Tag Archives: Crowd

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 44

44. Save Yourself

running away4And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” (Luke 23:35-37)

There is an interesting dichotomy here. Note who the Pharisees were addressing when they said: He saved others; let Him save Himself. Certainly they were speaking to one another, and the passers-by, and the  bystanders. Although their mocking was about Jesus, it was not directed at Him. We see them playing the crowd. I get the sense they were so over this. They had rendered their verdict in the Sanhedrin; manipulated Pilate to get the sentence they wanted; the sentence had been carried out, and now, “So die already”. They were working the crowd, trying to ensure these witnesses at the crucifixion would not be moved by what they heard, or Who they saw on the cross. But with these kinds of comments, they were able to keep their distance and position—the position of appearing to be above all this.

The soldiers also mocked Jesus, but they chose to talk to Him rather than talk about Him. They offered Him sour wine; then, they specifically addressed Him. Because of this difference, they are closer to discovering Who this Jesus was than the Pharisees were. Indeed the Pharisees et al, had all the evidence they needed, but there was no life, no faith within them. Thus, they chose not to look. But the soldiers, they watched—they mocked—but they watched. They were not distracted by the running diatribe of the religious rulers.

But I don’t want to necessarily exalt one above the other—both had committed atrocious and terrible acts. Both had said and done things that were detestable; and they both essentially said the same thing: Save Yourself.

Save Yourself. One presents the impossibility that He could be: The Christ of God, His Chosen One; the other puts forth: King of the Jews. Neither believed such titles or claims. And that is why they asked for spectacle rather than salvation. Even the unrepentant thief was a little closer to the truth: Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But there was no cry for mercy, no pleas for deliverance—they only wanted a show: Save Yourself. Now Christ saving Himself was never part of the plan, indeed it ran counter to it. It only seemed to them that Jesus needed saving. But explicit in their mockings to save Himself was His perceived guilt—of which He had none. Jesus didn’t need to be saved, just everyone around Him. Remember Lazarus?

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw* Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said*, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

They will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. Now I realize the Pharisees, the soldiers, and others in the crowd were asking Him to save Himself, which probably meant come down from the cross, bring in your army, etc., etc. But even if He did those things (which He would not) would they have believed? For the Romans it would have just been another King and another campaign, and for the Chief Priests and their associates, just another outsider to endure. Their religion had no room for Messiah, let alone the true Son of God.

One more thing. If Jesus had saved Himself, He wouldn’t have save you and me. There would have been no sacrifice, no atonement, nothing. In the words of the apostle Paul: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Graciously and wondrously we know Jesus remained on the cross. He chose to save you and me rather than save Himself.

 

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 7

7. Just Spectators  

3D Spectators

And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. (Psalm 69:20)

What did it do to the Son to have His Father turn away and hide His face, especially at His time of greatest need? It could be said He died alone. His Father had turned His back and could not look upon His Son. But, Christ did not die alone. He had all the sins of the world clinging to Him; or more appropriately, He was hanging on to those sins all the way to the grave. How great His love for us!

When in torment and suffering, you look for those who can bring comfort, and be sympathetic; but there was no one for Jesus.

The word for sympathy has more to do with our actions, rather than the actions of those around us. Sympathy means: to shake, wander, waver, move to and fro, and flutter. It’s translations are: mourn, shake, wander, waver, and to flee. It’s as if our actions are seeking to elicit a sympathetic response. How many would be sympathetic watching Jesus hang on the cross?

I am once again drawn back to the foot of the cross and examine those in the crowd. When I think of those who loved Jesus and beheld His suffering, two things come to mind:

Christ’s condition was so brutalized, His body so deformed, that it may well have been beyond the their ability to take it all in. What was done to Him, what He was going through, must have overwhelmed their senses.

Also, they were probably consumed by their own sorrow, or guilt, or powerlessness.

Either of these responses could have led to complete emotional shutdown or paralysis. And we would be the same. After all, what could we do? We couldn’t rescue Him or retrieve Him by force, for then there would be no sacrifice. Nor could we take His place, for there would be no perfect sacrifice. That’s why there were no responses. For those who did care, were immobilized, frozen. And those who didn’t care, they rejoiced in believing He got what He deserved—death.

So there you have it—we’re all left to be spectators. No one then and no one now could change the outcome. But remember these verses:

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day. ( Luke 9:22) Christ alone could pay the price, but what we can do is described in the following verses:

 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-27)

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.  (Philippians 3:7-10)

But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-14)

So… there’s the key. We are all spectators at the cross. We all need to see what Christ did for us, as He suffered and died. But then comes our part: take up your cross daily and follow Him; count all things as garbage when compared to Him; go through ordeals and tests, share in His sufferings, and do so with rejoicing. Our actions must constantly be aligned with and kept in the context of His suffering, death and resurrection. Then will our attitudes and actions be true to Him.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 5

5. Can You Look?

Cross and Crowd

For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me. (Psalm 22:16-17)

For dogs have surrounded me. The meanings behind the word dog are quite potent. Besides the actual animal, it can refer to base and contemptuous men, pagan sacrifices, and male prostitutes. Here it has to do with base and contemptuous men. Paul associates other types of men with dogs: Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. (Phil 3:2) Who are those of the false circumcision? That would be the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were so wrapped up in their ritual and their status, they not only missed Messiah, but they put Him to death. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36) Now, when you think of the crowd that surrounded the cross of our Savior, and many of them were from the religious community, let us be mindful that it is not a difficult thing to be so distracted with rules, or with minutiae, or with self and our own righteousness, we can lose sight of the Savior, and our lives and expectations become base and contemptuous.

They pierced my hands and my feet. Whereas this was a prayer and song of David, and many of these circumstances took place within his own life, there is no doubt that he is looking through the lens of divine revelation when he speaks of his hands and feet being pierced. For indeed, he speaks not of himself, but of the suffering Christ.

They look, they stare at me. We return to the crowd that surrounded our Lord. Can you identify with any of them?

Are you like Mary whose eyes were filled with tears, whose body was wracked with sorrow, making it nearly impossible to see her Son clearly?

Are you like the disciples who could not look up, because they were overwhelmed by their shame?

Do you turn away in abhorrence and disgust, unable to look upon One so tortured, so maimed, so disfigured, that you are physically and emotionally ill?

Maybe you’re a crowd watcher. You’re consumed by the surrounding drama and distracted from what is really going on. Did you miss the point?

Or are you like the religious folk, observers who watched from a distance, who stared, who gazed, who nodded in approval, and looked to one another; who inspect and gave close attention to each “deserved” laceration and wound, the flow of blood, the thorns and the nails that pierced Him?

Are you willing to look upon the sorrow, the pain, the suffering and anguish of the Savior? Can you look past the brokenness and wounds, torture and ruin, and gaze a little deeper to see the disfigurement and deformity caused by the sins laid upon Him? Your sins and the sins of the world?

Finally, what can you do to get those around you, to look at the Savior? That they may see their guilt and sin He took upon Himself so they might be saved? And then to look a bit further and see the love that held Him there, the love that would not let Him stay in the grave, and the love which purchased your forgiveness and salvation. Will you look? Do you understand? Will you help others see?

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