“If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Mathew 27:40
I read this section of Matthew the other day, and experienced a serious shift of perspective. The way this part of the gospels reads, it always looks like Jesus is trapped on the cross while all of these smug yahoos from the temple and the barracks are in the driver’s seat. We know how the story goes, that Jesus triumphs in the end, but at this moment, they are the winners. They got Jesus up there, and now they can taunt Him as they will.
The problem that I didn’t see until just now – and neither did the jeering crowd – was that it only looked like He was trapped.
OK, I know. He had the power to come down. He could’ve jumped right down, gone nose to nose with those morons, and said, “How do you like THEM apples?” But that would have ruined the whole salvation thing. In that sense, He was indeed trapped. The more important point was that He had GOD’s power to come down. And He was going to. Just as soon as He finished what He was doing up there.
His tormentors were like…well, I get this image in my mind. My apologies for it, because it’s anything but religious. But from my Bugs Bunny/Road Runner days, I see Sylvester the cat taunting the bulldog in front of his doghouse. He thinks the dog is on a chain. Until the dog takes the detached end of the chain and starts swinging it for Sylvester to see. And the beating commences.
These guys on Golgotha that day were taunting Someone who was “off the chain.” They just didn’t know it. The inner dialogue I can imagine in Jesus’ mind sounds something like, “Just gimme a minute. I’ll be right there just as soon as I’m done here. And won’t YOU be surprised!”
Jesus actually did come down off the cross right on front of them. Oh, His body was there, but Jesus sure as shootin’ came down. He shook the earth. Thunder and lightning (just like the good ol’ days in Exodus). He tore the temple curtain in two. He opened graves and raised dead people, who started walking around.
“Phil! Long time no see!”
Oh, yeah. He came down from the cross. In style too! I like to think that, just like Sylvester the cat, the Pharisees’ eyes got small and gave the camera a look that said “Oh, no…” as it dawned on them that maybe they shouldn’t have done that.
God will not be mocked. Nor His Son. Jesus was indeed unchained that day. He died on the cross, but His spirit took a victory lap. God saw Him go to hell to proclaim His triumph. He went around Jerusalem, knocking things around. Yeah, He came down alright. Just not like they expected Him to.
Even the centurion whose troops beat Him to within an inch of His life before killing Him on the cross said, “Surely this was the Son of God.”