“Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.”
There were few times when the chief priests got it right. But at this moment, though meant as mockery, they put their finger on a deep truth; Himself He cannot save.
Consider His encounter with His Father at Gethsemane. Luke 22:41-44 relates, “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
His prayer was that if His Father would will it, that the cup would pass from Him. In so saying He was indicating an aspect of His work that we don’t often consider. He left the whole matter in His Father’s hands. Philippians 2:6-8 says, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Jesus came to earth in obedience to His Father. He, being God, made Himself of no reputation, came in the form of a servant, took upon Him the likeness of men, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death. The use of the word obedient implies that there was someone to whom He was obedient. This One was His Father. His prayer above reveals that. He prayed to give His Father the opportunity to stop things. But, being obedient, He left it to His Father.
Just as the chief priests mocked, He cannot save Himself, so because of His obedience to His Father, He could not save Himself.
Matthew 26:51-54 says, “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”
As Jesus was being taken by the crowd, Peter determined to act on Jesus’ behalf and cut off Malchus’ ear. Jesus healed the man’s ear, and then told Peter that if He asked, the Father would send twelve legions of angels. One angel would certainly do the trick. But Jesus said He could get 12,000 angels. He said further, “How then can the scriptures be fulfilled?” God’s Word will stand for eternity. Jesus’ sacrifice was according to God’s Word.
Hebrews 12:2 says we should be, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” In enduring the cross Jesus looked ahead to something joyful. What that is exactly we cannot specifically say from scripture. But we do know what were the results of His having endured the cross. Because of His obedience to His Father in enduring the cross, untold numbers of people have been reconciled to the Father. They have been promised that they will be eternally with Him, praising His name.
That scene is shown in Revelation 5:9-14, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.” What a great joy this day will be to the Lord Jesus Christ!
He cannot save Himself, He could not save Himself, because He determined to obey His Father, and He would not save Himself, because He knew what would be the result: an innumerable company of believers praising His name for eternity. Had He saved Himself, this simply would not be so.
Others He saved, Himself He could not save,
So scoffed the priests, and upward rolled the wave
Of blasphemy against the dying Lord,
Until it broke upon the throne of God.
Others He saved, Himself He did not save,
So sighed the mourners round the Savior’s grave;
Their grief embittered by the mystery
Why He, who Lazarus raised, Himself need die.
Others He saved, Himself He would not save,
There rests the truth, His life for us He gave:
O ruined heart! thy Savior had to choose,
If He should die, or thou salvation lose. (John C. Blissard)