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Chapter 27

 

Jesus handed over to Pilate

27:1 When it was early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people plotted against Jesus to execute him.

 

Very early in the morning following his arrest, the chief priests and elders met together to consult how they could bring about the death of, Jesus. They had already decided that he should die, so they bring a charge against him before the Roman governor, who would take the responsibility of ordering his execution (Luke 22:2).

 

27:2 They tied him up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

 

They must have still feared Jesus, or perhaps an attempt by his followers to free him, for they had him tied up. They then led him away to Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea.

 

The End of Judas

27:3-4 Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!" But they said, "What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!"

 

From the narrative it would appear that although Judas knew the Jewish rulers were plotting to kill Jesus he had deliberately banished this thought from his mind. He must have been nearby when the Sanhedrin met to decide Jesus’ fate, for he knew almost immediately that they had condemned him to death. For the first time Judas’ conscience troubled him and the full extent of what he had done convicted him. Returning the thirty pieces of silver and confessing his sin was a vain attempt to ease his conscience; he had gone too far and it was too late. The chief priests wiped their hands of him and told him that what he had done his own problem.

 

27:5 So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself.

 

As they would not take the money from him, Judas threw it into the temple and went out to hang himself.

 

27:6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood."

 

By their actions and words the chief priests condemned themselves. They acknowledged that the money they had given to Judas was unclean, having been given for a sinful purpose, and so could not be put into the temple treasury.

 

27:7 After consulting together they bought the Potter's Field with it, as a burial place for foreigners.

 

After some discussion they decided to use the money to buy a piece of land called the Potter’s Field and use it as a burial place for foreigners.

 

27:8 For this reason that field has been called the "Field of Blood" to this day.

 

The general public must have heard about this, for they changed the name of the field to field of blood and it was still called by that name at the time Matthew wrote his account (Acts 1:19).

 

27.9-10 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "They took the thirty silver coins, the price of the one whose price had been set by the people of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord commanded me."

 

Matthew says that all this happened in fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah. In actual fact, in our Bibles these words are written in the book of Zechariah 11:12-13:

Then I said to them, "If it seems good to you, pay me my wages, but if not, forget it." So they weighed out my payment -- thirty pieces of silver. The LORD then said to me, "Throw to the potter that exorbitant sum at which they valued me!" So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the temple of the LORD.

 

Jesus before Pilate

27:11 Then Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You say so."

 

Pontius Pilate could not have been unaware of the activities of the Lord Jesus Christ as the whole of Jerusalem and beyond had been stirred and affected by his ministry. Pilate asked Jesus a question based on the accusation of the Jewish leaders: “are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered simply, “What you have said is right”.

 

27:12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he did not respond.

 

However when the Jewish rulers made their accusations against him, he did not answer them (Isaiah 53:7).

 

27.13-14 Then Pilate said to him, "Don't you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?" But he did not answer even one accusation, so that the governor was quite amazed.

 

Pilate was completely taken aback by Jesus’ refusal to answer the charges that were being made against him.  As governor, many had been brought before him for judgment and he had heard and expected them to give some answer in their defence. But Jesus did not answer even one accusation.

 

Barabbas Chosen Rather than Jesus

27:15 During the feast the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whomever they wanted.

 

During the feast of the Passover it was customary for the governor to release one prisoner of the people’s choice.

 

27:16 (NKJVTM) And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

 

At this time the Romans held in custody a notorious prisoner named Barabbas. He was a thief and had committed murder in an uprising against Rome (Mark 15:7).

 

27:17 (NKJVTM) Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?"

 

So after he had called together a crowd of Jews, Pilate asked them who they wanted him to set free, giving them a choice of Barabbas or Jesus. In presenting the thief and murderer Barabbas in contrast with the innocent Jesus Christ, Pilate was hoping that the crowd would choose Jesus, whom he perceived to be innocent.  

 

27:18 (For he knew that they had handed him over because of envy.)

 

Pilate knew that the only reason the chief priests and elders had handed Jesus over to him to put to death was because of envy.

 

27:19 As he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent a message to him: "Have nothing to do with that innocent man; I have suffered greatly as a result of a dream about him today.”

 

While Pilate was sat on the judgment seat, his wife sent a message to warn him to not to condemn the innocent man who stood before. Adam Clarke insists that God had spoken to this woman through a dream. If such were the case then the dream was entirely for Pilate’s benefit. It was in God’s plan of salvation that Jesus Christ should be crucified, not released. Perhaps it was because of this warning that Pilate washed his hands in water in verse 24.

 

27:20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.  

 

The chief priests and elders who were amongst the crowd persuaded them to ask for the release of Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. Let us keep in mind that the chief priests and elders had a great influence over the lives of the people and many of them would fear the consequences of not obeying them.

 

27:21 The governor asked them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas!"

 

The governor asked them again which of the two they wanted him to set free and they cried out for Barabbas.

 

27:22 Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?" They all said, "Crucify him!”

 

Pilate had expected them to shout for Jesus, but when they did not, he still tried to set Jesus free. So he asked the crowd (who had been worked up by the Jewish leaders) what they wanted him to do with Jesus. At this point he allowed the authority of Caesar to be over-ruled by a mob of unruly people. With one voice they cried “crucify him!”

 

27:23 He asked, "Why? What wrong has he done?" But they shouted more insistently, "Crucify him!"

 

Still wanting to set Jesus free, Pilate asked them why he should put someone to death who had done nothing wrong. Still they insistently cried “crucify him!”

 

27:24 When Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but that instead a riot was starting, he took some water, washed his hands before the crowd and said, "I am innocent of this man's blood. You take care of it yourselves!”

 

However, having once let go of his power there was no way he could regain it. The crowd they began to riot. So Pilate took water and washed his hands before them, signifying that he had not condemned Jesus and was not guilty or responsible for the death of this righteous man. They were to be guilty and responsible if they put him to death.

 

27:25 In reply all the people said, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!

 

All the people shouted back that they were willing take the responsibility for his death.

In reality it was not the chief priests, the elders or Pilate that was responsible for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ; it was all people. Jesus was about to die for the sin of the world, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23; Isaiah 53:5).

 

27:26 Then he released Barabbas for them. But after he had Jesus flogged, he handed him over to be crucified.

 

Accordingly, Pilate released Barabbas; and as was the Roman custom before crucifixion, Jesus was flogged with a lead tipped whip before being handed over to the Roman soldiers for execution (Isaiah 50:6).

 

A Parody of the Truth

27:27 Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the governor's residence and gathered the whole cohort around him.

 

The governor’s soldiers then brought Jesus into the common hall of the governor’s palace and gathered the whole battalion around him.

 

27:28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him,  

 

They stripped him of his own clothes and put on him the scarlet robe of one of their officers.

 

27:29 and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: "Hail, king of the Jews!”

 

They then wove a crown from thorn branches and thrust it on his head (the word used “epitithemi” can mean to impose in a hostile manner). They put in his right hand a stick and kneeling down before him they pretended to worship him and hailed him as “king of the Jews!”

 

27:30 They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head.

 

They spat in his face and snatched the stick from his hand, repeatedly hitting him on the head with it. This would have pressed the crown of thorns further on his head (Isaiah 50:6).

 

27:31 When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

When they had finished mocking him they took the robe off him and put his own clothes back on him. To the soldiers it was just a game of mockery. They did not realise that he was king of kings and lord of lords. They then led him away to be crucified.

 

The Crucifixion

27:32 As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry his cross.

 

The gospels record that Jesus was taken from Pilate’s palace carrying his own cross, but following the severe flogging which he suffered he became too weak to carry it further. Collapsing under its weight, the Roman soldiers conscripted a bystander, a Jew from Cyrene who would have been in the city to observe Passover, to carry the cross for Jesus as he walked the hill to his execution.

 

27:33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means "Place of the Skull")

 

Golgotha was a hill outside the Jerusalem wall and was so named because it resembled a skull and because of the executions regularly performed on it. Golgotha is a local, Aramaic word; the Latin name is often used instead, Calvaria or Calvary.

 

27:34 and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. But after tasting it, he would not drink it.

 

Immediately prior to his hands and feet being nailed to the cross, the Roman soldiers offered Christ a painkiller or sedative. This gall is thought by some to have been an opiate (related to morphine). Christ tasted but refused this bitter drink, realising the necessity of his being fully conscious throughout his time on the cross; not least in order to lead at least two penitent souls to salvation, to comfort his mother and disciples at the foot of the cross and to announce his ultimate victory.

 

27:35 When they had crucified him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice.

 

The callous nature of the Roman soldiers, so inured to the suffering they inflicted, is here emphasised. Rather than return his clothing to his family, who were present, they gambled over which of them should have it as a bonus for the day’s gruesome work.

 

27:36 Then they sat down and kept guard over him there.

 

The crucifixion having been effected, the job of the Roman garrison was to ensure no one would try to take the condemned off the cross and save their lives from Roman justice.

 

27:37 Above his head they put the charge against him, which read: "This is Jesus, the king of the Jews."

 

It was customary to place the crime of which the condemned was guilty above them on the cross to act as a deterrent to others. By the express order of Pilate, the charge was “king of the Jews”, a charge with which Pilate taunted the Jewish leaders in return for backing him into a corner and forcing him to have Jesus executed.

 

27:38 Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

 

Matthew does not provide us with all the details concerning the crucifixion. To get a full picture, one must compare all the gospel accounts. Of the two outlaws crucified with him, we may assume that they had been taken in the insurrection (Luke 23:25). Luke tells us of the repentance and salvation of one, but not the other (Luke 23:42-43).

 

27:39-40 Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are God's Son, come down from the cross!"

 

Those who came out from Jerusalem to see the crucifixion cursed and taunted Jesus, as did the chief priests. It is of note that their taunts bear a striking resemblance to the temptations Jesus endured from Satan in the wilderness, in that his deity is tempted rather than his humanity. If you are the Son of God, come down! No doubt the spite of the crowd was influenced by more than mere human enmity against God.

 

27:41 In the same way even the chief priests -- together with the experts in the law and elders -- were mocking him:

 

One might have thought the religious rulers of the people to be above such taunting of a condemned Jew, but if they were not above his murder, nor were they above gloating over his murder. They considered, vainly, that they could rid themselves of the Son of God who deserved their obedience (Psalm 2:1-4).

 

27:42-43 "He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him! He trusts in God -- let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, 'I am God's Son'!"

 

They heaped insults on Jesus by implying that God would not hear him or want him, for he had blasphemed God by claiming to be his son. In reality, Jesus, the beloved son, was returning to his father (John 16:28).

 

27:44 The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

 

This verse clarified that both robbers initially cursed the Lord Jesus, and so it must have been at some point as they hung on the cross that one of them repented and turned to him for forgiveness. Even then, after this cursing of the dying Son of God, instant, full and everlasting forgiveness was available for this man.

 

27:45 Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.

 

A short while into the crucifixion, the sun refused to shine and the whole land was plunged into darkness for approximately three hours. That this was a preternatural event was evident since it was Passover time, when the moon was full and so a solar eclipse was impossible. The times on the cross are not definite, John places the crucifixion later than “the sixth hour” but some commentators suggest he was using Roman time, whilst the other gospel writers used Jewish time. More modern commentators suppose that the times are approximate and the truth could be a little in between. Wesley says by this darkness, “God testified his abhorrence of the wickedness which was then committing. It likewise intimated Christ's sore conflicts with the divine justice, and with all the powers of darkness”.

 

27:46 At about three o'clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

Gill “the meaning is not, that the hypostatical union was dissolved, which was not even by death itself; the fullness of the Godhead still dwelt bodily in him:” But the Son of God, as he became sin for us, experienced the awful and eternal result of sin on our behalf, and tasted that death which is separation from God during those hours on the cross.

 

27:47-49 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is calling for Elijah." Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, "Leave him alone! Let's see if Elijah will come to save him."

 

The superstitious standing nearby either knew no Aramaic or little scripture; or more likely they turned Christ’s words into an opportunity for deriding him. They said that Christ’s cry was a cry for Elijah to come and same him.

One of the bystanders is unwittingly used in the fulfilment of scripture “they gave me vinegar for my thirst” (Ps. 69:21). What motivated this individual to do this is unclear. Perhaps he wanted Christ to wet his lips so that he could hear his dying words more clearly. Whatever the case, God was sovereignly overruling even the derision of these bystanders for his own glory. And so the scripture was fulfilled.

 

27:50 Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.

 

Matthew does not articulate the loud cry which Jesus uttered, which John informs us was “it is finished” (John 19:30). Then bowing his head, Jesus gave up his spirit. He had given his all, made his soul and offering for sin, and gave up his life in triumph; the work of redemption had been fully accomplished.

 

27:51-53 Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)

 

The death of Christ, like his birth and resurrection, was accompanied by fearful and miraculous signs. The huge curtain which separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the temple was ripped by an invisible hand from top to bottom. The curtain had stood as a reminder that until then the way into God’s immediate presence had not been revealed or opened (Heb. 9:8). Only one man, the high priest, and he only once a year, was allowed to enter into the holy place, taking with him the blood of a sacrifice. Outside the Jerusalem wall, a sacrifice had been offered which would forever remove sin, and the event of the torn curtain revealed that through the death of Christ the way into God’s presence had been made open for every believer at all times.

Not only symbolic manifestation, but seismic activity accompanied Christ’s death. As if groaning under the weight of the sin which had been committed, the earth quaked and the rocks were split. At the same time, as if to show the absolute victory of Christ’s death, the tombs of the dead holy people were opened, ready for the events of Easter Sunday, when the dead bodies were raised, and after his resurrection went into the city and appeared to (and were recognised by) many people.

 

27:54  Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, "Truly this one was God's Son!"

 

Perhaps the dignified way in which Christ died, the love and forgiveness which he displayed to his murderers, and his evident fear of God had already affected the centurion and his soldiers deeply. But at the sign of the earthquake, and other miracles such as the midday darkness, they were terrified, and realising these signs as omens from God, they exclaimed “truly this was the Son of God”. What this title meant to them is not clear. Romans would have been familiar with stories of their “gods” becoming like men or living in disguise among men. They certainly believed Christ to be more than an ordinary mortal.

 

27:55-56 Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

 

From John’s account it appears that some women and disciples, including his mother and John the apostle, were near to the cross at the time of Jesus death (close enough to hear a dying man speak – John 19:26-27). Others stood at a respectful distance, but were witnesses of his death and of the place of his burial.

 

Christ's Burial

27:57-58 Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered that it be given to him.

 

Joseph of Arimathea was not ashamed of the fact that he had become a disciple of Jesus, and being rich he realised he was in a position to help with the burial of Jesus’ body. He went boldly to Pilate to request permission to carry out this service. Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead and first verified with the centurion before granting permission for Joseph to remove the body (Mark 15:44).

 

 

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This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew

 

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