Wagging Heads

Matthew 27:39

Recording the crucifixion, Matthew’s Gospel says, “They that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads” (Matthew 27:39 KJV). Pondering this scene of the thorn-crowned head of Christ and the shaking heads of the scornful spectators, one remembers Job’s words about the reversal of jeering judgments: “I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you” (Job 16:4).

He hung on a cross by the wayside. He was lifted up within sight and sound of the motley crowd. Men trample and push as they look, point, jeer and talk within the shadow of the cross. Maybe some few would weep, or recall His kindness, as the crowd went home to sup and to sleep.

As the most impressive part of the human body, the head plays a leading role in expressing man’s reactions to life. Doubt, questioning, agreement, denial, refusal, rejection and, indeed, almost the whole range of feeling and opinion may be conveyed without a spoken word by the head alone. These gestures at Calvary were the language of contempt.

And so the crowd passed by. They wagged their heads contemptuously at the Man whose ideals of love were so unworkable that they brought Him to a cross.

The cross says to man, “This is the way God loves and forgives.” The wagging heads say, “Love us if you like, but do not ask us to kneel and be forgiven.” It was the language of dismissal. God must keep His distance and not interfere in human affairs.

With the same mind and the same verdict of scorn, the world today parades past the cross. Without complete repudiation, is our impersonal view of the Savior declaring that though at times we think Him interesting, we do not really regard Him as relevant or important to the main business of living? Do we give Him a nominal acknowledgment without the least intention to own up that our sin had anything to do with Calvary?

One of the persistent follies and sins of mankind is the refusal to take Jesus Christ seriously—to wag the head and say, “A most interesting figure in history, but what a pity He was so idealistic, so set upon dying!”

The head laid in the manger, bending over the carpenter’s bench, anointed with spikenard, hurt by a traitor’s kiss, beaten with hand and rod, defiled with the persecutor’s spittle, crowned with thorns, bowed in death, will be raised in power and crowned with glory.

Albert Orsborn, The War Cry


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