Gospel of Matthew Chapter Twenty-Seven Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
It Was My Sins
Verses 1-5: "Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; 2 and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. 3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.' But they said, 'What is that to us? See to that yourself!' 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself." Key events leading to this moment included: 1) Judas betrayed Jesus. 2) The Jewish leaders had no authority to kill Jesus, so they delivered Him to the Roman governor, demonstrating that these religious men hated God even more than they hated the Romans. 3) Judas repented, and we can wonder—was that repentance sufficient for salvation? Peter would later say in Acts 2:38, "Repent, and... be baptized... and you shall receive... the Holy Spirit." Scripture also says, "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Judas was sorry, but... did He believe? The money was returned, but did it undo what was done by this man who betrayed the Lord and now killed somebody else?—himself—he was God's creation, just like us.
Verses 6-10: "The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, 'It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.' 7 And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. 8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; 10 and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.'" The quote here is actually from Zechariah 11:12-13, not Jeremiah, and I hope I don't get things wrong in life, but when I do, I remember these verses, for I have decided: Isn't it wonderful that God chooses imperfect people, who don't remember or quote everything perfectly, choosing them, choosing US, to do His PERFECT work. He gets it done, even when we don't do it right. That's my take on what this quote is all about—you're welcome to your own opinion. And so Judas was buried in a field of clay, reserved for broken shards of pottery—and the field was also reserved for Judas. There is life after this life—what place has God reserved for you and me?
Verses 11-16: "Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' And Jesus said to him,'It is as you say.' 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to Him, 'Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?' 14 And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed. 15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 At that time they were holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas." Matthew passes by some of the details recorded by other Gospel writers, but all of this is just as the Holy Spirit would have it, and now, here in Matthew, we see Jesus standing before the Roman governor. Pilate saw the gentleness, the dignity of Jesus, and seemed to view this encounter as an internal problem within the Jewish religion; not as a crime against Rome. Jesus was essentially silent. It was not understood by the Jewish or Roman officials... and we tend to miss it also... The Holy Spirit had the true agenda governing these events. There was really nothing to say, for as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 prophesy, Jesus came to this moment in order to die. He is the King who died for you and me.
Verses 17-19: "So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?' 18 For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, 'Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.'" If you were there, who would you vote for? We think we know, but praise God, we were not there. Barabbas, named in Verse 16, was an insurrectionist who committed murder (Mark 15:7), the kind of man society is well rid of. The tradition about Pilate's wife is that her name was Claudia. Some accounts state she had previously converted to Judaism, and later became a Christian. Right now she was concerned for her husband and the events surrounding Jesus—God had spoken to her, and now spoke through her.
Verses 20-23: "But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 But the governor said to them, 'Which of the two do you want me to release for you?' And they said, 'Barabbas.' 22 Pilate said to them, 'Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said, 'Crucify Him!' 23 And he said, 'Why, what evil has He done?' But they kept shouting all the more, saying, 'Crucify Him!'" Barabbas was not a good man. In fact, he was an evil man, but the people, through the urging of the Jewish leaders, chose him over Jesus Christ. Look at how today's culture practically worships sports figures and entertainers of all kinds, like singers and actors. Who would people choose today? The same people who are bored in church, if they attend at all, may well weep during a movie and scream while the latest form of "music" is being presented in concert. "Crucify Him" can take a variety of forms.
Verses 24-26: "When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.' 25 And all the people said, 'His blood shall be on us and on our children!' 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified." The cowardly Pilate was afraid that his reputation would be further damaged by a riot, and this is a reminder of Judas giving back the money. We can't undo what we have done. Only God can wash our souls. And note the symbolic and actual substitution here—Jesus would die and Barabbas would live—life for life.
Verses 27-32: "Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. 28 They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' 30 They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31 After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. 32 As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross." Approaching this chapter, I am reminded anew that my sins killed the Son of God. In my twenties, I ran away from Him, making a mockery of my salvation. And what about you?—Have you ever had an angry thought or said something that wasn't true?—then you killed Him, also. Psalm 22:7-8, and its context, is a prophetic look at the then future cross... They mocked Him, made fun of Him, and then killed our Lord. Many, through the centuries, have blamed the Jews for these events, but such people could also blame the Romans. We should also pause and look at ourselves, for it is indeed our sins that killed Him. Cyrene was a Roman district in North Africa, and Simon likely became a Christian. One of his sons, Rufus, is named as a friend of Mark in Romans 16:13. It would have been frightening as Simon was forced to carry that cross, but those events may well have led him and his family to the Lord.
Verses 33-37: "And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. 35 And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. 37 And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, 'THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.'" The human race is crazy—there's just no other reason for the headlines, the news that greets humanity every day. And the inmates are sort of in charge of the asylum. The "casting lots" for His clothing was prophesied in Psalm 22:18. That His hands and His feet would be pierced is seen in Verse 16 of that chapter. And since it was the custom to nail a written statement of the crime to the cross above the criminal's head, notice His written "crime": He was, is, and always will be—the "King."
Verses 38-44: "At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, 'You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.' 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42 'He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.' 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words." The "two robbers" are also seen in Luke 23:39-43. One of them placed His faith in the Son of God, who told Him, "Today, you will be with Me in Paradise." While we are on earth and no matter what we have done, the Lord extends an invitation to us all. Are you angry at God about your childhood... what you look like... what's happened... or who you are in life? Be like the robber of these verses and TRUST in Jesus Christ. He WILL save you. Undoubtedly, some of those among the spectators who were mocking Him at the moment, also trusted in Him. You can, too.
Verses 45-50: "Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying,'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?'that is,'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' 47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, 'This man is calling for Elijah.' 48 Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, 'Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.' 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit." The "sixth hour" was noon, and the "ninth" was three p.m. Can you imagine? There were no flashlights or street lights, and you wouldn't have brought some kind of torch along because it was the middle of the day. Suddenly, a velvet blackness was—everywhere! You bumped into your neighbor and tripped over a rock. It was dark like you never even thought about before. Jesus Christ was dying for our sins and "darkness" filled the land. Place these events into an even larger understanding by visiting David's Psalm 22. Verse 1 of that chapter begins, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Yes, David felt forsaken at that moment, like we all have, but the events of our lives can be more than just about us—the trouble, the loneliness we experience can also be a prophecy, helping us and others learn more about God. Following the context of Psalm 22, we come to Verse 24, which reveals, "He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard." The Father heard the Son, just as He hears you when you are suffering. Our sins were upon Jesus Christ, which blinded Him to the Presence of the Father, just as the sin in and around our lives, blinds us to the Presence of God. The reference here is Malachi 4:5, which includes the words, "I will send you Elijah the prophet..." Now it was three p.m., and Jesus died... not because He was betrayed, which He was, nor because men murdered Him, which they did, but because He had paid the price for our sins, and so He now "yielded up His spirit." It was time. He breathed His last for you and me.
Verses 51-56: "And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!' 55 Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. 56 Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee." The Temple was large and beautiful, though it always was a symbol of more. Its various parts were carefully designed by God to reveal something of Himself to us. Some in Israel, or Judea as it was presently called, could come near the Holy of Holies, but only the high priest could pass through the curtain into it, and that just once a year. The woven "veil" that covered it was large and several inches thick. It was now suddenly torn vertically, ripped open from the top by the love of God. You and me, ordinary people, can now enter the Holiest place, come into the Presence of God, merely with a heart full of words such as these: "I love You, Lord Jesus... I trust in You... forgive me... I give you my heart and life... I am Yours... Thank You." An earthquake rocked the region, and God Himself is the gentle, wonderful earthquake that rocks your life and mine. The dead came to life... Someone grabbed her husband's arm and shouted, "It's Aunt Martha," and he tried to respond, "It can't be; she's dead..." but the words couldn't come out because it really was her. The guards now understood who Jesus is. And notice the Marys: Even though history has denigrated women, God has always valued and loved them. As Paul would later learn and share: "there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
Verses 57-61: "When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave." As seen in John 19:38, Joseph, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, was a secret disciple of Jesus, as was Nicodemus and possibly others. The prophecies of Isaiah 53:9 were being fulfilled at this moment: "They made His grave with the wicked (the two robbers)—but with the rich (Joseph) at His death." Pilate didn't know what to do and must have been relieved when the prestigious Joseph came forward asking for the body of Jesus. Notice the witnesses to all this. God Himself witnesses—everything. And these people were selected out of all history to witness these moments. Jesus was dead, and a large stone weighing several tons now covered the entrance to the rich man's tomb.
Verses 62-66: "Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, 'Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.' 65 Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.' 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone." The jealous, the envious, the worried and the angry—never give up. They make up their minds, often on insufficient evidence, and then waste the rest of their lives trying to vindicate their decision. Jesus was the only Innocent Person in history, past or future. These men were the deceivers and it is interesting how, in humanity, we tend to label others with our own defects. Now without meaning to, these deceivers raised up additional witnesses in the form of soldiers who were stationed outside the tomb of Jesus Christ.
Father, it was our sins, my sins that murdered the Son of God. I am sorry, Lord. I confess my sin and place my trust in the Son of God. Please forgive me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I am Yours forever. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.