When Jesus is hanging on the cross to die, Matthew 27:39-44 records the following scene: “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, “I am the Son of God.”’ Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.”
The statement “Himself He cannot save” was directed at Jesus Christ while He was dying – by those who were passing by and by the robbers who were being crucified next to Jesus. They mocked Him with these words, challenging Jesus to prove that He truly was the Son of God by delivering Himself from death.
For just a moment, consider the great foolishness that is manifested in these words, “Himself He cannot save” – as well as the significance of Jesus Christ not heeding their challenge to prove to be the Son of God by delivering Himself from the cross.
Christ Had The Power To Save Others While On Earth
These individuals who had the audacity to mock our Savior while He was hanging on the cross, dying, evidentially realized that Jesus had saved others during His life. Perhaps they had heard about the many miracles He had performed – or had even witnessed these things personally. Jesus demonstrated that He had the power to walk on water, turn water into wine, cast out demons, make the lame walk, cause the blind to see, heal all manners of disease, and even raise the dead.
All of these miracles should have led to these individuals accepting the fact that Jesus is the Christ (see John 20:30-31). Instead, these individuals mocked Jesus – saying that was not the Christ because He could not save Himself!
Christ Had The Power To Save Himself From The Cross
These individuals who mocked Jesus while He was dying on the cross did not believe that He could do the very thing that Jesus knew He was capable of doing – delivering Himself from death on the cross! Throughout Jesus’ life on this earth, He realized that He did not have to die. Therefore, Jesus told Peter to, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (in Matthew 16:23) – because Jesus knew that He could deliver Himself (the thing Peter had just affirmed).
Even when the time of Jesus’ death on the cross was drawing near, when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew that He could be delivered from His enemies. Jesus said to Peter (after Peter had drawn His sword to fight Jesus’ enemies): “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). A “legion” around that time seemed to be about 6,800+ soldiers. So, Jesus said that He had the ability to pray for the Father to deliver Him by sending more than 72,000 angels! Certainly, Christ could have called for these same angels when He was hanging on the cross to die!
Those who were mocking Jesus while He was dying on the cross did not understand! Jesus certainly did have the power to save Himself from the death on the cross. However, if He chose to save Himself from that death, He would not have saved them! Thanks be to God that Jesus Christ chose not to save Himself (willfully enduring the death on the cross) so that you and I could have the opportunity to be saved from the wrath of God by His blood (see Romans 5:6-11)!