One of the most remarkable aspects of the crucifixion of Jesus is the humble reserve he displayed. As God, he had the power to end his suffering and humiliation in an instant. He had already reminded Peter, Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matt26:52-54)

And now, as Jesus hung on the Cross, Satan and the crowds give him one final temptation: the call to come down from the Cross:

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (Matt 27:39-44)

The temptation is to pride and power, to anything but the Cross. They seem to taunt him by saying, “Since God is powerful, if you were God, you would have the power to come down and not be overpowered by your enemy.”

The temptation is very crafty and very worldly. To the worldly-minded, the demand makes sense. In effect, they are saying, “If it’s faith you want from me, you can have it if you’ll just come down from the cross. Then I’ll be impressed; then I’ll believe.” In effect, the tempters want to be saved on their own terms.

Why does Jesus stay on the Cross? For three reasons, at least:

1. Humility – Jesus is out to overcome Satan. In the world, we seek to overpower our foes. Does it work? No. Usually the cycle of violence just continues and in fact often gets worse. We think, “If I can just yell louder and outwit or outgun my opponent, I’ll win the day.” Yes, but there’s more to life than one day. The next day your opponent returns with louder and wittier arguments and bigger guns. And the cycle of violence goes on. It is an endless power struggle.

But as was once said, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. And I would add that here at the Cross, pride cannot drive out pride, only humility can do that.

And therefore, although the crowd and Satan try to coax Jesus into a power struggle, the Lord chooses the only weapon that is truly effective against pride: humility. Humility is like kryptonite to the Devil!

To our eyes, it seems that the Lord is defeated. But in his humility, the Lord is doing more damage to Satan than we could ever imagine. He stays on the Cross to defeat Satan’s pride by his own profound humility. Jesus does this despite Satan’s desperate attempts to engage his pride, and entice him into a power struggle.

2. Obedience – It was disobedience that got us into trouble in the first place. And it will be obedience that restores us. Adam said, “No.” Jesus, the New Adam, says “Yes.” It is not essentially the suffering of Jesus that saves us; rather, it is his obedience. And Jesus’ suffering is part of that obedience.

Jesus decides to obey his Father, no matter the cost. Isaiah says of Jesus, “He suffered because he willed it.” (Is 53:7)  St. Thomas says that if Jesus had suffered and gone to the cross, but not willed it, we would not be saved. Jesus himself said, “No one takes my life from me, I lay it down freely. (Jn 10:18)  Cassian says, “We are saved by the human decision of a divine person.”

Jesus went to the Cross and decided to stay on the Cross in obedience. And it is by his obedience, by his will to obey and to save us, that we are saved.

3. To save meOn a more personal level, we can also see (based on what has already been said), that Jesus decided to stay on the Cross to save me. If he had come down, I would not be saved; you would not be saved. We might have been impressed; we might have even had a kind of faith. But it would not be a saving faith.

Pure and simple, Jesus decided to stay on the Cross and to endure mockery, shame, pain, and death, in order to save a poor sinner like me. An old gospel song says,

When Jesus hung on Calvary, people came from miles to see
They said, If you be the Christ, come down and save your life
But Jesus, sweet Jesus, never answered them
For He knew that Satan was tempting
If He had come down from the cross, my soul would still be lost
If He had come down from the cross, my soul would still be lost

He would not come down from the cross just to save himself
He decided to die just to save me.

 

9 Responses

  1. Donna L. says:

    Thank you. Excellent!

  2. Del says:

    BLessed be the holy name of Jesus….vivat Jesu!

  3. Anne Marie says:

    Thank-you for this reflection. God Bless.

    Jesus WON the greatest championship, the salvation of our souls.

  4. JohnR says:

    I had an argument with Jehova’s Witnesses only a couple of days ago. I showed them that Jesus is God but they would not believe me. They threw at me the quote that Jesus said “The Father is greater than I” claiming that therefore Jesus could not be fully God. My ripost was that Jesus was simply offering his respect to the Father although, that since both persons are the one, same, God, then one person cannot be greater than another; since both are the same Being.

  5. Antonio Camillo says:

    ‘Love is not having to say I’m sorry’-Hollywood.
    ‘I love you in spite of…..’-Jesus
    God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)
    Amazing! Amazing grace indeed!
    Thank you Monsignor!

  6. edraCruz says:

    Humility vs.pride, obedience vs. disobedience and lost vs. saved. Thank YOU, LORD. YOUR Sacrifice gave us back our dignity and integrity as children of GOD. I offer as well my little sacrifices for those who do not know YOU. Thank YOU a thousand fold. YHWH AHAVA!

  7. Repent and Believe the Gospel! says:

    Why does Jesus stay on the Cross? The 4th reason:

    To restore the Tree of Life.

  8. Mary Sorensen says:

    Obedience. Yes! Thank you for stressing obedience. Too often, we focus on Jesus’ suffering – or our own! – without seeing that suffering on context.

    “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” – John 14:15

    IOWs: if we love God, we will be obedient. Sometimes, that will involve suffering. But suffering without obedience is vain pain.

  9. Peter Wolczuk says:

    “Come down from the Cross and we will believe.” After all the miracles and the Godly wisdom, such as saying that he who is without sin cast the first stone (mind boggling – even when we who are used to it are looking back) yes – after all that they want “just one more”
    There can always be a desire for one more but it will rarely be a true desire for “just” one more.
    I spent over thirty years of my life chasing just one more, with most of them being after having a “just one more” It wasn’t until I faced reality that I was freed from this absurd escape from reality of “just one more”
    It took more than a willingness to accept reality for I had tried that many times and failed. It took the Grace of God who straightened my path to reality so that I could find it. So many of these people had the blatant Grace among them and the best they could do was to ask for “just one more”
    I will (again) pray for their souls wherever they may be.

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