He Cannot Save Himself

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Reading the Word

Matthew 27:33–44 (ESV)

33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 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.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “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. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Parallel Texts: Mark 15:22-32; Luke 23:33-38

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus hung on the cross, the mocking and verbal abuse continued. The religious leaders were offended that Pilate had placed a sign above Jesus that read “King of the Jews.” However, Pilate would not remove or change it. Instead, many made fun of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah by telling him to “come down from the cross” with a promise to believe if he did so.

The religious leaders mocked because they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah or the Son of God. But they were wrong. Jesus was who he claimed to be. He could not come down from the cross because his death was needed to bring salvation to the world. However, in just a couple of days, he was going to do something greater than coming down from the cross. Jesus was going to rise from the grave. Yet, even with the miracle of the resurrection, many would refuse to believe.

Jesus made many grand claims while he was on this earth. He claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Such claims are difficult to believe, but the resurrection is the evidence of the truth of his claims. However, even with this evidence, many continue to reject Jesus. Why? Because if he is who he claimed to be, then our lives can never be the same. Our sin must be dealt with. We must repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.

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Father, Forgive Them

1 John 19 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 23:32–34 (ESV)

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27; John 19:18

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was crucified as a criminal though he was innocent of any crime. An innocent man hung on a cross between two men who were truly criminals. But this was the plan and purpose of God. Jesus knew this. He knew he had to die as a sacrifice for our sins. So, when he looked out from the cross at those who were responsible for his suffering, he did not seek vengeance. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus sought forgiveness for the guilty, which was his mission from the very beginning.

Today, Jesus seeks the same for you and me. We too have sinned against God and are guilty. We deserve the wrath of God. However, Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins to pay the penalty that we cannot. When we repent of our sins and turn to him in faith, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them.” And the Father does. What a wonderful and merciful Savior!

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Take Up Your Cross

brown wooden cross

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Reading the Word

Mark 15:20–21 (ESV)

20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:31-32; Luke 23:26

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus had been flogged multiple times in the previous hours. Those beatings left him battered and too weak to carry his cross to the execution site. Therefore, the Roman soldiers drafted a man named Simon to carry Christ’s cross for him. We really know nothing more of Simon other than this incident. Some speculate that Simon’s son, Rufus, may be the same Rufus that Paul mentions in Romans 16:13. If so, perhaps this encounter had a profound impact on him. However, there is no way to be sure.

Jesus calls on all of his followers to take up their cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26). We are called to not simply be spectators of Christ’s pain and suffering, but we are called to live out Jesus’ teachings and to expect the same kinds of rejection and suffering that Jesus received. It is a small price to pay to belong to Christ and it is a great honor to follow in his steps.

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A Crown of Thorns

crown of thorns

Reading the Word

Matthew 27:27–31 (ESV)

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Parallel Texts: Mark 15:16-20; John 19:2-3

Understanding and Applying the Word

The soldiers mocked Jesus. The dressed him in makeshift attire to present him as a ridiculous and pathetic king. They put a crown made from thorns on his head. They put a reed as a scepter in his hand. They put a scarlet robe on him. And they bowed down before him, not to worship, but to laugh at and make fun of Jesus. They called out “Hail, King of the Jews” and then spit on him and hit him with the reed. When they were finished with their fun, the soldiers stripped him of his scarlet robe and put him back in his regular clothes before leading him off to be crucified.

This event fulfilled what Jesus had told his disciples in Matthew 20:19. None of this came as a surprise to Jesus. He knew that he would be rejected by all people, both Jew and Gentile. Jesus, the Messiah and Creator, visited mankind, but was rejected, mocked, and murdered. Little did the people realize what would soon take place. Jesus would rise victorious from the dead in a demonstration of his power and authority. And one day he will return as promised to this world and every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. There will be no mocking on that day, only recognition of who Jesus is: the King of kings and Lord of lords.

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Motivated by What Is Right

The Flagellation of Christ

The Flagellation of Christ – Public Domain

Reading the Word

Mark 15:15 (ESV)

15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:26; John 19:16

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this single verse, we read of how an innocent Jesus ended up on a cross for crucifixion. Pilate, the Roman governor, wanted to please the crowd. The motivation was not doing what was right, but doing what was popular and best for himself, even if an innocent man had to die.

Sinfulness causes us all to do terrible things. Imagine what the world would be like if our political leaders did what was right rather than always looking to score political points. Imagine what the world would be like if we all were motivated by righteousness and justice rather than selfishness and personal gain. Our sin is why Jesus had to die. Our sin out him on the cross and his death was the solution to our sinfulness. Christ the Just was sacrificed as payment for our sins. All who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus will be saved and that salvation is the promise of a new world where sin and evil are no more.

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The Difference a Few Days Can Make

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Reading the Word

John 16:16–22 (ESV)

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told his disciples of his coming death and resurrection, but they did not understand him. He told them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” They would not see him because he would be dead and buried. However, they would see him again as he would be resurrected on the third day. The disciples would weep over Jesus’ death while the world celebrated that he was gone, but the disciples would experience great joy when they saw him alive again!

Imagine the emotional roller coaster that the disciples experienced when Jesus was first crucified and buried, but then rose from the dead. At his crucifixion, the disciples would have felt that the time they had spent with Jesus was all for nothing. They thought he was the promised Messiah, but now he was dead and nothing had changed. Then, when they saw him alive again, there would have been great joy and final confirmation that Jesus was who he had claimed to be.

The disciples were so emboldened by the resurrection that they went into the world telling everyone about it. They proclaimed the name of Jesus at the cost of beatings, imprisonments, and death. Why were they so driven and willing to die? Because they knew that Jesus had changed the world. He had made forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God possible. They had to preach this news! It was too important to keep quiet. We too should be emboldened because our Savior is risen! Christ has come and his life, death, and resurrection have changed everything. The news is too good to stay quiet.

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Oh, How He Loves Us

John 131 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Mark 14:12–17 (ESV)

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 26:17-20; Luke 22:7-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus approached the cross, we are reminded that he was fully aware and fully in control of the events at hand. The disciples asked about preparations for the Passover. Jesus sent them ahead with very specific instructions regarding who would give them a place to gather and also what words to speak to the man. The disciples found everything just as Jesus had told them they would and they prepared the Passover.

When Jesus went to the cross, it was not because he had failed. It was the central part of God’s plan to redeem mankind. Jesus went to the cross willingly, knowing exactly what lay ahead, just as he knew about the man who would give them a place to prepare for the Passover meal. By doing this, he continued to show his gracious love for his people. He knew he had to suffer and die and he was willing to do it for each of us. Praise the Lord!

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Amazing Love

1 John 410 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 26:1–5 (ESV)

1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Passover approached, Jesus again told his disciples that he would soon be crucified. As Jesus told this to his disciples, the chief priests and elders were gathered at the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, to discuss how they could rid themselves of Jesus. They planned how they could arrest him and kill him, but they knew they had to plan carefully because Jesus was very popular and the crowds gathered to celebrate Passover would be large.

Jesus knew what was coming yet he offered himself voluntarily. The crucifixion was no surprise to Jesus. It was all a part of the plan that God had put in place for the deliverance of sinful mankind. Jesus was only two days from his arrest and going to the cross, but he was not deterred from his mission. We must not miss this. Jesus’ commitment to our salvation is a wonderful demonstration of God’s love for each and every one of us. Christ did everything he could for our salvation. He gave his very life so that we could have eternal life. It reminds me of the old hymn, And Can It Be?:

Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

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It Had To Be this Way

Purple Cross

Reading the Word

John 12:27–36 (ESV)

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus’ journey to the cross was coming to an end, he felt the weight of the circumstances. His soul was troubled. The crucifixion was no small thing for Jesus. He was concerned to his very core. However, he was not going to ask the Father to take the hour away. Jesus knew that he had to go to the cross. It was the very reason he came. It was through the cross that mankind would be saved and there was no other way.

One common question that readers of the Bible often have is if there is any other way for people to be saved other than faith in Jesus. There are two things to be said about this. First: Jesus said that he is the only way to the Father in John 14:6:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Second: if there was another way that we might be saved, then Jesus did not have to die. To say that there are ways of salvation other than through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is to devalue what Jesus did at Calvary. Jesus went to the cross precisely because there was no other way for us to be reconciled to God and have eternal life. The cross shows us just how serious our sin problem is and the great cost of our redemption. Jesus, the Son of God, had to die. It was the only way.

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Life for All through Death

wheat

Reading the Word

John 12:20–26 (ESV)

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In John 12:19, the religious leaders state the need to get rid of Jesus because the “whole world has gone after him.” In the very next verse, we read that there were some Greeks who had come to worship and wanted to see Jesus. By telling us they were Greeks, John informs us that these visitors were Gentile converts, likely converted because of what they had heard from or about Jesus. The whole world truly was going after him!

Word reached Jesus that the visitors wanted to see him. It may seem that Jesus’ response had nothing to do with his Greek visitors, but his response is actually very fitting. He spoke of his coming death and resurrection by using the illustration of a grain of wheat. It is through the death and resurrection of Christ that all believers find salvation and eternal life in the presence of the Lord. This is true for everyone, both Jew and Greek. So, when this group came seeking Jesus, his response was to tell them how to find life. It would come through what was about to take place over the next several days.

For all people, salvation comes through the One who lived a perfect, sinless life and gave himself as a sacrifice. He was crucified and placed in a tomb, but death did not hold him. He rose from the grave in victory over sin and death and now gives life to all who will turn in repentance and faith. Jesus had to die and be resurrected so that we could have life through him.

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