Come down from the cross

When Jesus was being crucified some of the spectators challenged him to prove he was the Son of God by coming down from the cross.

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 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.”

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “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.”
Matthew 27:39-42

If he had chosen to do so he could have come down from the cross.  He had earlier stated that if he asked, God would send twelve legions of angels to help him.

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
Matthew 26:51-54

Jesus could have come down from the cross and saved his own life, but he had been sent into the world to save others and to accomplish that he had to die.

Jesus didn’t come down from the cross but he provided a much greater proof that he was the Son of God.  After he had been dead for three days he came back to life.  Surely that must have satisfied the critics who had demanded that the come down from the cross.  Or perhaps it didn’t.

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
Matthew 28:11-15

The soldiers and the chief priests had proof that Jesus had risen from the dead and that his claim to being the Son of God was true, but instead of acknowledging their error and becoming his followers they tried to explain away the disappearance of his body.

Many atheists say, “Show me evidence that God exists and I will believe in him.”  If God did show them convincing evidence would they become believers in God or would they react the same way the chief priests and guards did?  Perhaps we can get some idea of how they might respond by studying an important era in the history of Israel.

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt God sent Moses to demand that Pharaoh release them so they could return to their own land.  When Pharaoh refused God sent a series of plagues on Egypt, ending with the death of all the firstborn of Egypt.  Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave but later changed his mind and sent his army to bring them back.  He trapped them by the Red Sea but God miraculously opened a path through the sea that allowed them to escape and then allowed the sea to return and drown Pharaoh’s army when they tried to follow.  Chapter 15 of Exodus contains the song of praise the Israelites sang to celebrate this victory.

There was no doubt in the minds of the Isrealites that God exists but this belief did not lead to confidence in his willingness and ability to provide for their needs.  They went from praising God to complaining the first time they ran into a difficulty.

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Exodus 16:1-3

God responded to their complaints by giving them what they needed but with every fresh difficulty they continued to complain.  When they finally reached the promised land they sent twelve spies to go through the land and see what it was like.  The spies reported that the land was rich but the inhabitants were strong and warlike.  Fear of the inhabitants was stronger that faith in God so the Israelites were afraid to enter the land.  As a result God condemned them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the whole generation of adults had died off.  Of all the adults who had left Egypt on Caleb and Joshua, who showed faith in God, were allowed to enter the land.  There is a difference between simply knowing that God exists and having faith in him.

Jesus said that anyone who is willing to do God’s will can know what that will is.

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
John 7:17

God knows how each person will react to more knowledge about him and often withholds knowledge for that person’s protection.  The more someone knows about God the greater his punishment will be if he rejects that knowledge.

And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Luke 12:47-48

God’s holiness demands that all wrongdoing be judged but this isn’t something that God likes to do.

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Ezekiel 33:11

God offers forgiveness and eternal life to anyone who will repent of his sins and put his faith in Christ.  For those who he knows will reject this gift he offers the lesser gift of withholding from them knowledge that would increase their responsibility and result in more severe punishment.  If you are looking for evidence of God’s existence perhaps you should ask yourself what you would do about it if you did find the evidence you are seeking.

Posted on May 28, 2016, in Bible study and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “Many atheists say, “Show me evidence that God exists and I will believe in him.” If God did show them convincing evidence would they become believers in God or would they react the same way the chief priests and guards did?”
    I can’t speak for all atheists but as someone who is atheist but studies religion, I would certainly believe in a god if one was proven to exist. The “Story of Israel” does not do it for me. In your conclusion you state “If you are looking for evidence… ask yourself what you would do if you did find the evidence”, I can dream of gold in my backyard but just thinking about what I would do if there was indeed gold in my backyard does not offer me evidence of gold in my backyard.

    I find it strange sometimes, people who truly understand the Abrahamic god have different beliefs about what he expects/offers. After all, he/she is the god of various religions, Judaism and Islam (also some smaller religions) but the differences also can come from within the same sects.

    In your conclusion, you speak about an eternal life for those who repent and put their faith in Christ, but similar things are said of most all religion. In Judaism: “The dust will return to the ground as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:17)”, The Buddhist, while not necessarily holding a belief in god, go to their own heaven or hell realm and believe in a gift of being reborn again.

    My reason for writing is in appreciation of your thoughts and to share my thoughts. I am troubled to see conflict and misinformation between various worldviews and religions. Not sure why it is so hard to learn about our similarities and accept our differences. It’s not like Atheism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism..etc will disappear, we should learn to live as one.


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