The Mockery

And they sat down and watched Him. And the people stood beholding. And they that passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying: "Vah, Thou who destroyest the Temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again, save Thy own self; if Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross." In like manner the chief priests with the scribes and ancients, mocking, derided Him, saying: "He saved others, Himself He cannot save. If He be Christ the King of Israel, if He be Christ the Son of God, let Him now come down from the cross, that we may see and believe. He trusted in God; let Him now deliver Him, if He will have Him, for He said: 'I am the Son of God'." - Matthew 27:36-44; Mark 15:20-32; Luke 23:35-37

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1. With those whose consciences are not yet hardened by iniquity, with ordinary children and young people, with grown-up men and women who have lived to be true, a great sin committed has a certain paralyzing effect. The poor sinner rises up from it as if dazed; he has lost something, ne can scarcely know what; it seems to him that henceforth life must be another thing; the sun, the air, the flowers of the field, seem to accuse him; the laugh is off his lip, the brilliance faded from his eye, the very skin of his body seems swarth and shiny; having done that which is the degradation of a man, his very manhood seems to have oozed from him. It is true of the individual; it is true of an inhuman crowd; and as "they sat and watched Him," and "the people stood beholding," we seem to find the paralyzing sense of guilt and clamminess coming over those around the cross, silent and condemning.

2. Of course, to remain under the spell is not to be endured. It will lead either to despair or to contrition. Since perfect happiness has been forfeited, which can rest only on the peace of a good conscience, then happiness of another kind must be secured. Conscience must be buried in confusion, its voice must be silenced by uproar; the sinner and his accomplices must clamour themselves out of their stupor into the new life to which they have doomed themselves. So we see them always doing; so we see them here. The spell is broken; "they passed by blaspheming, wagging their heads"; "in like manner the chief priests with the scribes and ancients, mocking, derided Him "; cowards before, they ire now more brutal cowards still, putting a bold face on their shame, a howling laughter above their misery one knows the type too well.

3. But the language is beyond mistake; in moments of strong passion the secrets of the heart appear. "If Thou be the Son of God, save Thy own self." That is at the root of all. The fear that indeed He is that is not yet dead. "If He be Christ, the King of Israel, if He be Christ, the Son of God, let Him come down from the cross, that we may see and believe." Could anyone have uttered such a cry who did not already in his heart believe? "He saved others, Himself He can not save." Another confession, even as was that in the better days: "Because of Thy good works we blame Thee not, but because Thou, being but a man, dost make Thyself the Son of God." Dear Lord, how this self-condemning cry has rung through the world ever since. We accept Christ as our doer of good, we accept Him as a Prophet, we condone "Hosanna to the Son of David"; but Son of God He shall not be! If He makes that claim, then all His very deeds shall be turned against Him.


1. The paralysis of the guilty crowd.

2. The recovery in noise and confusion.

3. The language of their abuse.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier