“Let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. … He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”
The first part of this scripture can be viewed as a challenge. Convince us. Save Yourself and we will believe. But the second part of the scripture is an admission.
For three and a half years Jesus had gone about preaching, teaching, healing, casting out demons, feeding the hungry—both in body and spirit—and performing, in the name of His Father, all manner of miracles, including raising the dead to life. The people had to admit that there was something extraordinary about Jesus. And by virtue of all these things He did for others, they acknowledged, whether they realized it or not, that He had the power to save; but all this was not enough.
They demanded one more miracle: that He should come down from the cross and save Himself. Sadly, they were asking Him to do the one thing He couldn’t do. Oh, He could have left the cross. He could have said, “I’m not going to do this. Let these people suffer their own consequences.”
We find this in The Story of Jesus, 143, “Christ could have come down from the cross. But if He had done this, we could never have been saved. For our sake He was willing to die.”
And “Christ could have come down from the cross. But it is because He would not save Himself that the sinner has hope of pardon and favor with God.” The Desire of Ages, 749
The fact is, Jesus didn’t have to go through all He went through. He could have left man to his own fate, the fate he willingly chose and continues to choose for himself. Jesus struggled with this decision beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“The humanity of the Son of God trembled in that trying hour. He prayed … for His own tempted, agonized soul. The awful moment had come—that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not yet too late. …
“… But now the history of the human race comes up before the world’s Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin. The woes and lamentations of a doomed world rise before Him. He beholds its impending fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself. … His prayer now breathes only submission: ‘… Thy will be done.’ ” Ibid., 690, 693
Jesus could not come down from the cross, otherwise we would have been lost. “Christ suffered all this that He might obtain your salvation, and mine. By His life of sacrifice and death of shame, He has made it possible for us to take hold of divinity … growing into His likeness until you shall stand before Him perfected.” The Review and Herald, January 14, 1909
We must understand that Jesus’ death on the cross was a voluntary act. Faithful always to do the will of His Father in regard to the keeping of the law, His sacrifice had to be, and was, voluntary; no obligation or requirement was placed upon Him (see Lift Him Up, 24). It was His love for man that made Him go. There was no other way that man could be saved. What a blessed thought that Jesus came to save us because He wanted to, no matter the cost to Himself.
Jesus, how can we thank You for the sacrifice You have made so that we might one day be with You in paradise. Purify us, give us the desire and strength to follow Your example, so that one day soon, when You look at us, You will see only Yourself.