This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
The chief priest had put Him to death in their minds—in their plans—but they had to bring Him to Pontius Pilate to carry out the sentence. The religious authorities were not allowed to execute the death penalty, so they brought Him before the Roman governor. God here caused the Jews to be involved, representing all the house of Israel, and caused the Romans to be involved, representing all the Gentiles. Both of these segments of humanity, in that sense, were represented in the killing of His Son.
Greetings, friends around the world!
This is Roderick C. Meredith, bringing you this commentary on the book of Matthew. We are beginning Matthew 27.
"When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death."
Peter had just denied Him three times after cursing and swearing. Jesus was before the high priest—being grilled, beaten and put down. Now those around the high priest all tried to counsel that He be put to death.
"And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor."
The chief priest had put Him to death in their minds—in their plans—but they had to bring Him to Pontius Pilate to carry out the sentence. The religious authorities were not allowed to execute the death penalty, so they brought Him before the Roman governor. God here caused the Jews to be involved, representing all the house of Israel, and caused the Romans to be involved, representing all the Gentiles. Both of these segments of humanity, in that sense, were represented in the killing of His Son. The Romans technically did it, but they were put up to it by the Jewish hierarchy. As I have said often, the religious leaders are the ones who caused the trouble. You are going to understand that more as time goes on.
"Then Judas, His betrayer…was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.' And they said, 'What is that to us? You see to it!' ["We don't care whether it is innocent blood! We want to kill him anyway! You see to it!"] Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. [They bought a potter's field with this money.] Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter's field…' Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' [The governor, Pontius Pilate, put Jesus on the spot.] So Jesus said to him, ["Yes"] 'It is as you say.' And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders [They accused that "He did this and He did that. He was speaking blasphemy and He was speaking against the temple," and everything they could think of.], [Jesus] answered nothing."
He stood there like a lamb ready for the slaughter. Pilate was amazed. It was his custom to release a prisoner each spring, at that time—to give them amnesty, so when they gathered together, Pilate asked:
"'Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?' For he knew [This Roman governor knew the tricks of these religious leaders.] that they had handed Him over because of envy."
Pilate could see through these religious leaders, who were jealous of Christ. He was getting the attention and adulation of the people and they could not stand that.
"While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, 'Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.'"
Pilate's wife had been very troubled; God had warned her in a dream. But the chief priests and elders kept after him.
"'What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said to him, 'Let Him be crucified!' [They wanted Him dead and out of their way!] Then the governor said, 'Why, what evil has He done?' But they cried out all the more, saying, 'Let Him be crucified!' When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all."
Pilate was outnumbered. He did not want a riot on his hands, because the Roman authorities wanted to keep the peace. They did not want to have to send another army to squelch these Jews who had been very rebellious and hard to deal with. So Pilate knew, "If I have to kill one man and have peace, I guess that is better." That is the way he looked at it, even though it was unjust.
[So, when he noticed a] "…tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands…"
As though that took got him off the hook! He should have exercised his authority and said, "Look, you have proved nothing about this Man. I am going to release Him." But he did not do that.
"I am innocent of the blood of this just Person…"
Actually, Pilate testified against himself—didn't he? He certainly said the wrong thing here. He admitted that Jesus was a just Person.
"'You see to it'" [he told those leaders]. And all the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us and on our children.'"
That is a famous battle cry. The suffering that ensued from that is unimaginable.
"Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified."
He scourged Jesus. The commentaries and historians tell us that Roman scourging was a terrible thing. The Romans had a man who was called a lictor—we talk about giving a child a "licking". The lictor was an expert with a whip which had metal cleats fastened to leather straps, which would tear the hide right off a man. Some men died from that beating even before they could be crucified. Through the next few verses, we read that they whipped Jesus and spat on Him and cursed Him.
Matt. 27:35, 37
"Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, [which was prophesied.]… And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS."
A robber was hanging on each side of Him. These two robbers were being crucified also. Passersby cursed Him and blasphemed Him. But notice how God intervened here to show His power and to give those people something to think about. Jesus was brought before Pilate in the early morning hours. He was crucified at the third hour of the day, we know from reading all four Gospels. That was nine o'clock in the morning. Using Roman time, counting six a.m. as zero hours, nine o'clock would be the third hour when He was crucified. By the time high noon came—the sixth hour—notice what happened:
"Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour [when it would normally be the hottest and the warmest and the brightest] there was darkness over all the land. [This was obviously a supernatural darkness—an eerie darkness descended on the land.] And about the ninth hour [3:00 p.m.] Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?'"
He screamed this out! He could have said something else, of course, but He knew that was the situation He was in. It had been foreordained, so He was, in a sense, "acting it out," but He was not "play-acting." He knew that He was representing mankind. Here, for the first time, He was cut off from His Father. He sensed the weight of our sins which were put upon Him, and He had no extra help at that moment. He felt that! "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" He became the sin-bearer for you and for me.
"Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, 'This Man is calling for Elijah!' Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine… The rest said, 'Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.'"
Right at this point, Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels shows that verse 49 continues, "and another took a spear and pierced His side and there came out water and blood." This is in some of the earlier versions, and from all our research I feel that it was in the original Byzantine text. That is what happened right here before Jesus died. Back in John 19:34 we read about another spear; that may have been another spear that came after His death. This one came before His death. This spear actually caused His death! Jesus DID NOT die of a "broken heart"! He was the Passover lamb. The Passover lamb had its throat slit. Jesus had His body slit and pierced, and the blood came pouring out. That is what caused His death. He was not just strangling Himself, or getting emotional and dying of a broken heart. This verse ought to be there, and it was in the original Byzantine text that was passed down—the original text of the Bible.
"And Jesus cried out [If you had a spear rammed in your side, you would cry out too. This is why Jesus cried out; the spear was rammed in.]… with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple…"
The temple of God was a gorgeous building. It had a very thick veil—a double-woven, great, heavy thing so strongly woven that several strong men could not pull it apart. This veil separated the outer court from the Holy of Holies. Man could not go into that veil, because inside that veil in the Holy of Holies represented the very presence of God. Only the high priest could go in, once a year. But, what happened when Christ died—it made it possible for all of us to directly to God in prayer in a way that men had never been able to do before. What happened? That veil was ripped in two supernaturally, by God.
"Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split."
The whole earth was shaking and perhaps there was thunder and lightning in this eerie darkness, sending chills up and down men's spines. Perhaps some realized that the Creator was intervening in the creation. Here, dying, was the Son of God—the One who created everything, as the Bible tells us in a number of places. John 1:1-10 and Ephesians 3:9 tell us that God created all things by Jesus Christ. He was with God from the beginning. He was the Logos, the Spokesman. He said, "Let there be light" and there was light. He created for the Father. That Creator died.
"And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised."
Perhaps the earthquake opened the graves. The bodies of the saints were raised, and they came to Jerusalem after Christ was raised. He was raised to supernatural life, and they were raised back to physical life as a witness that He was indeed the Son of God.
"And coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many [as an additional witness to the resurrection of the Son of God]. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God!' [Even some of those carnal, Roman soldiers realized that this was a remarkable individual.] And many women who followed Jesus [and it names them]… Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate [he had the courage to go right up to the Roman governor] and asked for the body of Jesus. [Joseph of Arimathea was apparently a rich man, used to dealing with governors and kings. He went right up and asked for the body of Jesus.] Then Pilate [checking that Jesus was dead.] commanded the body to be given to him."
Other scriptures tell us that he was joined by Nicodemus in taking Jesus down from the cross and burying Him.
"And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.
On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, 'Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise." [Now they became scared. "Maybe He really will rise," they thought. They were also concerned that His disciples might steal Him away. They were not sure what was going to happen.] Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, "He has risen from the dead." So the last deception will be worse than the first.'"
They hated for people to think that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead, or that He was the true prophet of God. They wanted to prevent that in every way they could.
"Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; [They apparently had four soldiers or a number of soldiers that were assigned to the temple that they could use.] go your way, make it as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard."
Yet, Jesus rose anyway, as we shall see in our next program. There was an empty tomb, and that cannot be answered. The Jews and the Romans would love to have revealed that it was a fraud if they could have, but no one ever produced the body of Jesus of Nazareth. He had risen from the dead, and we must always understand that—there is no way around it.
At this point, I would like to encourage you to contact us and request our booklet Do You Believe the True Gospel? It will give you the picture of much we are saying here, and other truths about the true Gospel that you have probably never understood before. Call us, or write us, or just click the "Order FREE" button on our Web site and request this booklet. It will be sent to you absolutely FREE upon your request and you will learn a lot of things you have perhaps never understood before.
In our next program, we will continue on toward the finish of this powerful book of Matthew—the introductory book of the New Testament.
This is Roderick Meredith, speaking for the Living Church of God.