39 • And those who passed by derided him,
• wagging their heads
40 and saying,
"You who would destroy the temple
and rebuild it in three days,
• If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross."
For those who passed by — and Jerusalem was thronged with pilgrims for Pesach / Passover — it seemed little more than an excuse for headshaking. The claims of a destroyed temple being rebuilt in three days seemed an idle boast to those who didn't get the personal reference (and would they have been any more receptive to a man who called his body, 'this temple' and prophesied that he would rise the third day after death?)
For such passers-by the words, 'the Son of God hanging on a cross' seemed to be made up of two ideas utterly incompatible with each other and therefore signifying nothing.
Pilgrims they might have been but the passers-by don't seem to have recognised that they were acting out a couple of significant Scriptures as they went. The reading of the book of Lamentations takes place at Tisha B'Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and not at Pesach but the references in Lamentations to passers-by are quite prophetic of these headshakers:
"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger." [Lamentations 1:12]but, as remains to be seen as this story unfolds, the most significant verse prophesying these words and that behaviour is Psalm 22:7
All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem; "Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?" [Lamentations 2:15]
All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;the full magnitude of what they were seeing opens up to us when we see the significance in what they were doing, just passing by.