There was a certain irony in the First Word from the Cross: unless Jesus spread out his arms in love for men to drive the nails, we would have no chance of forgiveness. And yet it is in part because men drove the nails that we needed forgiveness. And there is a delicious irony at play in the Second Word as well.
As the three men hung dying on their crosses, one of the criminals said to Jesus ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ The irony is that Jesus will save the world precisely because he will not come down from the Cross. To do that would be to depart from his saving work, and ultimately to let the devil have the last word. It is not a coincidence that when Jesus is mocked on the Cross, those who taunt him keep coming back to the same refrain: ‘Let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ Nor is it a coincidence that these are the same themes that the Devil uses when tempting Jesus in the wilderness.