Theology Tuesday: What Does It Mean to ‘Save?’

What do we mean today by the verb to save? Ask someone at random on the streets of Seattle what the verb “to save” means, and what will be the response? Someone who is worried about his financial portfolio may reply, “‘Save’ is what you’d better do if you want money set aside for a comfortable retirement.” Ask a sports fan what the verb means, and he may reply, “‘Save’ is what a fine goalie does; he stops the ball from going into the net, and thus saves the point.” Ask computer techies what the verb means, and they will surely tell you that you jolly well better save your data by backing it up frequently, for otherwise when your computer crashes you may lose everything.

The mockers in verses 41 and 42 [of Matthew 27] do not mean any of these things, of course. They are saying that apparently Jesus “saved” many other people—he healed the sick, he exorcised demons, he fed the hungry; occasionally he even raised the dead—but now he could not “save” himself from execution. He could not be much of a savior after all. Thus even their formal affirmation that Jesus “saved” others is uttered with irony in a context that undermines his ability. This would-be savior is a disappointment and a failure, and the mockers enjoy their witty sneering.

But once again, the mockers speak better than they know. Matthew knows, and the readers know, and God knows, that in one profound sense if Jesus is to save others, he really cannot save himself.

— D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, p. 26.

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