Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’ The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way. (Matthew 27.38-44)
It has been an hour since the nails were driven in and he was raised for all to see. The pain is unbearable, breathing is agonising. But even this is not torture enough. The crowds beneath him, even those who are crucified alongside him, batter him with words and insults.
We used to sing in the playground
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.
It’s true of course, but words can get under our skin and we can believe what others say about us; words can be like darts in the side, arrows in the heart. St James warns us about the tongue
The tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3.6)
The words were like more nails being driven home and the clock kept ticking.
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.