Week 5 – Save yourself

November 6, 2009

As Jesus was dying on the cross, some who passed by said to him, “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!” (NIV)

Think about the reason these people were saying that. They were likely Jewish, and very proud of their religion and culture, and the temple epitomized all of this. It was a pretty impressive structure, from its enormous scale, to the shining gold-like surface. So when Jesus claimed that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it, you could imagine why some Jewish people would take exception to that. They were offended that this magnificent building that took years to build, that symbolized their national identity, was being treated so seemingly flippantly by this young rabbi. So if Jesus could accomplish this Herculean task of destroying and rebuilding the temple, then coming down from a cross would be a piece of cake, right?

Furthermore, they were also offended to Jesus’ claim to being the Son of God, thus equating himself with God. The Jewish religion clung on to monotheism stubbornly for centuries, though they were surrounded in the desert of polytheism. (praise God that they did!) Jesus’ claim unnerved their monotheistic traditions, for they could very well make the connection that in claiming to be the Son of God, Jesus was claiming to be God himself. If Jesus was indeed Yaweh, they reasoned, then it’d be a simple, easy task for Him to step down from the cross.

But Jesus didn’t. He accomplished the entire work on the cross, for the saving of souls, for the glory of the Father. Only when the entire work was finished, did He give up His spirit. I had the opportunity to give blood for the first time in my life last week. I guess I was afraid that I would faint or something. But as I sat there with this little needle in my vein, blood flowing out of me, I could not help but to wonder how much love my Lord had in suffering upon the cross. Any time during the process of giving blood, he could have quit. And yet, at every instance of that excruciating physical pain, and hellish spiritual abandonment, he endured it.

When we look back at the passage at the beginning, we find a strange pattern. They had it all wrong: they had everything backwards. “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” Yet it was precisely because He was the Son of God, that He did not come down from the cross. “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” They thought Jesus was referring to the temple that was built in Jerusalem, when Jesus was actually referring to Himself. They were witnessing Jesus destroying the temple, yet they were too blind to see it.

The temple they were referring to, the temple in Jerusalem, was destroyed years later during the rebellion. Likewise, every temple we build will eventually be destroyed. Along with these temples, all of man’s efforts to climb up to God are destroyed. All our religiosity, outward conformity, or even sincere desires to keep the law, crumble away. We will fail in keeping the law on the outside. If we succeed, we will turn to ourselves and end up patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. If we avoid this temptation, we will congratulate ourselves for being humble for not patting ourselves on the back. And so on. As soon as turn our eyes inwards for the answer, we miss it. We can not be saved from ourselves, let alone these endless attempts of self-righteousness and self-forgetfulness. We can only forget ourselves if we think about something so big that it leaves no room for us. “We have forgotten Being.”

We who were unable to save ourselves, can only be saved by the One who was unwilling to save himself.


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