And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:39-43)
These are probably the most logical thoughts that anyone could have if he had seen Jesus Christ hanging helplessly on a cross, even though He had claimed His Messiahship, His Deity and His Oneness with God. How could the One who demonstrated His magnificent authority and power during His public teaching ministry, now become unable to rescue Himself from torture and shame? In fact, there had been many instances in the life of Jesus Christ when He simply escaped from impending danger. For example, in John 8, when Jesus claimed His deity and called Himself by the name “I am,” the Jews picked up stones with which to execute Him right in the temple. But Jesus managed to hide Himself and to make His way out of the temple. Just a short time later, in John 10, we read that the people picked up rocks and sought to stone Him. But Jesus escaped their attempts to arrest Him and to put Him to death. This was the usual pattern that we see during His earthly life.
But then came the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter, drawing his sword and swinging at one of the guards, clearly thought this was going to be another chance for Jesus to slip away from His accusers. But Jesus knew that this time would be different. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). With only a single word, Jesus could have summoned to His defense more than twelve legions of angels. Look to the Old Testament and you will see the kind of devastation that a single angel can bring. What would happen if 12 legions (over 72000 powerful angels) came to defend the Lord? He could have received their help just with a word. But He did not. This was true in the Garden, in the court, and on the cross. He did not save Himself.
The Lord’s closing moments are described like this “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.” The amazing thing about these words is that they show us that Jesus was in full control of the timing of His death. Though the nails had pierced His hands and feet, and though He had been beaten to the point of being almost unrecognizable, He died only when He decided to yield up His spirit. The death of Jesus was an active act on His part, not a passive one. He died not because His body could take no more punishment or because there was immense blood loss. He died because He decided it was time to die. His work was finished. It was not the power of Rome that held Him on the cross. It was not the conspiracy of the Jewish leaders that held Him there. It was not the nails that held Him there. Instead, it was His obedience to the Father’s will that held Him there. It was His love for the Father and His love for us that held Him there. It was the deepest expression of love that the world could ever know, because it was your sin that held Him there.
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18)
(Adapted from an article by Tim Challies)