Sabbath, May 27, 2017

“Their Saviour had been rejected and condemned, and nailed to the ignominious cross. The Jewish priests and rulers had declared, in scorn, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.’ But that cross, that instrument of shame and torture, brought hope and salvation to the world. The believers rallied; their hopelessness and conscious helplessness had left them. They were transformed in character, and united in the bonds of Christian love.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 67.

Far more than physical pain

1. While Jesus hung on the cross, what other torture did men inflict on Him? What disparaging remarks did some make without having the slightest knowledge of what the Saviour’s words meant?

Matthew 27:39, 40 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, 40And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. 

“Many would be followers of Christ if He would come down from the cross and appear to them in such a manner as they desire. If He would come with riches and pleasure, many would receive Him gladly and would be in haste to crown Him Lord of all. If He would only lay aside His humiliation and sufferings and cry, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him please himself and enjoy the world and he shall be My disciple,’ multitudes would believe on Him. 

“But the blessed Jesus will come to us in no other character than the meek and lowly Crucified One. We must partake of His self-denial and suffering here if we would take the crown hereafter….” –Our High Calling, p. 288.

“The teachers of the people had stimulated the ignorant mob to pronounce judgment against One upon whom many of them had never looked, until urged to bear testimony against Him.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 749.

2. Were the chief priests and Jews leaders more interested in knowing about the prophecies telling of the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God or in mocking Him? 

Matthew 27:41, 42 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, 42He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 

“Jesus, suffering and dying, heard every word as the priests declared, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Christ could have come down from the cross. But it is because He would not save Himself that the sinner has hope of pardon and favor with God.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 749.

“It is because Christ would not save Himself that the sinner has any hope of pardon or favor with God. If, in His undertaking to save the sinner, Christ had failed or become discouraged, the last hope of every son and daughter of Adam would have been at an end. The entire life of Christ was one of self-denial and self-sacrifice; and the reason that there are so few stalwart Christians is because of their self-indulgence and self-pleasing in the place of self-denial and self-sacrifice.”
This Day with God, p. 236.

3. Did the religious leaders know the prophecies concerning the Messiah? What is shown by the fact that these men spoke the exact words that the prophecy put in the mouth of unbelievers?

Matthew 27:43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. 

Psalm 22:7, 8 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 

“In their mockery of the Saviour, the men who professed to be the expounders of prophecy were repeating the very words which Inspiration had foretold they would utter upon this occasion. Yet in their blindness they did not see that they were fulfilling the prophecy. Those who in derision uttered the words, ‘He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God,’ little thought that their testimony would sound down the ages. But although spoken in mockery, these words led men to search the Scriptures as they had never done before. Wise men heard, searched, pondered, and prayed. There were those who never rested until, by comparing scripture with scripture, they saw the meaning of Christ’s mission. Never before was there such a general knowledge of Jesus as when He hung upon the cross. Into the hearts of many who beheld the crucifixion scene, and who heard Christ’s words, the light of truth was shining.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 749.

Joy and consolation amid pain and sorrow

4. Suffering in agony on the cross, what did the thief on one side say to Jesus? What did the other thief say to him, acknowledging their guilt?

Luke 23:39-41 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 

“To Jesus in His agony on the cross there came one gleam of comfort. It was the prayer of the penitent thief. Both the men who were crucified with Jesus had at first railed upon Him; and one under his suffering only became more desperate and defiant. But not so with his companion. This man was not a hardened criminal; he had been led astray by evil associations, but he was less guilty than many of those who stood beside the cross reviling the Saviour…. The conviction comes back to him that this is the Christ. Turning to his fellow criminal he says, ‘Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?’ The dying thieves have no longer anything to fear from man. But upon one of them presses the conviction that there is a God to fear, a future to cause him to tremble. And now, all sin-polluted as it is, his life history is about to close. ‘And we indeed justly,’ he moans; ‘for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss.’ “ –The Desire of Ages, pp. 749, 750.

5. What did the repentant thief, who recognized the innocence of Jesus, request from Him? What comforting response did he immediately receive?

Luke 23:42, 43 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

“When condemned for his crime, the thief had become hopeless and despairing; but strange, tender thoughts now spring up…. He has seen and read the title above the Saviour’s head. He has heard the passers-by repeat it, some with grieved, quivering lips, others with jesting and mockery. The Holy Spirit illuminates his mind, and little by little the chain of evidence is joined together. In Jesus, bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross, he sees the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. Hope is mingled with anguish in his voice as the helpless, dying soul casts himself upon a dying Saviour. ‘Lord, remember me,’ he cries, ‘when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.’ 

“Quickly the answer came. Soft and melodious the tone, full of love, compassion, and power the words: Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with Me in paradise…. on the day of the crucifixion, the day of apparent defeat and darkness, the promise was given. ‘Today’ while dying upon the cross as a malefactor, Christ assures the poor sinner, Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 750, 751.

6. How was the prophecy of the Messiah dying with criminals fulfilled?

Mark 15:27, 28 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. 28And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors. 

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 

“The thieves crucified with Jesus were placed ‘on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.’ This was done by the direction of the priests and rulers. Christ’s position between the thieves was to indicate that He was the greatest criminal of the three. Thus was fulfilled the scripture, ‘He was numbered with the transgressors.’ Isaiah 53:12. But the full meaning of their act the priests did not see. As Jesus, crucified with the thieves, was placed ‘in the midst,’ so His cross was placed in the midst of a world lying in sin. And the words of pardon spoken to the penitent thief kindled a light that will shine to the earth’s remotest bounds. 

“With amazement the angels beheld the infinite love of Jesus, who, suffering the most intense agony of mind and body, thought only of others, and encouraged the penitent soul to believe. In His humiliation He as a prophet had addressed the daughters of Jerusalem; as priest and advocate He had pleaded with the Father to forgive His murderers; as a loving Saviour He had forgiven the sins of the penitent thief.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 751, 752.

Comfort for His mother

7. Instead of thinking about Himself, His pain, and His impending death, what love did Jesus reveal when He saw His mother’s face lined with pain and tears? To whose care did He entrust her?

John 19:25-27 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 

“In His dying hour, Christ remembered His mother…. John understood Christ’s words, and accepted the trust. He at once took Mary to his home, and from that hour cared for her tenderly. O pitiful, loving Saviour; amid all His physical pain and mental anguish, He had a thoughtful care for His mother!… Thus He provided for her that which she most needed–the tender sympathy of one who loved her because she loved Jesus. And in receiving her as a sacred trust, John was receiving a great blessing. She was a constant reminder of his beloved Master. 

“The perfect example of Christ’s filial love shines forth with undimmed luster from the mist of ages. For nearly thirty years Jesus by His daily toil had helped bear the burdens of the home. And now, even in His last agony, He remembers to provide for His sorrowing, widowed mother. The same spirit will be seen in every disciple of our Lord. Those who follow Christ will feel that it is a part of their religion to respect and provide for their parents. From the heart where His love is cherished, father and mother will never fail of receiving thoughtful care and tender sympathy.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 752.

Thought questions

  • Is there any indication that Jesus felt ashamed to hear a man condemned to death speak to Him?
  • How long did the repentant thief have to wait to receive pardon from his sins and the promise of salvation?
  • Given the immediacy of the response to the thief, what trust in Jesus should characterize our relationship with Him? 

For additional study

Christ was the Lord of heaven and earth, yet for our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He was made in the likeness of God, yet He humbled Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, that He might save us. He gave His life for our redemption. Will we accept the sacrifice? The only begotten Son of God was numbered with the transgressors, that human beings might not perish, but have everlasting life. Life eternal will be their inheritance, if they will consent to humble their proud heart and become partakers of His suffering. He patiently endured shame and mockery and derision that He might save every sinful human being who would lay hold of Him by living faith. While He hung on the cross, giving His life for our redemption, His murderers mocked Him, saying, ‘He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.’ Matthew 27:42…. He could have refused thus to die, but He was suffering that the world through Him might be redeemed from Satan’s claim and authority. Through His death all who believe in Him may have eternal life….” –The Upward Look, p. 134.