Prepare to Listen. This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 27:32-44
32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ 38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.”’ 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
The temptation at Jesus’ end is the same as at his beginning--If you are the Son of God. Not from Satan this time, but from passers-by who mocked. The religious rulers taunted, ‘We’ll believe you if you come down from the cross,’ adding, “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to.” What they expected, happened. Nothing.
I don’t think we can judge them. I know I can’t. I’ve often doubted God’s willingness to deliver me, or a loved one, a nation under enemy fire, countless people buried under earthquake rubble. We know people who reject God, complaining, even mocking, ‘If God exists as a loving God, then why doesn’t he deliver the suffering?’ It’s a legitimate question, with an elusive answer. I was always taught that God is loving and wants to deliver us now. If I wasn’t delivered, which happened often, it meant I lacked trust. I wonder whether I’d have stood at the cross and mocked too. How about you? If God exists why does God allow suffering to continue? But here’s the thing, God didn’t deliver Jesus either.
Yet he never doubted the Father’s words at his baptism and again at his Transfiguration: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17; 17:5). He trusted God, not to restore him to life as it was, but to be with him and take him through the cross and death to a new and different life. Often God, for reasons known only to God, leaves us in the hard times, remaining with us. In the end we find ourselves in a different place where we see everything more clearly. We can only trust and wait.
Imagine Jesus on the cross. How would you react if you were there?
Respond in Prayer
Lord, for all those today who feel forsaken by you because of circumstances, be present with them and help them keep trusting even when they can’t see or feel your presence. Amen.
Live Obediently. Trust God even in the dark.
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Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.