Our Master hung there on the cross with His body bleeding and beaten beyond recognition. He choked and gasped for air as the searing pain shot to the core of His being. Shock waves shuddered down His frame. The crowd watching Him jeered and mocked, defiantly calling out, “Come down from there if you are the Son of God!”
Many had died at the hands of the Romans claiming to be the Messiah but this case was different. It was more than just the execution of another cult leader. These men were crucifying what He stood for as well. “Come down from there,” they mockingly said again, “and we will believe in you,” not realizing and not caring that they wouldn’t have.1
They couldn’t know the deep love that motivated this perfect man to make the most costly personal sacrifice that would ever be made throughout all eternity. All they were thinking about was themselves, and how He had offended their sense of righteousness, as they hurled contempt and hatred at Him.
His peace and composure during the shameful ordeal astonished those few onlookers who were saddened by the greatness of His suffering. They noticed that the tenderness they’d always seen in His eyes was still there.
Even His disciples had fled the scene, as the pressure became more and more real in their own lives. The mocking crowd taunted Him; “You saved others, now save yourself!” They didn’t know He was at that moment receiving the penalty they deserved for their sins and their insolent, presumptuous attitudes.
Only a few who were standing there that day appreciated the awesome self-control this humble man was exercising. Even though they didn’t fully understand what was going on, they could sense that He knew what He was doing. That knowledge lifted Him above the shame of His nakedness and the pain of His broken body. Then it happened. His last breath was released with a great cry of submission. Like the lambs of old, the sacrifice of His life had been thoroughly inspected and found blameless. His face set like flint and His final conscious thought to please His Father, He was what a lamb could never be, a willing sacrifice for sin.2
At that moment, the unimaginable weight of the sin of the whole world crushed the spirit in His body down, down into the center of the earth. As His soul was ripped from the broken shell of His body, the pain He had been experiencing did not let up. The crushing sense of distance and alienation from His Father in heaven grew greater and greater. In the agony of death He received the just penalty for the accumulated selfishness and wickedness of the entire human race.3 And He did more than that too. Through facing death and overcoming the fear of its loss and suffering, He took away its power forever.
As He came up out of the depths of the earth, He knew there would be those who would care enough about what He’d done for them to obey whatever He would tell them to do. These would be the ones He would entrust the keys to — the keys He’d taken from the evil prince who rules the fallen world, the keys to death and Hades.4
He knew how to unlock the prison of self-centeredness and death within man. His message on earth had been clear, very clear, but His words only had their full effect in those who fully trusted Him. Those who had known Him told others what He had said so they could also be unlocked from their prison. The love that dwelled in the hearts of this small group forbid them from doing anything less than sharing everything they had. They didn’t even want to consider that anything belonging to them was their own. Seeing one another’s needs, they shared their meals, their homes, and their very lives.5
It was in all these ways that they were dying to themselves. Just like He had died on the cross, they were dying to all the things that had motivated them before to make their own lives better, but had only left them separated and lonely. Nothing gave them greater joy than to experience the exact same life that He had on a daily basis. This was the bloom of their first love. Lost, hopeless humans beings were attracted to this amazing life of togetherness and wholeness. In the communities of Yahshua the Messiah they were set free from the dark, personal prison of self-centered existence they’d been trapped in. These early disciples proved they had the keys and that they could unlock the doors for others as well.6 They proved that God was in their midst by the love and unity they had.
Yet as the Church grew, strife, immorality, and greed took over until they were hopelessly divided by the very things He had died to do away with.7 Those same evil spirits that tested their Master had come to test His people; and they hadn’t completely trusted, not the way He had trusted His Father. They didn’t realize they were losing their first love. They didn’t even know they had lost the keys.
But the story doesn’t end there... There is Good news! Today, right now those same keys are once again on the earth, because there is a people who are obeying His word again. Those who have received the keys truly believe He is able to reach all the way down to where man is lost, lonely, and suffering.
How tragic it would be for anyone to be like those who mocked and laughed at Him saying, “Come down!” not knowing He had already come down. The King of Kings came to bring His Kingdom down to the earth, into men’s lives — if they would let Him.