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As Jesus was led away to execution a crowd followed Him to the cross, not as disciples embracing their own cross of dying to their own self-will, but as enemies gloating to see His light extinguished, not knowing that from His broken vessel an unimaginably greater light would shine forth to expose their darkness.  Note that there are many who follow Jesus to the cross, and many of those are quite religious and suppose themselves to be serving God, but only those who take up their own cross are His true disciples; see Phil 3:17-19.  Now, as He hung dying upon the cross, the Jewish leaders and other enemies railed against Him in a final temptation from the devil, mocking Him that a supposed king and son of God[1] was unable to save Himself.  Like Job’s friends they were enemies of the cross, deceived by one of the serpent’s biggest lies that those who are righteous will not suffer evil in this world; contrast Psa 34:19.  Luke also notes that the soldiers who crucified Jesus continued their abuse of Him while He was upon the cross, also tempting Him to save Himself if He were really a king (Luk 23:36-37).  To mock Him they offered Him sour wine that was hardly the drink of kings.  It was, however, fitting to fill the cup of suffering He had earlier prayed might pass from Him, but in regard to which He submitted Himself to the will of the Father to drink it down.

Who else does Matthew say was reviling Jesus in the same way?  See Mat 27:44.  Considering the human propensity for people of one class to support those who are numbered among them so that even sinners tend to welcome other sinners (cf. Luk 6:33), what is the prophetic significance that although Jesus was numbered with transgressors, even they mocked Him contemptuously?  See Psa 22:6, Isa 49:7, 53:3.  Are we willing to follow Christ in having God as our only support while being despised and rejected not only by our enemies but by all people, including even our family and friends and those whom we might otherwise expect would receive us?  Have we the faith to do so, trusting that God will deliver and reward us?

Although Matthew and Mark record that both bandits initially joined in with the crowd in hurling abuse at Jesus, what fuller account does Luke record?  See Luk 23:39-43.  Why might Matthew and Mark have not been aware of this fuller account, whereas Luke did?  Recall from our notes on Mat 27:36 that the soldiers were responsible to keep watch over the condemned and ensure the sentence was carried out, so that nobody interfered to perhaps attempt a rescue.  They would therefore have kept the crowd back a safe distance, so that only relatively loud noises from those upon the cross could have been heard by the general public; cf. Mat 27:46.  However, by the time that Luke wrote, the gospel had gone forth to the Gentiles, so that it is quite possible that some of those soldiers who had been guarding Jesus came to believe, whose testimony would then have become known within the Church; cf. Mat 27:54; 8:5-10, Act 10:1ff.  As Luke compiled the eyewitness accounts for his gospel (Luk 1:1-3), his careful investigations would have brought to light such additional information from those who had been closest to Jesus when He died.

Why should we not be surprised that one of the criminals had a change of heart after earlier joining in with the other in mocking Jesus?  See Luk 23:36, Mat 27:54 and consider that as Jesus’ death unfolded the same thing happened also to the guards.  Even beyond the purely physical events that those closest to Jesus would have witnessed as His life was draining from Him, what spiritual event was also happening that would have profoundly impacted them perhaps in a way that even they couldn’t describe?  See Mat 27:50-51, Joh 19:30 and recall that in Gethsemane (whose name means an olive press), Jesus was pressed for His Spirit (which is typified throughout Scripture by oil), and that life-giving Spirit was poured out here at the cross with His blood as He died; cf. Jam 2:26.  Although it would be another fifty days on Pentecost before that Spirit was poured out more generally, we might suppose that those close to Him as He died would have experienced something spiritually significant as such events were happening in the spiritual realm that were manifest enough even in the physical realm to tear the veil of the temple in two from top to bottom.

[1] Note that the words of Jesus’ accusers are not necessarily as strong as our translations may lead us to suppose in saying that Jesus said, “I am the Son of God” in Mat 27:43, since the article is absent in the Greek; more literally it says, “for He said that of God I am son”, which may possibly be understood definitely in the sense of the Son of God as we understand it today, but grammatically is perhaps better understood indefinitely as “a” son of God, perhaps meaning to them a very righteous person (cf. Mat 5:9, Rom 8:14) or even a mighty person of supernatural power (cf. Gen 6:2,4, Job 1:6, 2:1, Luk 20:36).  See also Mat 27:40 as well as Mat 4:3,6, 27:54, Mar 1:1, 15:39, Luk 1:35, 4:3,9,  Joh 10:36, 19:7 where the article is also lacking, as well as  Mat 26:63, Mar 3:11, Luk 4:41, 22:70, Joh 1:34,49, 3:18, 5:25, 11:4, 27, 20:31 for the other gospel occurrences of Son of God where the article is present.

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