And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:39-43)
The crowds, chief priests and elders are ruthless: while Jesus is dying on the cross they bring to remembrance every twisted charge against him. This is different than declaring to a person their crimes: they are mocking him for his claims and “rubbing it in” as it were and taunting him in his position of utter weakness on the cross (“kicking a man while he is down”).
They say that every one of his claims have been disproven:
- Jesus cannot save himself, therefore he cannot rebuild the temple in three days.
- Jesus cannot save himself, therefore he cannot be the mighty king of Israel.
- God is not saving Jesus, therefore God must not approve of him and he cannot be the Son of God.
Ironically the logic of each reviling is quite opposite of what was actually going on. Jesus could have saved himself with awesome overwhelming power and 12 legions of mighty angels at his disposal.
- Because Jesus’ body is the true temple where the fullness of God dwells, he allows it to be destroyed by the people so that in three days it could be rebuilt into an eternal resurrection body.
- Because Jesus is the King of Israel he is not saving himself, but giving up his life to save his people. He intentionally does not come down so that the people who do believe in him will be forgiven for their sins on his account.
- Because Jesus is the beloved Son of God who trusts God perfectly, God does not deliver him, but pours out his wrath on him who bears the sins of the world. In doing so, he wins for his Son a name that is above every other name, displaying his beloved Son’s glorious obedience and unmatched humility and later vindicating him through resurrection, giving him the distinction of being the death defeater, and then exalting him to the highest place above all rule, power and authority.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)