Reading Matthew’s account of Christ’s crucifixion, I was struck by the words used to mock Jesus:
39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Verse 40 is an echo of Satan’s temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Twice, Satan challenged Him with the same phrase: “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3, 6). The first time, he tried to convince Jesus to meet His own physical needs; the second time, he tried to convince Jesus to reveal His power when it was not appropriate to do so (Philippians 2:5-11).
On the cross, Jesus was again challenged to meet His own needs — to save Himself from death. He was even told by the religious leaders that they would believe in Him if only He would come down from the cross. Life and glory were rightfully His, yet He refused them both, His love holding Him to the cross until His suffering was accomplished.
I’d never put much thought into the temptation Christ faced on the cross. It must have been an unimaginable burden and struggle. What agony our Savior faced! “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).