Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Deuteronomy 32-34; Mark 15:26-47
29 People walking by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? 30 Save yourself and come down from that cross!”
31 In the same way, the chief priests were making fun of him among themselves, together with the legal experts. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe. Even those who had been crucified with Jesus insulted him. (Mark 15:29-32, Common English Bible).
No one likes it when we are the victim of insults. No one likes it when others yell at them. If you combine the two, it can be particularly painful. The old childhood chant, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” The first half of that is absolutely true. In fact, if you are in a land where stoning is a real-life punishment lived out, well then, stones can do more than break bones, they can kill you. And, while the words cannot physically kill you, they certainly hurt inside. We may sometimes say they do not, but, we know they often do.
In today’s lesson, Jesus is already nailed to the cross. He is already enduring what was probably the worst punishment we humans have ever created. Stoning would be pretty bad but chances are pretty good that it won’t take long for someone to land just the right rock and you end up dead. After all, David did it with Goliath with one rock.
In crucifixion, the crucified will eventually die from the body being slowly robbed of oxygen. Suffocation is the end result. The victim would pull themselves up by the very hands and feet that were nailed down. They would raise up and hold themselves up for as long as they could bear the pain. It wasn’t long before they would be forced to lower themselves down once again, making breathing increasingly difficult and the periods of holding themselves up by the hands and legs grew shorter and increasingly more difficult.
For Jesus, as if this wasn’t bad enough, as people made their way past where Jesus hung dying, they would shout insults at him. “He said he would tear the temple down and rebuild it in three days. Why don’t you come down and save yourself?” As Jesus hung there, I can’t help but believe, some of these people were among the crowd shouting “Hosanna to the King” only five days earlier.” Now they chose a rebel and killer over him.” and were insulting him as they walked by him. You would think that within their humanity there would be some shred of decency and compassion. But no, that wasn’t what they were to show the world, the history books, the Bible and the readers of each.
They were by no means alone. The Pharisees, the chief priests, and the legal experts were pretty proud of themselves by this time. They too were “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe.” With all they had already seen, I doubt seeing Jesus free himself from the cross would make them believe either. If they were going to believe, they already would have done so.
Then there were a couple of others, possibly only one other, who were insulting him as well. Mark says the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus were insulting him as well. Luke says one was insulting the other was saved as he hung on the cross. We can’t possibly know if one of the two was right and the other was wrong or if it was a matter of perspective or timing or just what. What we do know is, two more, two who were dying, well…
All this is to say, we deserve more than we will receive because of grace. Remember, the chief priests and legal experts were among the most religious of their day and tried exceedingly hard to keep the law and yet what we see from them, in this story and others, is they committed sin. They sinned and fell short of the glory of God. They helped crucify Jesus.
The crowd of people passing by and hurling insults at Jesus were probably, at least for the most part, reasonable, law-abiding people. If you asked them, they might have even said, “I’m a good person” in the way we often hear people say today. And yet, we see, beyond any doubt, they are committing sin. They sinned and fell short of the glory of God. They too helped crucify Jesus.
Then there were the other two crucified with Jesus. There was no doubt they were sinners. With each insult, they committed sin. They sinned and fell short of the glory of God. And yes, they also helped crucify Jesus.
But, we also need to remember this: We are just like them. When we shout insults at those around us, we yell insults at God. We sin. When we fail to show love to our neighbor, we fail to show our love to God. We sin. When we fail to live in the love of God, not only with God but with our neighbor (and remember, Jesus’ point was, we are all neighbors), we sin. When we do anything that fails to make the world a better place, we are falling short of the glory of God. That means, we too, help crucify Jesus.
Perhaps that is why my favorite piece of Scripture, not even a full verse (not my favorite passage, chapter, or book in the Bible, that is Romans 8:37-39, Romans 8, and Matthew respectively) Luke recorded, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23-34). That is, according to some, Jesus giving grace to those who were gambling for his clothes. Others might argue it was Jesus giving grace to all who were insulting him and causing him to be on the cross to start with. Either could be the case, but I like to think, it was Jesus asking the Father to forgive all of us who placed him on the cross.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
With Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved