And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:35-38, English Standard Version).
Luke mentioned three groups of skeptical witnesses to Jesus’ execution. Many Jews preparing for Passover passively watched it happen. The majority of the Sanhedrin scoffed at Jesus; mercilessly throwing his acts of compassion at him like darts. The soldiers looked at the sign above the man they crucified and mocked him; they ignored the possibility that the “charge” Pilate had recorded could possibly be true.
Jesus chose the cross. He died willingly. Jesus allowed the people he created to watch, mock, and scoff as his physical life ebbed away. The hands that shaped the human form in the Garden of Eden were pinned against the wood. The voice that commanded each part of creation into existence was squelched by the wine vinegar.
None in those three groups of people understood that Jesus chose to die willingly. Nor did they imagine they could be freed from their lethal bondage because of his sacrifice. God’s eternal plan drove Jesus to be watched, scoffed, and mocked. For our liberty, God designed his suffering on that day, at that place, and through his death.
We take this time to remember that horrible but wonderful day when God embraced the penalty of our sin so that he could restore an eternal inheritance for the humanity he created. Remember Jesus’ sacrificed body as you eat of the bread. Ponder the price and purpose of Jesus’ blood as you drink from the cup. Look forward to the day of Jesus’ return when no mouth will scoff or mock Jesus ever again. Communion points to the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus’ supreme lordship.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.