October 31

Text: Matthew 27:39-44

And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."  In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him, and saying, "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him.  HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET HIM DELIVER Him now, IF HE TAKES PLEASURE IN HIM; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"  And the robbers also who had been crucified with Him were casting the same insult at Him.  (NASB)

When we think we are in a control that is beyond reversal, we tend to be so arrogant.  It is as though the need to vent past frustrations produced by the conflict or contest rise to the surface.  If we think “the enemy” is at our mercy, we want to do more than defeat or win—we want to humiliate.  Few things seem to appeal to the worst in us as does defeating or winning.

The major frustrations of Jesus’ enemies arose from a misunderstanding of a reference to the destruction of his physical body (they thought he spoke of the Jewish temple), the proper association of Jesus with God’s son, his ability to help others, and his special relationship with God.  Note they strongly thought God would act as they expected.  If Jesus had a special relationship with God, God would end Jesus’ crucifixion.  They did not know that God was acting—had never stopped acting.  That God could act in His son’s crucifixion was unimaginable!  They never realized God had acted in the death of people that He loved throughout Jewish history.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is the crucified robbers initially joined the verbal abuse.  Other accounts indicate the robbers realized Jesus’ innocence.  There is no indication in any of the accounts that Jesus, on his cross, verbally taught these men.  To me, that means there was something strikingly different about the way Jesus endured death AND something obviously wrong about the verbal abuse coming from those who rejected Jesus.  The robbers lashed out in pain.  The parade of verbal abusers spoke in injustice’s self-serving ignorance.  The robbers, even in pain, knew injustice when they saw it.

Suggestion for reflection: Do you know injustice when you see it?  How does seeing injustice affect you?  (Read Jeremiah 38:1-16.)

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