prepare four messages a week, if it was not for my computer. And I know that I couldn’t maintain our church website without it.

One of the things that they do for me is correct my mistakes – not theological mistakes – spelling mistakes. First, it points out to me any words which it thinks are mis-spelled, giving me the chance to fix them. And then I have trained my computer to recognize my most common typos and to instantly fix them. The problem in this case is that sometimes I want those typos, and there is a difficulty in convincing my computer to leave them alone. Another thing it does is capitalize the first letter after every period which is followed by a space. And again, sometimes that is not what I want, and I have to fight with it to make it comply with my will. For example, I have told it I always want the word “Father” to be capitalized, but not every reference to “Father” refers to God so I have to argue with it to bend it to my will.

That illustrates something here in this scripture. The enemy of God were trying to make our Lord’s suffering more miserable than it already was. They were adding taunting, teasing and verbal torture to the pain of the nails, thorns and beatings. With sneers they were shouting, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from that cross.” To the crowds around them they were saying, “If this man is the Christ, the King, as he claims, then where are his soldiers to come and rescue him?” And back to Christ they taunted, “If you are the great Saviour, then start by saving yourself.” Those ultra-pious hypocrites were trying their best to make the Lord Jesus feel as miserable as possible. What they were doing was incredible and despicable sin, but the amazing thing is that their taunts were changed by the computer of God’s will into positive testimonies. It was as though they wanted their words printed in black, but God’s computer published them in glorious reds and royal purples.

They said three things about Christ here – “He is the Saviour who can’t save Himself.” “He is the King who is at the mercy of others.” “And he is the Son of God whom Jehovah won’t even acknowledge. These three statements prove that the priests knew what Jesus had been teaching. BUT they were convinced before they ever heard a single word from Christ that these were all lies. And now they were trying to turn Jesus’ words back against Him. They were trying to get the dog to bite his master. But these taunts were automatically changed into testimonies. The negatives were really positives, once the computer of God’s will was engaged.

Let’s think about these three things more closely. I admit that I have preached from this theme before, and perhaps some of you will remember. But also admit that it is a blessing and lesson to me to do so again. I hope that it will be to you as well.

The cross shows us the Saviour who couldn’t save Himself.

As difficult as it must have been, those priests rejected all of Christ Jesus’ miracles. I say that it must have been difficult, because some of them were just too obvious to ignore. How could they possibly deny that Lazarus, who was clearly dead, was restored to life? The fact is, they didn’t really ignore Lazarus, because some went out to try to kill and silence him. “Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him amny of th Jews went away, and believed on Jesus”John 12. Other Jews, Galileans, had seen how one little boy’s lunch was multiplied until it fed thousands. And then to make sure that everyone understood, Jesus duplicated the miracle feeding even more. Some of Christ’s miracles were private or semi-private, like the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, or the raising of the son of the widow of Nain. Those miracles were probably just considered rumors or lies and were dismissed outright. But the larger and unavoidable miracles were attributed to the power of Satan or to trickery. “As Jannes and Jambres, Pharaoh’s witch doctors, withstood Moses, with their diabolical tricks, so does this fraud, trying to deceive and mislead innocent, common numbskulls, like our neighbors.” “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”

Those sin-blinded priests rejected all of Jesus miracles – through one means or another. They looked at the Lord hanging on the cross and said, “There is the proof that you are not the Messiah.” They turned to the crowds saying, “He doesn’t have the power of a pussy cat; the strength of snail, the ability of an ant.” In their mathematics – the crucifixion + Christ = confusion. They added together gold to silver and came up with lead.

But hanging before them was the God-man who held and exercised, absolute dominion over the universe. As I said, He spoke the dead back to life; He calmed storms with words, and multiplied bread. Multiplying fish is one thing, but instantaneously restoring life is another. He changed the properties of water; cured deadly diseases and rescued people from the depths of their sin. Couldn’t He have hopped off the cross if He had wanted to? Absolutely!

That He did not save himself is not the same thing as could not save himself. The priests meant that it was physically impossible – which was not true – in fact it was a deliberate lie. Yet there was another sense in which it was true. He could not save Himself and save others at the same time. It is impossible to serve others without some degree of self-sacrifice. The candle shrinks as it lights up the darkness; fires kill themselves as they burn. No sympathy, help, or love can be given which doesn’t cost a bit one’s self. But what Christ Jesus was doing was far more than simply helping others – He was saving their souls.

Jesus could not save Himself because He would not save Himself – He was doing the will of His Father. “He was giving Himself a ransom for many.” He was yielding his life as an atonement for sin. The statement, “he could not save Himself” was not blasphemy, but a testimony of the truth. His love for His elect people was so great that Jesus refused to melt those nails in his hands. He didn’t intend for a single one of those whom the Father had given to him to be lost, so He was being lost, in a sense, in order to save them.

We need to praise the Lord for the selflessness of this great Substitute; for the sacrifice of the Saviour.

The cross also shows us the King upon His throne.

The leaders of Israel hated the thought that this Galilean might really be the new king. They would rather have Herod or one of his children reigning over them. They refused to share a shred of their stolen power with anyone, not even with the Son of God. Especially if that “anyone” was the someone who owned it in the first place. They had less faith that the baby born in Bethlehem was the Messiah than Herod had. Herod slaughtered the man children of Bethlehem, because he believed that there was a chance that the Messiah had really come. These priests didn’t even have that much faith. They accused Jesus of treason and insurrection at calling Himself a King. That accusation didn’t come from the Romans but from the leadership of the Jews. When Pilate put a sign above the cross, saying “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” it was the Jewish hierarchy who wanted it censured. And when Christ was nailed to the cross it seemed ludicrous to them that he was a King. They saw two opposite facts – “king” and “cross” – and they concluded that the two couldn’t possibly mix.

In actuality the cross was the foundation of Christ’s eternal kingdom. Do you remember His conversation with the Roman Judge, Pilate? John 18:33-37 “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

Now think about John 3 and Christ Jesus’ illustration of the brass serpent. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That stick in the ground, that cross, that gibbet, was the Saviour’s throne. Perhaps it wasn’t carved out of ivory and overlaid with gold, but such things don’t make a throne. It is the King who makes both the crown and the throne. In another place Christ said, “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” Glorified as a King; glorified like the Son of God should be glorified. The hour had come, and He was now upon His throne. Pilate’s black shrouded placard had more truth than the combined hearts of all the priests of Israel.

And there is only one approach to the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is not through the door of any church, nor any baptismal mud puddle. We can’t approach the Lord like some proud counselor to tell him what He must do. There is no one who can approach the Lord as if He was some sort of merchant, willing to do some trading with us over beads and trinkets. There is no back door into the palace of the Lord and up to the throne of this King. There is but one approach – it is to kneel before this very throne – the cross upon which the King now hangs. Many will say to Christ in the last judgment “Lord, Lord.” But Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

The Jewish priests said, “If you are the King, then come down from there.” But why should He? He was exactly where He should have been. Every king has his subjects, or he is a king only in name. And I suppose that most kings have their throne. In some ways the King is at his highest when he is on his throne – here on the cross our Saviour has both.

Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, resident of Bethlehem and Nazareth is the King of kings. He is the King of the crucified people – the humble and repentant people. He is King of only those who will pass through death into bliss – through his throne.

The third gibe that the priests offered was…

He calls himself the Son of God, but that is impossible.

Have you ever notice that some people – many people – estimate character by condition? The man sweeping the building couldn’t possibly be as good and noble as the president of the company. The deaf lady is definitely not as smart as I am, because I can hear and speak plainly. The priests looked at the Lord – at the cross, at the blood, at the nakedness, at the shame – and said, “Son of God? Don’t be ridiculous.”

But they had forgotten the prophecies about the Messiah. We looked at Isaiah 53 and I won’t repeat that message this evening. But those Jews had forgotten other scriptures like Isaiah 9 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” Chapter 53 adds to the prophecies of the King – prophecies of the Suffering Servant. “There can’t be just one person to fulfil both prophecies,” they said, but they were wrong.

They ignored the events of Jesus’ baptism, when the heavens opened and a voice was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Of course, they knew nothing about the Transfiguration of Christ and the testimony of the Father on that occasion. They were ignorant of eternity past. The scripture says that though Jesus was rich, “yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” When was the Saviour ever rich? Only in eternity past.

When Christ Jesus entered the realm of physical death, He was never more an object of the Father’s delight. The cross revealed the heart, glory and holiness of God. Yes, the Father turned his back on the Son – but only for a few minutes while He was our sin-bearer. The moment that sin was properly disposed, and the sacrificial blood was applied to the Mercy Seat, the Son was honored once again.

Don’t let the scoffers – any scoffers – defer you from the truth. Religious leaders can be deceived, they can be frauds, they can be confused. Jesus is the Christ, the Son God, the King of kings, the Saviour of the sinner. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” It rests on us to repent before Him and to believe on Him unto everlasting life.