He willingly chose humiliation over glory
Death by crucifixion is one of the most painful means of punishment that has ever been thought up by man. It was meant to cause, not only incredible suffering, but also absolute humiliation. Luke tells us that Jesus was crucified at a place called The Skull – the very name tells you that it was not a very nice place.
It would have been right next to a busy road or public area, because the Romans wanted everyone to hear the screams of suffering and see their torn bodies writhing in pain as the nails tore through the flesh of the condemned.
Three groups of people watched as Jesus was crucified that Good Friday.
Verse 35 tells us that a mass of people stood by and watched as the naked Messiah was nailed to the cross. They looked on as the hands that had healed the blind amongst them and touched lepers with love, were now pierced by the long, cruel nails.
They listened as the voice which had cast out demons and raised the dead, now cried out in wretched agony.
They watched in sympathy as a truly innocent man was hung between two guilty criminals.
But right next to them stood the religious leaders, who taunted Him ruthlessly saying in verse 35 “He saved others, let him save himself”.
And so too in verse 36 – the soldiers who had whipped Him and driven the nails into him, also mocked Christ the King saying “If you are the king of the Jews, then save yourself!”
And perhaps most surprisingly, one of the criminals who was being crucified right next to Jesus joined in the scorning and attacked Him, shouting “Are you not the Christ, save yourself and us!”
In effect they were saying, “if you are who you really say you are, the God, King and Saviour, then remove those nails from your hands and feet and get down from that cross”. For them, there was no way that someone as great as Jesus claimed to be, could suffer in the way He did. To them, Jesus’ death on the cross was clear evidence that He was a fraud. They had won, and He had lost. To them, Jesus was a mere man who claimed that he could save others, and yet was unable to rescue himself from death.
Or was he?
You see, it is not true that Jesus could not have saved Himself. In Matthew 26:53, when the Pharisees came to arrest him in the garden of Gethsemane, he told his disciples that if He wanted He could call on His Father who would immediately send more than 12 legions (which is over 72 000’s) of angels to save him. So it was not that Jesus was powerless to save himself. With one breadth of His mouth, he could have destroyed every single one of his persecutors.
If Jesus had saved himself instead of dying on the cross, the consequences of that decision would have been disastrous for all humanity.
But, He chose not to do so. He willingly chose death, over life.