Himself He cannot save!
How true! All men say it, church and world alike. Looking at Calvary, that’s one thing that strikes us. He went on, never thinking for even one moment of coming down from that cross. He went on, until He had left His life on that tree and had poured out His soul in death. “Himself He cannot save!”
Yet, what a difference in the way it is said. Here is another example of how two people can say the same thing, yet mean something altogether different.
What a difference in the reason that is given, why He could not save Himself. The world mocks and says; He could not save Himself because He did not have the power. He was a deceiver, a fraud, a blasphemer. He never was the Son of the living God. The church worships and says: He could not save Himself, not because He lacked the power, but because of His love for His sheep, the purpose for which He came into the world, the task He had to perform, the mandate He had received from His Father to redeem all that the Father had given Him and raise them up again at the last day.
What a difference, too, in the conclusion that is drawn. In devilish pride and wicked folly the world reviles and says: Therefore He could not save others. How can a dead Christ give life to others? If one cannot save Himself, how can He possible save others? The church prostrates herself before this cross of Jesus and says: That’s precisely the reason why He can save others; that’s why He can save me.
We know the occasion.
Finally the hour had come; the hour of Satan, Jesus, God; the hour of suffering, judgment, redemption; the hour of sin, righteousness, fiercest battle and glorious victory. The enemy, after waiting and hating so long, had managed to capture Him at last. Finally, after a night of horrible injustice as far as the trial and treatment of the defendant were concerned, they had succeeded in nailing the Son of Man to the accursed tree. Even while He hangs there, however, He is mocked and reviled from every side and also the sarcasm of our text is flung into His teeth.
The mockers here are the leaders of Israel. True enough, the soldiers too, the common people too, the malefactors too who were crucified with Him, reproach Him in much the same language. Here, however, they are leaders of the people, the chief priests, scribes, elders and Pharisees, that hurl their mockery into the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Obviously, therefore, these words have their source in the most implacable and ruthless hatred against the Lord’s Christ. That hatred seemed insatiable. It was! That was true at that time of these leaders in Israel. It is true today. The same hatred still burns like an uncontrollable fire in the hearts of the children of darkness. That hatred is ignited in hell itself; cannot be satisfied any more than the flames of hell can be extinguished.
How plain this was from all they did to Him! They had captured Him, bound Him, condemned Him. They had beaten Him, spit into His face, reviled Him. They had delivered Him to the brutality of the Roman soldiers, scourged Him, crucified Him. Were they satisfied? No! The hatred of wicked men is never satisfied. For them the sufferings of Christ are never enough. For the most brutal killer there is still sympathy when finally the death sentence is pronounced. Not so with Jesus, “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” Psalm 69:20.
It is from that hatred that you must explain this mockery of Israel’s leaders: “Others He saved; Himself He cannot save.” This is Satanic sarcasm, of course! They don’t mean to say: It is true, that He saved others; that He did much good while on earth; that He healed the blind and dead and maimed, cast out devils, and raised the dead; but now, strangely enough, He cannot save Himself. Why then did they nail Him to the cross? What they mean is this: He is no Savior at all. He’s a fraud, a deceiver, a blasphemer. This Christ cannot even save Himself from that cross; if He could He would. How then could He have saved others?
What deviltry! How can the human mind conceive it?
Also, what folly! Spiritual stupidity! Were they not the elders, scribes, theologians of Israel? Should they not have known, from all the prophecies, from all the sacrifices and ceremonies in Israel that God’s people could be saved only in the way of blood? Had they not read Isaiah 53 again and again and again? In the light of all this, could anything be more logical than the cross? Did not everything in the Old Testament point to just such a Savior as this, the Christ of Calvary?
Therefore, what the world intends as mockery is nevertheless a deep and precious truth: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” In fact, because he saved others, because he had a countless multitude to save from Abel to the end of the ages; therefore He could not come down from that cross.
Himself He could not save! Hallelujah! Eternal thanks to God for that! That is our salvation now and forever!
That was not because He did not have the power. He was the Lord of heaven. He could command legions of angels, and they would come down to do His bidding.
It was not because the enemy was stronger than he. With a single word of His might He could have destroyed that entire filthy conglomeration of foes in a moment. Had he not proved that in Gethsemane?
It was because He was Zion’s Redeemer; because He had come from heaven to do the will of the Father. It was eternal love that held Him on that cross; the love of the Father for His children; the love of the Good Shepherd for His sheep. It was the Father’s mandate, “That of all that He hath given me I should lose nothing, but raise it up again at the last day.”
Therefore He could not come down from that cross, nor did He want to, that a redeemed church, so hopelessly lost by nature, might sing in heavenly ecstasy: “There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all there guilty stains.”
Therefore He could save others!
Had He stepped down from that cross, not one sinner would now be saved. We all would be on the way to eternal destruction.
But now! Now He can save others and bring them to eternal glory. Now He can perfect the covenant of God with men and redeem an innumerable host unto life everlasting. Now He can carry out the Father’s will and Calvary radiates the eternal love and grace of God for poor and wretched sinners like we are.
All praise to God’s unspeakable grace!