God’s Word for You
Luke 23:35 the rulers made fun of him
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, June 18, 2019
35 The people stood by watching. In addition, the rulers made fun of him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
Luke presents two groups in this verse. One is the general crowd of people who undoubtedly gathered when there was a crucifixion. This is the way of the sinful nature. Not long ago someone introduced a phone app that tells people where there is an emergency (fire, shooting, accident, etc.) with the idea that it would make driving easier by helping people avoid accidents and so forth. But it had the opposite effect. People are drawn to disaster and death.
The other group is introduced by Luke with καὶ, “in addition.” This was no mere handful of the most hateful men from the Sanhedrin. This was just about the whole group, plus the chief priests, the scribes, the other Pharisees and Sadducees and nobles of Herod’s court. They were “turning up their noses” (ἐξεμυκτήριζονδὲ) and mocking him.
Jesus rarely used the term “Christ” (Messiah, Anointed One). He used it in private with his disciples a few times (Matthew 16:20, 22:42; Mark 9:41, 13:21; John 17:3) and in public only twice I know of: “You have one teacher, the Christ” (Matthew 23:10), and “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? (Mark 12:35; Luke 20:41). It was the people who were using the word “Christ” when they heard Jesus speak and when they saw his miracles. It was the Samaritan woman who asked, “Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). And there was the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles: “Many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, ‘When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?’” (John 7:31). And Martha of Bethany confessed: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:27). The title “Chosen One” comes from the Old Testament Scriptures: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight” (Isaiah 42:1), and “I have made a covenant with my chosen one” (Psalm 89:3). Jesus did not use this as a title, but it’s pretty clear that the people of Israel were starting to come up with these Messianic titles for Jesus on their own. And Matthew had quoted Isaiah 42 when he talked about the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:17-21).
The point of mocking Jesus was to undo the things that the people believed. If Jesus could not save himself, they reasoned, then he was not the Christ. But if he was not the Christ, who had raised Lazarus from the dead? Or the young man at Nain? Or the daughter of Jairus? Who had healed the blind men in Jericho, or driven the demons from the wild man in the Geresene graveyard? By saying, “He saved others,” the Jewish leaders were not agreeing that Jesus had indeed saved others. They were twisting the truth in such a way that people would doubt. “Maybe what we heard is false,” they might think. “Maybe Lazarus over there had never died.” But Jesus did not use or intend to use his death to prove his office as Christ. Rather, he used his crucifixion to fulfill his office.
When the devil had tempted Jesus, he mocked him: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). Now the rulers of Israel borrowed words from their father the devil: “If you are the Christ of God, save yourself.” They didn’t understand, they didn’t care, and they didn’t even consider that he might actually be the one they claimed he could not be. What kind of Savior were they looking for, if not one who would satisfy the payment for sins? He did not ascend to the cross to save himself. He did not condescend to the cross to save a few. He conformed to the necessity of the cross to save all mankind.
Did the Pharisees ridicule the slaughtered goats as they bled and died in the temple? “Foolish goat! You are powerless to do anyone any good!” Did they mock the bulls as their throats were slit and they slumped forward to their knees, their lives spent before the altar? Did they taunt the doves who were brought to cleanse the mothers of their uncleanness after giving birth? Any other offering they would treat with reverence, or at least with indifference. But the Son of God? “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him’” (Psalm 22:7-8). This is what the Sacrifice endured for our sakes. His suffering brought us peace.
Pastor Timothy Smith