Jesus Formally Sentenced And Delivered To Pilate. Suicide Of Judas
This section divides itself into Matthew 27:1 f., and Matthew 27:3-10.
I. Matthew 27:1 f. The Formal Meeting Of The Sanhedrin
Mark 15:1, Luke 22:66-71. It seems greatly best to suppose, as we have been doing, that while the real trial and condemnation of Jesus had already occurred, (Matthew 26:57-68) a formal session of the Sanhedrin was held after daybreak, when the morning was come. So Mark 'in the morning,' and Luke 'as soon as it was day.' The Mishna ("Sanh." IV., 1) expressly provides that criminal cases can be decided only in the day time, and that while a sentence of acquittal may be made the same day, a sentence of condemnation must be postponed to the next day. We have seen (on Matthew 26:66) bow the latter provision might have been evaded, but the former seems to have been here regarded, being in fact harder to evade. Luke has not described the informal meeting and sentence, but he has just before mentioned the indignities offered to Jesus, which we know from Matt. and Mark to have followed that sentence. It is natural that Luke, in describing the formal session should include some things that occurred in the previous investigation, since this made no difference as to the general result; nor can we tell how far the formal meeting would repeat the processes of the other. Whatever view may be adopted as to the several examinations of our Lord by the Jews, we see clearly that it was public action, on the part of the highest national authorities, and was afterwards approved even by the popular voice. (Matthew 27:25.)â€”The place of this session may have been the high priest's residence, as before, but more probably was the regular hall for meetings of the Sanhedrin (see on Matthew 26:59); notice especially that Luke 22:66 says, "they led him into their council," the Sanhedrin.
Took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. They had already voted that he deserved to die (Matthew 26:66), and would only need to repeat that vote in the formal session. But there was a further question as to how they could actually put him to death, as the Romans had taken from the Sanhedrin (see on "Matthew 26:59") the right to inflict capital punishment, and this could be managed only through Pilate the governor (see on "Matthew 27:11"), who had come from his usual residence at Cesarea to Jerusalem, in order to insure order at the great feast, and attend to any administrative points that might come up. They probably then agreed to make before Pilate the accusations they actually did make, viz., that Jesus claimed to be a king, and forbade payment of tribute to Cesar, (Luke 23:2) and that he stirred up the populace. (Luke 23:5, Luke 23:14) The further charge of blasphemy (John 19:7) they would bold in reserve. The Com. text has 'Pontius Pilate,' as in Luke 3:1, Acts 4:27, 1 Timothy 6:13; but 'Pilate' alone is probably correct, according to some of the best documents.(1) As to Pilate, and the term governor,' see on "Matthew 27:11". When they had, bound him. So Mark. He had also been bound when they arrested him at Gethsemane, John 18:12, John 18:24, but the bonds would naturally be at least in part removed while they kept him in the house. The persons who bound Jesus and led him away are naturally understood to be not the chief priests and elders (Matthew 27:1), but the officials who did their bidding. The Mishna directs ("Sanh.," VI., 1) that sentence shall be followed by leading away to execution, while the court remain in session so as to hear any new evidence that may be brought in the criminal's behalf, or any reasonable appeal he may make, while on the way, for a new trial. But here "the whole company of them rose up, and brought him before Pilate." (Luke 23:1, Rev. Ver.) He was not yet on the way to execution, and they need not keep the Sanhedrin in session.
II. Matthew 27:3-10. The Sad Fate Of Judas
Not found in the other Gospels, but compare Acts 1:16-19.
(a) Judas returned the money and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5.) Judas, which had betrayed him, see on "Matthew 10:4" as to his earlier history. When he saw that he was condemned, viz., that Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin. Perhaps he literally saw the procession to Pilate's abode, and understood it to mean that the Sanhedrin had condemned him. This must have occurred before the crucifixion, as only the condemnation is mentioned. It is most natural to follow Matthew's order, placing it before the trial by Pilate. Yet that is not a necessary view, since Matt. might record the scene here to avoid a break in the subsequent narrative. The chief priests and elders in general went with the procession to Pilate, (Luke 23:1) but some of them may have gone at once to the Court of the Priests, in order to oversee the morning preparations for worship. The chief priests and elders are mentioned in Matthew 10:3, with one article for both names (correct text), probably because the two classes were closely associated in the Sanhedrin and otherwise. In v. 1 the article in the originalis repeated because of the added words 'of the people.' Repeated himself, deeply grieved over and regretted his conduct, the word being metamelomai, quite different from metanoeo, which is used for repenting unto salvation, see on "Matthew 3:2"; see on "Matthew 21:29". Brought again the thirty pieces of silver, see on "Matthew 26:15". In that I have betrayed, delivered up, as in Matthew 26:2, see on "Matthew 10:4"and see on "Matthew 17:22". Innocent blood. The Rev. Ver., margin, 'righteous blood'(1) is probably correct, but there is no important difference. The reply of the rulers was scornful. Compare Acts 18:15. In the temple, Rev. Ver., into the sanctuary. But the Com. text, 'in the sanctuary' is more probably correct.(2) The sanctuary is naos, the central building or temple proper, see on "Matthew 4:5" and see on "Matthew 21:12". Some have attempted to establish an occasional loose use of for the whole sacred enclosure, but without success. Hot being a priest, so far as we have any reason to believe, Judas had no right to enter this building, or even the Court of the Priests that surrounded it. lie must have felt desperate and reckless, so that he rushed into the Court of the Priests, or into the building itself, and flung the coins ringing on the floor of the sanctuary. If we read 'into,' he must at any rate have entered the court, which was equally forbidden. And went and hanged himself. See the same word in 2 Samuel 17:23, Tobit 3:10. As to the further statements in Acts 1:18 f., see below.
In connection with what has been said of Judas in Matthew 10:4, Matthew 26:14, Matthew 26:24, it may be remarked that our Lord gave Judas a position for which he appears to have been by nature specially fitted. That is for any man the best providential assignment, and can only turn out otherwise through his own grievous fault. (Compare Edersheim) Some modern critics and literary men, in view of Judas' remorse and suicide, have tried to construct for him a noble characterâ€”being apparently influenced partly by love of paradox, partly by pity and charity, and partly, it is to be feared, by a low estimate of sin. They say that Judas, like the other apostles, was expecting Jesus to set up a worldly kingdom, in which, whoever was otherwise greatest, he might hope to be Treasurer. This hope would feed at once his ambition and his covetousness. Seeing that the Master shrank from establishing a worldly kingdom, he is supposed by these writers to have resolved upon a diplomatic stroke; he would betray him to the rulers, and then Jesus would be obliged to deliver himself by force, perhaps by miracle, and would no longer delay to assume the Messianic throne. it was the unexpected and mortifying failure of this high scheme that wrought in him such intolerable remorse. Now that such alone was the aim of Judas, is a fancy forbidden by the express statement of John that he was "a thief"; (John 12:6) and of Jesus, long before, that he was "a devil"; (John 6:70) and by the Saviour's awful words, (Matthew 26:24, Rev. Ver.) "Woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had not been born." One may sometimes incline to think it possible that, along with the low avarice which accepted a small reward for treachery, there may have been connected in his mind vague hopes that somehow Jesus would escape, and it would all turn out well. See an excellent article in this direction by Park in Smith's "Bib. Dict.," Amer. Ed., vol. 2, page 1498 ff. But it is difficult to suppose the elevated aims above indicated to have been cherished by a thief and a traitor; and most of the critics in question have felt it necessary for their theory to disparage the Gospel statements. It seems much more probable that, taking literally the Saviour's predictions that he would be crucified, and perceiving the growing enmity and fixed purpose of the rulers, Judas was minded to save what he could out of the wreck, as the end of his course of petty peculation, and as some consolation for blasted hopes in regard to the kingdom and its treasury. It may also be that he was angered by the rebuke during the supper at Bethany (see on "Matthew 26:10"f.), and long before dissatisfied at gradually perceiving how Jesus proposed self-renunciation and cross-bearing instead of worldly self-aggrandizement. As to his end, we know that men often lay plans for some vile act in a dreamy, or a moody, sullen fashion, and when it has been consummated, awaking to realize what they have done, are filled with vain regret and remorse. It might easily have been so with Judas, and thus his remorse and suicide are not in the least inconsistent with his having been a low thief and a shameful traitor.â€”'What mournful scenes of evil encompass the awful tragedy of the crucifixionsâ€”Caiaphas and Pilate, Peter and Judas. Let these help us to understand the sinfulness of human nature and the dreadful guilt of sin, and we can better appreciate the necessity, significance, and power of the cross.
(b) How the money was disposed of. (Matthew 27:6-10.) To put them into the treasury, the (Hebrew word borrowed in the Greek), where every (see on "Matthew 15:5") or consecrated article was deposited. (Compare Josephus "War," 2, 9, 4.) It is not lawful.... because it is the price of blood. This is supposed to have been inferred from Deuteronomy 23:18. The money had already dishonoured the temple by being thrown on its floor. And they took counsel, probably some hours or even days later, when they had more time to think of so small a matter. The potter's field, spoken of as known by that name. To bury strangers in. This was a contemptuous charity, probably referring to Gentiles who died at Jerusalem, as they would have been unwilling to bury any Jew in a place having a taint of desecration. The field of blood. Acts gives also the Aramaic term Aceldama. The tradition fixing the place of Aceldama in the side of the valley of Hinnom, on the south of Jerusalem, goes back as far as Jerome ("Onom."). while Eus. seems to locate it on the north. Compare Robinson,"Bibl. Res.," and a striking description in Hackett's "Illustrations of Scripture." Unto this day, shows that this Gospel was written a good many years after the crucifixion; it would be much more natural in A. D. 60 than in A. D. 40.
The account in Acts 1:18 f. differs in various points from that here given. (1) Matt. says the chief priests 'bought the field'; Acts, 'this man purchased (acquired) a field.' The latter is a high wrought expression, perfectly intelligibleâ€”all that he acquired by his treachery was a field. The money bought him a burial-place; that was to him the sole financial outcome of the iniquitous transaction. (2) Matt. says he 'hanged himself'; Acts, 'failing headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.' Why should these be called inconsistent statements? Suppose that he hanged himself in the potter's fieldâ€”probably an unenclosed spot, from which potter's clay had often been obtained, like a brickyard, and therefore not costly; and suppose that the rope, or a limb of a tree, broke; and the statements are all accounted for. (3) Matthew ascribes the name field of blood to the fact that it was bought with the price of blood; Acts, to the fact that his own blood was poured out there. All the circumstances (McClellan) must have become known to the Christians, who resided at Jerusalem for years after their occurrence, and would feel a painful interest in the entire story. One of the reasons for that name does not exclude the other.â€”These several explanations are artificial, but not highly so, and are certainly all possible; and therefore it cannot be fairly said that the accounts are incredible because contradictory, nor that the writers were erroneously informed.
Matthew 26:9. Then was fulfilled. For the term 'fulfilled,' see on "Matthew 1:22"; and for the phrase 'then was fulfilled,' instead of 'that it might be fulfilled,' compare on Matthew 2:17. It was natural to shrink from referring so horrid a crime in any sense to the divine purpose. Spoken by, through, Jeremiah, viz., 'by God through Jeremiah,' see on "Matthew 1:22"; see on "Matthew 2:17". Price... was valued... did value. The same word is used throughout in the Greek; the repetition being painfully impressive. Com. Ver. must of necessity vary the translation, 'price,' 'valued,' 'did value'; but it did better than Tyn., Cran., Gen., which had 'price,' 'valued,' 'bought.'
The prophecy is evidently derived from Zechariah 11:13, and yet is here referred to Jeremiah. There can be no doubt as to the text. Augustine already remarks that the few (Latin) copies which omitted the name (as also Peshito does), or substituted Zechariah, were evidently trying to remove a difficulty. This difficulty has been the subject of immense discussion. The principal theories are as follows: (1) Error on the part of Matthew. This is apparently a very easy solution of Luther, Beza, etc., and is popular now with many, even Keil and Wright (on Zechariah). But some have surely failed to consider the consequences involved in such an admission. Persons who earnestly seek another solution, or who admit they cannot find one and are quietly recognizing an unsolved difficulty, may he just as honest and truth-loving as those who with reckless bravery cut the knot. (2) Origen and Eusebius suggested, and many have repeated, that it might be a mistake of an original copyist, which is of course a mere assumption, but quite as likely as a mistake of the Evangelist. Morison ingeniously compares "strain at a gnat" in Matthew 23:24, which appears to have been a slip of the pen or a typographical error in the original edition of King James. (3) The notion (Origen, Jerome, Ewald, and others), that it was taken from some Apocryphal writing ascribed to Jeremiah, is arbitrary and hardly worth discussing. (4) Mede suggested, followed by Turpie, Wright, and others, that Jeremiah may have been the author of Zechariah 9-11. This would partly fall in with the recent theory as to a divided authorship of that book; but the theory holds, for internal reasons, that the author must have belonged to the time of Micah and Isaiah. Mede's view is barely possible. Morison well says that it would be "a critical anachronism" to suppose Matthew indicating in this fashion the composite authorship of the book. (5) Lightfoot quotes the Talmud as saying that, in the ancient order of the prophetic books, Jeremiah stood first. So he thinks Matthew has quoted from the general prophetic collection as the Book of Jeremiah; compare the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon. This is very ingenious. But no similar quotation is found in New Testament Hengstenberg and Cook ("Bib. Comm.") notice the fact that only Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Daniel are quoted by name in the Gospels, Zechariah being several times quoted or referred to in the Gospels, and many times in New Testament, but never named. (6) Hengstenberg thinks that as the later prophets often reproduce earlier predictions, so Zechariah. was here really reproducing Jeremiah 18:2 and Jeremiah 19:2, and Matt. intentionally refers to the original source, though adopting mainly the later form. This theory is ably argued in Hengstenberg's "Christology,"and Kliefoth has a similar though distinct theory (see Wright). Besides the above-mentioned fact that Zechariah is so often quoted but never named, Hengst. notices also that Mark 1:2 f. refers to Isaiah what comes partly from Malachi, giving the older and greater prophet credit for the whole, the two predictions being akin.â€”On the whole this last seems the most nearly satisfactory theory; but some of the others are possible, even plausible. If not quite content with any of these explanations, we had better leave the question as it stands, remembering how slight an unknown circumstance might solve it in a moment, and how many an once celebrated difficulty has been cleared up in the gradual progress of Biblical knowledge. Compare on Matthew 20:29, Matthew 23:35.
In Zechariah 11:13 the prophet in vision is a representative of Jehovah acting as shepherd of Israel. The flock so misbehave that the shepherd calls for his wages to quit. The people (flock) show him contempt by valuing him at thirty shekels, the price of a slave. Jehovah says to the shepherd, "Fling it to the potter, the glorious price at which I was priced by them." The prophet adds, "And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and I flung it, in the house of Jehovah, to the potter." In like manner, Jesus is contemptuously valued by the representatives of Israel at thirty shekels, and this is flung away in the house of Jehovah, and goes to a potter for the purchase of his field. The two cases are similar internally as well as in striking external points, and the Evangelist declares them to have a prophetic relation. Compare on Matthew 1:23, Matthew 2:17 f.â€”Ewald, Bleek, Meyer, and others, hold that the Hebrew does not mean 'potter,' but 'treasury.' They change the vowels, and make an unknown word, and think that this is required by the subsequent words 'in the house of Jehovah.' It is enough to say that the money flung in the temple did go to the potter. Stone have suggested the artificial but not impossible hypothesis of a potter who had a shop in the temple courts and supplied the temple, and who owned the piece of land that was bought.
As to the form of the quotation, Matthew here leaves the Sept. and makes considerable changes in the expressions of the Hebrew, but only such as bring out more clearly the meaning which, if we consider the passage as prophetic, is really conveyed by the Hebrew. Compare on Matthew 2:6.
Homiletical And Practical
Matthew 27:3. Downward course of one who began as a teacher and an apostle. (1) Avarice, (2) Thievery, John 12:6, (3) Betrayal, (4) Remorse, (5) Suicide, (6) His own place, Acts 1:25.â€”Peter and Judas. (1) They both, and they only, are called Satan, Matthew 16:23, John 6:70 (2) They both, and they only, turned openly against the Master at the end. (3) They both sorrowed deeply, but in one it was remorse, in the other it was humble and loving repentance. (4) One committed suicide, the other found forgiveness and lived a long life of usefulness.â€”How the traitor was treated. (1) Eagerly welcomed, and promptly paid, Matthew 26:15 (2) Solemnly warned, but in vain, Matthew 26:24 (3) Diligently assisted, Matthew 26:47, John 18:3 (4)
Scorned and slighted, Matthew 27:4. (5) The price of his treachery made a monument of his ignominy forever.
Matthew 27:4."I have sinned."Spurgeon has a sermon that introduces seven different persons in Scripture, each saying,"I have sinned" "What is that to us?" It was really much to them; for if Judas bad betrayed a righteous man, they had condemned him. They could not shift their guilt upon Judas, as Pilate could not shift his upon the Jews. (Matthew 27:24) Henry: "It is folly for us to think that the sins of others are nothing to us, especially those sins that we are any way accessory to, or partakers in.... Sinners, under convictions, will find their old companions in sin but miserable comforters. It is usual for those that love the treason to hate the traitor."
Matthew 27:5. How often does gain gotten by crime become a torment.
Matthew 27:6. Scrupulosity and injustice. (1) They would pay the price, but would not put the price of blood in the treasury. (2) They would not enter the governor's abode for fear of defilement, (John 18:28) but they would manoeuvre and lie to make the governor murder the righteous. (3) They were horror-struck at a claim to be the Messiah, (Matthew 26:65 f.) and they would bribe Roman soldiers to a false report to prevent the claim from being believed. (Matthew 28:12)
Matthew 27:10. Euthym.: "Let the money-lovers consider how Judas (1) committed the sin, (2) did not enjoy the money, (3) lost his life." Luther: "In Judas we see two things; how sin at first easily slips in, but afterwards makes such a horrible end."
Jesus Tried By Pilate
Found also in Mark 15:2-20, Luke 23:2-25, John 18:28 to John 19:16. Luke here gives a good deal, and John still more, of matter not found in Matt. and Mark; while Matt. has two remarkable points not found in the others, viz., John 19:19 and John 19:24 f. This section in Matthew divides into John 19:11-14, John 19:15-18, John 19:19, John 19:20-23, John 19:24; Joh_19:26-31.
I. Matthew 27:11-14. Pilate Finds No Grounds Of Condemnation
And Jesus stood before the governor, viz., Pilate. (Matthew 27:2)
The time was early morning. (Matthew 27:1; John 18:28) The place was either in the Castle of Antonia, at the northwest corner of the temple area, or at the grand palace of Herod the Great, on the western side of the city, near the present Jaffa gate; it does not seem possible at present to decide between the two localities. The Greek word translated "governor" is a general term signifying leader, ruler, governor in general, as in Matthew 10:18, 1 Peter 2:14, and frequently applied to a Roman procurator, as throughout this and the following chapters, and in Acts 24:1 to Acts 26:32; so sometimes in Josephus.
When Archelaus was banished in A. D. 6 (compare above, end of ch. 2), Judea and Samaria were made a Roman province, governed by a procurator, who resided at Cesarea as the political capital, and visited Jerusalem upon occasion, especially at the time of the great feasts. The sixth procurator, A. D. 26-36, was Pontius Pilatus, who, besides New Testament and Jos., is mentioned by Tacitus ("Ann.," 15, 44), "Christus, in the reign of Tiberius, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilatus." We know nothing of Pilate's history before entering upon office. In the probably four years he had now been holding it, he had made himself very odious to the Jews, by disregarding their religious convictions and feelings. We find mention of four instances, all apparently belonging to this early period. (a) In removing his army from Cesarea to Jerusalem for winter quarters, he sent in by night some ensigns bearing busts of Cesar, while former governors had used other ensigns in entering Jerusalem, out of regard for Jewish feeling against graven images. Multitudes of the people went to Cesarea and continued for five days and nights their incessant entreaties for the removal of these images, which he refused because it would seem an insult to Cesar. On the sixth day he let in soldiers threatening the suppliants with slaughter; but they prostrated themselves and bared their throats before the drawn swords, saying that they would gladly die rather than allow transgression of the law; so he yielded, and ordered back the images (Josephus,"Ant.," 18, 3, 1; "War," 2 9, 2-4). (b) Philo, in urging upon Caius Caligula the example of Tiberius, tells that Pilate once offered up in the palace of Herod some golden shields, without figures, but inscribed, and after long obstinately refusing the entreaties of the people, received orders from Tiberius at Rome to remove them. See that curious work, written soon after A. D. 40, Philo's "Embassy to Caius," sec. 38. (c) He used the sacred treasure called Corban, (Mark 7:11) to build an aqueduct near fifty miles long. On his return to Jerusalem the people gathered about his tribunal with loud clamours, and he sent among them soldiers, who beat them savagely with staves, killing many, while others were trodden to death in the flight; and so in that case he triumphed (Josephus "War," 2, 3, 9). (d) He slew certain Galileans while engaged in offering sacrifices at the temple, so that their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrificesâ€”to Jewish feeling a horrible combination of cruelty and profanation. (Luke 13:1) We need not wonder that Josephus has no account of this, for Philo speaks of Pilate's "successive murders without trial," declaring that he feared any appeal to Tiberius, lest the embassy should also accuse his "acceptance of bribes, plunderings, outrages, and wanton insults, continual and most grievous cruelty," and characterizing him as "unbending, selfwilled, harsh, and malignant." These facts and statements will prepare us to understand the relations of the accusers and the judge in the trial of Jesus before Pilate. It should be added that six years later the proconsul of Syria, who was the procurator's superior, upon complaint of his cruelty towards certain Samaritans, ordered him to Rome, where he arrived after the death of Tiberius ("Ant." 18, 4, 1 f.). Eusebius says ("Hist." II, 7), that "in the time of Caius (A. D. 37-41) Pilate fell into so great misfortunes that he committed suicide." It is stated by Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Euseb., that Pilate made an official report to Tiberius concerning his trial of Jesus; but this is now represented only by unquestionably spurious writings.
John relates how Pilate came out from the praetorium, because the rulers were unwilling to enter, and inquired "What accusation bring ye against this man?" They replied that he was an evil-doer. Upon Pilate's bidding them take him and judge him themselves, they said "We (emphatic) are not permitted to put any one to death;" and, so Pilate knew that they designed a grave accusation. He must have repeatedly heard of Jesus during the last three years, of the great crowds that followed him, and the reported miracles, but also that he seemed to have no political aims. Luke (Rev. Ver.) tells that they said, "We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king." They kept the purely religious question in reserve, (John 19:7) and put forward political accusations, such as alone properly concerned a Roman governor, (compare Acts 18:12-17) and these of the most serious kind. Now, in Roman trials (Keim), great importance was attached to a confession by the accused. Accordingly, Pilate asked the question given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and John, Art thou the king of the Jews? This in Matthew and Mark requires something said by the Jews as accounting for it, which John and Luke afford. 'Thou' is emphatic, being separately expressed in the Greek. Thou sayest, viz., sayest what is true (compare on Matthew 26:25). John shows that this question and answer were spoken in private within the praetorium, (John 18:33) and that Jesus explained, "My kingdom is not of this world." We have seen on Matthew 25:34 how our Lord had of late been speaking of himself to the disciples as king, and on Matthew 26:64 how before the Sanhedrin he avowed himself the Messiah, and thus a king. It is probably to this confession that he was the king of the Jews that Paul refers in 1 Timothy 6:13, Rev. Ver.: "Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession."
When he was accused, or, 'while he was being accused.' By the chief priests and elders, first one speaking, and then another. This was probably both before and after Pilate's private interview with him. To never, or, not even to one word, is the literal translation. Pilate's remonstrance (Matthew 27:13) appears to have been kindly meant. The utter silence of the accused seemed wonderful. (Matthew 27:14). A Roman writer says, "Silence is a kind of confession." Did Jesus mean thus to confess the charge as true? There was something about him which disinclined the governor to think so. How many things. The Greek may mean either how many or how great, indeed may include bothâ€”what a mass of things. Can we see reasons for this remarkable silence, before the Roman as well as the Jewish tribunal? (Matthew 26:63) (1) He has already been condemned by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy. His death is a foregone conclusion with them, and Pilate is fettered by his own past wrongdoing, and must yield to their wishes. It will do no good to speak; it would be casting pearls before swine. The only charge that needed explanation to Pilate he did explain to him in private. (2) The crisis of his ministry has arrived, his 'hour' is now come. For two years he has prudently avoided exciting the hostility of his enemies, and the fanaticism of his friends. But there is no occasion for further delaying the inevitable collision. He has finished his work of teaching, his life of humiliation, and the hour is come that he should be glorified. (John 12:23, John 17:4) (3) His death is not only inevitable, but necessary, and he now voluntarily submits to it. (John 10:17 f.) One prayer to the Father might stop it, but he will not so pray. (John 12:27, Matthew 26:53) The thought of this hour has long been a burden to his soul, (Luke 12:50) and last night its approach cost him a long and painful struggle in the garden; but now he is ready to endure the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that is set before him. (Hebrews 12:2)
Luke and John here relate that Pilate declared he found no fault in the accused. (Luke 23:4, John 18:38) So the trial before him was thus far a failure. But the Jewish rulers (Luke 23:5, R.V.) "were the more urgent, saying, lie stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, and beginning from Galilee even unto this place." Thus Pilate learned that the accused was a Galilean. He seized upon this fact as affording a prospect of an escape from this unpleasant trial, and at the same time of conciliating Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, with whom he had been at enmity. So he sent Jesus to Herod, who had come to Jerusalem for the feast. (Luke 23:7-12) This formed the second stage in the Roman trial. But while he succeeded in conciliating Herod, the governor failed to escape the responsibility of the investigation. Jesus was utterly silent before Herod also, and was sent back, nothing having been accomplished.
II. Matthew 27:15-18. Pilate Attempts To Release Jesus
Mark 15:6-10, Luke 23:13-16, John 18:39 f.
Summoning the rulers and the people, the procurator declared (Luke) that he, and likewise Herod, had found no fault in this man concerning the matters of accusation. So he proposed a sort of compromise, "I will therefore chastise him, and release him." He hoped that this amount of punishment might satisfy the hostility of the accusers. At that feast, Rev. Ver., the feast, feast by feast, whenever a feast occurred; but the reference is probably to the passover, and not all the feasts. The governor was wont to release unto the people, multitude. This was more likely a Roman than a Jewish custom, but its origin is quite unknown. Despots have often found some release of prisoners to be popular with the many. A, one, prisoner. This is clearly a numeral, and not an indefinite article, compare on Matthew 26:69. They had, viz., the governor and those associated with him in such matters. Barabbas. The insurrection against the Romans when a procurator was first appointed had left some popular robbers, who were regarded as patriots (compare on Matthew 22:17). It is not unlikely that Barabbas was one of those. He was not only "a robber ", (John 18:40) but had excited an insurrection in the city, during which he and his followers had committed murder. (Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19) These facts account for Matthew's calling him a notable prisoner, or 'a prisoner of mark.' It is also probable that the two robbers crucified with Jesus were Barabbas' followers, so that the Saviour literally 'took his place. Jesus was falsely accused of sedition, and a man really guilty of sedition was released. The name Barabbas occurs frequently in the Talmud, and signifies 'son of Abba,' or 'son of a teacher,' it being common to call a rabbi 'father.' (Matthew 23:9) Compare Barjonah, (Matthew 16:17) Bartholomew. (Matthew 10:2)
The name might mean simply 'son of his father,' but not so probably. A few documents give in Matthew 26:16 and Matthew 26:17, or in Matthew 26:17 alone, 'Jesus Barabbas.' Every one feels this to be an interesting reading, but the evidence is too slight to warrant accepting it, as is done by Fritz., Meyer, Farrar, and others. Tregelles has shown how it might have arisen through a mistake in copying; see also Tisch. and W. H., App. Whom will ye that I release unto you? John also states, and Luke implies, that Pilate suggested the release of Jesus. Mark (Mark 15:8) at first seems to make it come from the people. But he only states that the thronging multitude at that point reminded Pilate of the custom, a very natural thing upon coming before the tribunal early on the first day of the feast, and Pilate took up the idea and asked whether they wished him to release Jesus. For envy they had delivered him. Mark carefully distinguishesâ€”Pilate addressed "the multitude," and "perceived that for envy the chief priests had delivered him up," R.V. Their jealousy arose from the fear that a person claiming to be the Messiah would interfere with their popularity and power. Pilate might well enough suppose that the multitude would have little sympathy with this feeling. Or Jesus, which is called Christ. We usually find 'the Christ,' the Messiah, see on "Matthew 2:4"; but here, as in Matthew 1:1, Matthew 1:16, and probably in Matthew 16:20, it is simply 'Christ,' a proper name.
III. Matthew 27:19. Message From Pilate's Wife
This is found in Matthew only. The judgment seat was a special chair, often carried about by a Roman official of rank, and placed as a seat of justice in front of his tent or house, upon an elevated 'pavement,' tessellated or mosaic.
The Romans were ostentatious of publicity in trials, as opposed to secret investigations. Compare (Keim) the case of the procurator Florus, who in A. D. 66, after spending the night in Herod's palace, "the next day placed in front of the palace a judgment seat, and sat down; and the chief priests and men of power and all that was most distinguished in the city stood beside the judgment seat." (Josephus, "War," 2, 14, 8.) This curious interruption from Pilate's wife gave time for the rulers to move about among the crowds and persuade them to ask for Barabbas. (Matthew 27:20.) It is suggested by Edersh. (compare above on Matthew 26:47) that so large a force as a cohort, commanded by a chiliarch, could not have been furnished to the rulers for the apprehension of Jesus without authority from Pilate. This would account for the fact that Pilate's wife knew what was going on, and felt distressed and anxious. Have thou nothing to do with that just man; the same Greek construction as in Matthew 8:29, John 2:4. This day in the Jewish sense, beginning at sunset. There is nothing here to indicate a divine influence in connection with the dream, and it can be accounted for by natural causes. The message would naturally increase the governor's reluctance to condemn the accused. A tradition, with but slight support, gives to Pilate's wife the name of Procla, or Claudia Procula. In like manner, the two robbers, the centurion, etc., have received traditional names, which interest some minds, but are of no real value. In A. D. 21, it was proposed in the Roman Senate that no provincial magistrate should be accompanied by his wife, as had been growing common; but the motion failed. Tacitus ("Ann.," III., 33-35) gives a summary of arguments on both sides.
IV. Matthew 27:20-23. The People Choose Barabbas Rather Than Jesus
Mark 15:11-14, Luke 23:18-23, John 18:40. The chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude, while Pilate was occupied with the message from his wife, Notice that great throngs of people were gathered in front of the praetorium. The Jews have always been skilful politicians. The popular zeal about Jesus as the Messiah had evidently cooled, and probably because now for five days since the triumphal entry he had done nothing towards establishing himself as king. The wily demagogues could say that the highest court had tried Jesus, and found him an impostor and a blasphemer, who deserved to die, and they hoped Pilate would crucify him. If Barabbas was associated with patriotic traditions, as we have supposed (on Matthew 27:16), it was easy to excite popular good-will towards him. Compare the modern Greek robbers under Turkish rule. Mark, Rev. Ver., says, "the chief priests stirred up the multitude," a strong term, indicating that they roused them to excited feeling, for Barabbas or against Jesus, or probably both. 'Persuaded that they should ask', is a non-final construction, explained on Matthew 5:29. â€”Alexander: "This deliberate preference of a bad man to a good one, of a justly condemned criminal to one whom even Pilate recognized as innocent, would have been enough to brand the conduct of the priests with infamy. But when to this we add that they preferred a murderer to the Lord of life, a rebel and a robber to a prophet, to their own Messiah, nay, to the incarnate Son of God himself, this perverseness seems almost incredible and altogether irreconcilable with rectitude of purpose and sincere conviction." Compare the striking statement by Peter in Acts 8:13-15.â€”In consequence of this skilful persuasion from the rulers, the multitudes 'cried out' (Luke and John), shouted the request. What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? He wishes them to observe (Alex.) that the effect of their choosing Barabbas is to leave Jesus in danger, hoping that this thought may lead them to change the request. They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. The hint to this effect had probably been given the crowd by the rulers. They could thus make his death ignominious, so as to break his hold on popular admiration; and could also have an excuse for saying in future, if complained of, that it was not their act but that of the Romansâ€”as some Jews anxiously maintain now. They knew not that under an overruling Providence they were bringing about a form of death most suitable to atonement, as involving "shedding of blood," and causing wounds that would be marks of identification after resurrection, without the distressing mutilations caused by stoning. As to the term, 'crucified,' see on "Matthew 16:24", and see on "Matthew 27:35". Why, what evil hath he done? Pilate had no liking for the rulers, and understood their jealousy of Jesus. (Matthew 27:18.) And where his own interests or passions were not involved, he had some sentiment of Roman justice. So he remonstrates with the crowd. Luke tells us that he declared, "I find no cause of death in him," B. U. Ver., and a second time proposed, (Luke 23:16, Luke 23:22) as a sort of compromise that might satisfy the enemies of Jesus, "I will therefore chastise him and let him go." All this, as Chrys. says, was weak and unmanly conduct; see on "Matthew 27:24". But they cried out the more, or exceedingly. An excited throng is often more boisterous in proportion as it has less reason. Compare Acts 19:34.
Matthew 26:24. Pilate tries to shift the responsibility, and the people assume it. This is recorded by Matt. only.â€”Saw that he could prevail nothing, that he did no good by his suggestions. Why was the man of power thus powerless? Why could he not say, Fiat justitia, ruat caelum? [Let justice be done, if the heavens fall]. He was evidently very anxious to avoid condemning the innocent, for he made in all six distinct efforts to escape the difficulty: (1) sending Jesus to Herod; (2) suggesting that he might be released according to the custom; (3) proposing to compromise by scourging and releasing, Luke 23:22 f.; (4) washing his hands and disclaiming responsibility; (5) proposing to turn the case over to the Jewish rulers, John 19:6; (6) appealing and remonstrating before he pronounced judgment, John 19:14 f. Pilate was not a man of heroic mould, but he was "self-willed and obstinate." Why could he not do what he so greatly desired? He was entangled by his own previous wrong-doing, see on "Matthew 27:11". He had made rulers and people hate him thoroughly, so that they would be glad of an excuse for reporting him to Tiberius; and he knew that the suspicious and jealous emperor would be slow to pass over the charge that he let go one who claimed to be king. Pilate was weak now because he had formerly been wicked. Like many a politician, his record was in the way of his conscience. A tumult was made, or, was arising. The Romans desired two things in the provinces, tribute and peace. A successful governor was one who kept everything quiet, and popular tumult was greatly disliked, as being troublesome and expensive, if not dangerous. Washed his hands before the multitude. The law of Moses had directed this ceremony in a peculiar case of real innocence; (Deuteronomy 21:6-9) an image was drawn from it in Psalms 26:6. Pilate might easily become acquainted with this Jewish custom, which was in itself a very natural symbol. Innocent of the blood of this just person, or righteous man. The shorter text of margin Rev. Ver. is quite probably correct, 'innocent of this blood'; there is no important difference, for Pilate elsewhere declares him to be righteous, Luke 23:14; John 19:4. But the governor was; not innocent. Plump.: "One of the popular poets of his own time and country might have taught him the nullity of such a formal ablation "â€”
'Too easy souls, who dream the crystal flood
Can wash away the fearful guilt of blood.'
â€”Ovid, 'Fast': ii. 48.
And he himself felt that he was not innocent, for it was afterwards that he made the two new efforts in John 19:4-16 to overcome the opposition of the Jews. Then answered all the people. Not simply some; it was a general cry. His blood be on us and on our children. Jerome : "A fine inheritance the Jews leave to their children." Josephus tells that in the insurrection against Florus, about A. D. 65, "many of the Jews were apprehended and brought before Fiorus, who first scourged and then crucified them." And Titus, during the siege, A. D. 70, caused many captured fugitives, sometimes five hundred a day, to be "scourged and tortured in every form, and then crucified in front of the ramparts.... And so great was their number that there was no space for the crosses, nor were there crosses for the bodies." ("War," 2, 14, 9; 5, 11, 1.)
V. Matthew 27:26. Jesus Delivered To Be Crucified
Mark 15:15, Luke 23:24 f.; John 19:1. Scourged. The terrible Roman scourging carried with it into the provinces the Latin word, which is here borrowed into the Greek of Matt. and Mark, and so into the Syriac (Pesh.) and Coptic (Memph.) Jerome here remarks that it was according to the Roman laws that one who is crucified shall first be scourged. Wet. quotes Greek, Roman, and Jewish writers as showing that it was common to scourge before crucifying; compare Jos. above. The sufferer was stripped and bound to a pillar or post, bending forward so as to expose his back completely; the heavy whip or strap often contained bits of bone or metal, and tore the quivering flesh into one bloody mass. The law of Moses had provided, (Deuteronomy 25:3) that a scourging should not exceed forty stripes, and Jewish custom made sure of this by stopping at "forty save one'"; (2 Corinthians 11:24) but the Roman scourgers were restricted by nothing but strength and inclination. We ought to feel a shuddering gratitude at our inability to conceive the consequences of this cruel infliction. Delivered, to some of his soldiers. (Matthew 27:27.)
VI. Matthew 27:27-31. Jesus Mocked By The Soldier, And Led Away To Be Crucified
Mark 15:16-20; John 19:2-16. The soldiers of the governor, the Roman soldiers in immediate attendance. These were seldom Italians, (Acts 10:1) but drawn from all parts of the empire. They may in this case have been Syrians, or may have been Germans. Took Jesus into the common hall. In Rev. Ver., palace was used by English Revisers. This is not the word rendered 'palace' in Com. Ver. of Matthew 26:3, Matthew 26:58, Matthew 26:69, but another term, the Roman praetorium (borrowed in the Greek), denoting the proctor's tent or abode, the general's head-quarters. The American Revisers wisely preferred to render proetorium. The trial and the scourging had taken place in front of the praetorium, in a broad open space where the judgment seat was placed and the crowds assembled. The mocking that follows occurred within the praetorium, and afterwards the sufferer was again led out by Pilate, for another appeal to the people. (John 19:5, John 19:13) And gathered unto him the whole band, or 'cohort' (margin, Rev. Ver.), compare on Matthew 26:47. The expression (Meyer) is of course popular, not necessarily implying that every soldier of the cohort was present; but it was a large number. And they stripped him. There can be little doubt that this is the correct text; that of margin, Rev. Ver. (differing in the Greek by only one letter) would mean that having previously stripped him for the scourging, (Acts 16:22) they now replaced his garments and then put round him the scarlet cloak. A scarlet robe. Mark and John, 'purple.' The ancients did not so carefully discriminate colours as we do, and royal purple is believed to have included all tints from sky-blue to crimson. The term here rendered 'robe' denotes a short red cloak worn by Roman military and civil officials. The soldiers would naturally take this as a mocking substitute for a king's purple robe; indeed, a Roman emperor might wear it. A crown of thorns. So Mark and John. The crown would simply be a garland. The plant employed cannot certainly be determined, but was most probably the nubk of the Arabs, "a tree which is found in all the warmer parts of Palestine, and about Jerusalem.... The flexible boughs are tough, and well suited to form a garland, and the thorns are numerous and sharp" (Tristram, "Nat. Hist."). The thorns were of course unpleasant to the brow, but not excessively painful, and were probably used more in derision than in cruelty. A reed in his right hand, as a mock sceptre. Hail, King of the Jews! The Jews had mocked him as a pretended prophet; (Matthew 26:68) here the Romans mock him as a pretended king. Spit upon him (Mark likewise), as the Jews had done in their mocking. (Matthew 26:67) And took the reed and smote him on the head. So Mark. The tense of 'smote' is imperfect, a continued smiting, and so in Mark as to the spitting also. Then restoring his own garments, they led him away to crucify him. So Mark, Luke, John. John interposes an account not given by the other Evangelists, of a renewed effort made by Pilate once and again, to excite popular compassion and change the result. But the wily Jewish rulers knew his weak point and their advantage, and said, (John 19:12) "If thou let this man go, thou art not Cesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cesar." We have seen (on Matthew 27:24) why Pilate felt helpless in presence of this thought. And so his last efforts had failed.
Homiletical And Practical
Matthew 27:11 f. Henry: "Many oppose Christ's holy religion, upon a mistake of the nature of it; they dress it up in false colours, and they fight against it." Griffith: "So always a true he-art will speak out boldly, indifferent to circumstances,â€”will not endeavour to clip and tear and file the form of its utterances, in order to avoid collision with misconception and prejudice."
Matthew 27:14. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent.â€”Matthew 27:19. Henry: "It is an instance of true love to our friends and relations to do what we can to keep them from sin."
Matthew 27:21. Barabbas. (1) The son of a religious teacher sometimes becomes very wicked. (2) People often choose some evil person or thing in preference to Christ. (3) A man guilty and condemned may escape death because of Christ's dying in his place.
Matthew 27:22. Alas! for the fickle multitude who shout "Hosanna" today, and ere a week has passed cry out, "Crucify him." The vox populi is sometimes vox diaboli.
Matthew 27:23. Henry: "The Lord Jesus suffered as an evil-doer, yet neither his judge nor his prosecutors could find that he had done any evil."
Matthew 27:25. Chrys.: "Passion and wicked desire suffer not men to see anything of what is right. For be it that ye curse yourselves; why do you draw down the curse upon your children also?" Calvin: "There is no doubt that the Jews felt secure in devoting themselves, supposing their cause to be just in the sight of God; but inconsiderate zeal drives them headlong to cut off from themselves all hope of pardon for their wickedness. Hence we learn how anxiously in all judgments we should avoid headlong rashness."
Matthew 27:26. Lessons from the case of Pilate. (1) Scepticism and superstition often go togetherâ€”"What is truth?" and the dream. (2) Scepticism will sometimes turn away from the richest sources of instruction and the amplest evidence. (3) A man feebly anxious to do right may be sorely embarrassed by previous wrong doing. (4) A man cannot make a decision and evade the responsibility of it. (5) Others may voluntarily share a man's guilt, and not lighten it.â€”the greatest of all instances of God's bringing good out of evil is the fact that because of Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate. and Barabbas, the Divine Redeemer was lifted up that he might draw all men unto himself.
Crucifixion Of Jesus
Found also in Mark 15:21-41, Luke 23:26-49, John 19:17-37. In their accounts of the crucifixion, Matt. and Mark most nearly agree in the selection and order of the material, as they have been doing since Matthew 19:1. Luke gives much that they do not contain, and John's narrative is nearly all additional to the other three. Matthew's account divides itself into Matthew 27:3, Matthew 27:2-34, Matthew 27:35-38, Matthew 27:39-44, Matthew 27:45-50, Matthew 27:51-56.â€”the time of the crucifixion was beyond question from about 9 A. M. to 8 P. M., and probably A. D. 30; if so, the day of the month was probably April 7 (Wieseler, p. 855, Clark's "Harm." p. 291). As to the place, see below on Matthew 27:33.
I. Matthew 27:32-34. He Is Led To The Place Of Crucifixion, And Refuses The Stupefying Draught
And as they came out, not out of the praetorium, but out of the city, as shown by the statement of Mark and Luke that Simon was "coming out of the country." It was customary and natural to go out of the city for executions. (Numbers 15:35 f,; 1 Kings 21:13, Acts 7:58) A man of Cyrene. Cyrene was an old Greek settlement on the coast of Africa, immediately south of Greece, and west of Alexandria. Being a place of much trade, it contained many Jews; the second Book of Maccabees (2 Maccabees 2:23) was originally written by one Jason of Cyrene. The city is mentioned in Acts 2:10, Acts 6:9, Acts 11:20, Acts 13:1, all going to show that Cyrenean Jews were numerous; and often seen in Jerusalem and vicinity. Simon by name. The name shows that he was a Jew. Mark adds, "the father of Alexander and Rufus," who must for some reason have been well known among the Christians at the time when Mark wrote. We cannot say whether this was the Rufus of Romans 16:13, the name being very common. Mark and Luke state that Simon was "coming out of the country," just entering the city as the procession went out of the gate; there was no objection to journeying on the feast-Sabbath (see on "Matthew 27:39"). Compelled, more exactly impressed (Rev. Ver. margin), a peculiar word employed by Mark also, and explained above see on "Matthew 5:41". To bear his cross, We have seen on Matthew 16:24 that it was customary to make the condemned carry his cross to the place of crucifixion. Meyer shows that this was usually the upright post, the transverse piece or pieces being carried separately and fastened on after reaching the place; in some instances (Keim) the accused bore the transverse portion, perhaps in rare instances the whole. John says (John 19:17, R.V.)that Jesus went out, bearing the cross for himself. So we must suppose that the burden proved too great for one who had spent a sleepless and troubled night, including the supper and farewell discourse, the agony in Gethsemane, the apprehension and series of trials, the repeated mockings and terrible Roman scourging; and when he fell under the burden or walked too slowly for their convenience, the soldiers used their power of impressing the first stout man they met. Luke says they "laid on him the cross, to bear it after Jesus." Some think this means that Simon walked behind Jesus, bearing one end of the piece of timber; but the more obvious view is probably correct.â€”On the way, Jesus was accompanied (Luke 23:27-32, R. V.) by "a great company of the people, and of women," who were bewailing him; and in tender compassion he broke his calm silence to say, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children," and went on with an intimation of coming national calamities, which we now readily understand as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, A place of a skull. In Hebrew gulgoleth is 'skull, from a root meaning to roll, indicating the globular form of a skull. This in Aramaic would be gulgoltha, which is found in the Syriac of Jerusalem, and easily contracted, by omitting either l, into gugoltha (Syriac Pesh., and Hark.), or golgotha, the form found in most documents. Thus the word means simply skull, and so Luke (Luke 23:33, Rev. Ver.) says, "unto the place which is called The skull," while Matthew, Mark, and John have literally 'skull-place.' The notion was early suggested (Jerome) that this denoted a burial-ground, or a place of execution, marked by a skull or skulls lying on the surface.(1) But the Jewish law did not allow bones to remain unburied, and this would have been carefully observed near the city. So it must have been (Cyril of Jerus.) a round hill or rock, somewhat resembling a skull in shape. Mark, Luke, and John all have the Greek definite article, 'unto the place,' indicating that it was known by this name. It is common among us to call a rounded mountain-top or hill-top a head, as "Caesar's Head" in the Blue Ridge; compare headland.
It was suggested in the last century (Herzog), and has been fairly established by Robinson ("Biblical Researches") and others, that this cannot have been the place discovered at the request of Helena, the mother of Constantine, and now covered by "the Church of the Holy Sepulchre." Golgotha was "without (or outside) the gate ", (Hebrews 13:12) while "nigh to the city"; (John 19:20) but the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is far within any probable position of the city wall at the time of the crucifixion. The reverence many feel for whatever has been believed for fifteen hundred years has caused earnest resistance to this conclusion, but in vain; see results of recent English explorations in Conder; I, pages 361-371.â€”the site of Golgotha has for a generation and more been apparently quite unknown. But Thenius, AD. 1849, and independently Fisher Howe, pamphlet on "The True Site of Calvary" (New York, Randolph, 1871), suggested a theory which has of late been adopted by many. The northern extension of the Temple Hill, beyond the walls, rises into a rounded hill resembling the top of a skull, and some sixty feet above the level of the surrounding ground. A cut across the ridge to protect the wall from being commanded by an enemy's military engines, gives to this rounded hill a perpendicular southern face, in which is the entrance to a cave called the Grotto of Jeremiah. Seen from the Mount of Olives and other points of good view, this hill looks strikingly like a skull, with a great eyeless socket. The cut across the ridge must have been ancient, from military necessity, and the cave is probably ancient too. The theory is that this hill was Golgotha or Calvary. The site fulfils all the conditions. It is outside the great northern gate, and near. The hill rises beside, and its summit is in lull view of, the great northern road, which accounts for passers by; (Matthew 27:39, Mark 15:29) and the Romans were accustomed to crucify in a conspicuous place, to make the lesson more notable. It is in a region abounding in ancient tombs, which accounts for Joseph's garden and tomb. And this site accounts for the tradition of a hill, "Mount Calvary," which is traced back to the fourth century. A Jewish tradition points to this hill as "the place of stoning," i. e., the regular place for executions. And a Christian tradition makes it the scene of Stephen's death, afterwards by tradition located elsewhere.â€”This theory was adopted by the late Bishop Gobat of Jerusalem, by General (Chinese) Gordon,"Reflections in Palestine,"1883, and by Professor Sir J. W. Dawson, "Syria and Palestine," 1885. It is favoured by Schaff. "Through Bible Lands," and Conder, both publishing in 1878, and is advocated by Edersh. Dr. Selah Merrill, Amer. Consul at Jerus., in "Andover Review," Nov. 1885, says that "for some years past there has been a growing conviction" to this effect and that "hundreds of Christian tourists visit the place every year, and few of them go away unconvinced that both the arguments and the strong probability are in favour of" this view.
Gave him vinegar (or wine) to drink, mingled with gall. Mark, 'wine mingled with myrrh.' The correct text in Matthew is clearly 'wine;' it was probably changed in many documents to agree with Matthew 27:48 below; and with Psalms 69:21. Talmud Bab. says (Lightfoot) that to criminals on the way to execution was given a drink consisting of wine mixed with a bit of frankincense to stupefy them, and that according to tradition, the noble women of Jerusalem furnished this at their own expense. This may be connected in our minds with the "daughters of Jerusalem," who had sorrowfully accompanied the procession. (Luke 23:27) The term 'gall' in Matthew must be used generally to denote any bitter and nauseous substance, which in this case would be some bitter vegetable narcotic. It would seem (Keim, Plump.), that Matthew's word sometimes denotes wormwood; see Sept. of Deuteronomy 29:18, Proverbs 5:4. Keim: "The drink might have been prepared from poppies or wormwood. Simpson, the discoverer of chloroform, thought of hashish, the Indian extract of hemp." Dr. A. Coles, "Life of our Lord in Verse," (New York, Appleton), suggests mandragora, mandrake, "which is said to have been employed by the ancients as an anaesthetic in surgical operations."
II. Matthew 27:35-38. He Is Crucified Between Two Robbers
Mark 15:24-27, Luke 23:32 f.; John 19:18-22.
And they crucified him. For the different kinds of cross, see the Bible Dictionaries. There can be no doubt that the Saviour's cross was of the shape with which we are familiar, an upright post with a transverse piece some distance below the top, the inscription being placed "above his head." But the cross was not so high as the ordinary representation, the person being usually but a foot or two above the ground, and this would especially be the case in Palestine, where timber was scarce. The hands were nailed to the transverse beam. This sometimes extended across the post at right angles; but in other cases consisted of two parts sloping upward from the post, so that the body seemed to hang by the hands, though it was really supported by a projecting peg. The feet were usually nailed to the post, we do not know whether together or separately; but more probably the latter. They were sometimes drawn up so that the soles rested against the post, but in other cases stood upon a projection. It has been maintained by Paulus and others that the feet of Jesus were not nailed, but bound to the post or left loose. But the risen Saviour identified himself by showing "his hands and his feet", (Luke 24:39 f.) and certain supposed ancient evidence that only the hands were nailed in crucifixion is indistinct, and far out-weighed by contrary statements. (See Meyer, Smith's "Bib. Dict." Amer. ed.,"Crucifixion," or Keim). It cannot be determined whether the sufferer was fastened to his cross before or after its elevation; the method appears to have varied.â€”The physical suffering produced by crucifixion was fearful. The constrained and immovable posture of the body and arms would gradually produce violent aching and cramps; the pierced limbs became inflamed, producing fever and thirst; the circulation of the blood being hindered, it gathered in the head and lungs, causing great distress; the body would gradually grow stiff, and the vital powers sink from exhaustion. (See Richter in Schaff.) Our Lord's mental suffering (Matthew 27:46) must have been greater still; but we should not underrate the physical.
A cross mark of various shapes appears as a symbol in several ancient religions. But this has really nothing to do with Christianity, into which the cross did not enter as a symbol, but as a historical fact. Persons interested in the doubtful symbolisms referred to may find an account of them in Baring-Gould's "Medieval Myths," and a condensed statement in "Homiletic Review," Jan., 1886, p. 76 ff.
Mark tells us (Mark 15:25) that the crucifixion began at "the third hour," which soon after the equinox would be almost exactly 9 A. M. John 18:14 long seemed hopelessly to contradict this, by saying "it was about the sixth hour" when Pilate was ending the trial. But the view of Wieseler and Ewald is now widely adopted, that the Fourth Gospel counts the hours as we do, making the sixth hour 6 A. M., and we could easily suppose that the preparations consumed the intervening three hours. This view is strenuously opposed by Farrar (App. to "Life of Christ "), but he is answered by McClellan, p. 737 ff.; see also Westcott on John. All the passages of John in which hours of the day are mentioned may be readily understood in this way, and it seems to be necessary for John 20:19, when compared with Luke 24:29, Luke 24:36.â€”At this point Luke mentions (Luke 23:34) that Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Every one feels that these must be words of Jesus, and they are most probably genuine as a part of Luke's Gospel, though it is hard to account for their absence from some important early documents.
And parted his garments among them, casting lots. John explains in detail that they "made four parts, to every soldier a part," there being a quaternion or group of four soldiers detailed to crucify and guard each prisoner, (compare Acts 12:4) who naturally took his clothing as their perquisite. John also adds that his 'coat,' or tunic, the undergarment (see above see on "Matthew 5:40"), "was without seam, woven from the top throughout," apparently a costly garment, and no doubt a gift of affection, and that being unwilling to "rend " this, they cast lots for it; and that this occurred in the course of providence that the Scripture might be fulfilled (compare above see on "Matthew 1:22"), which saith, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. This quotation from, Psalms 22:18 was introduced by some copyists into: Matt, being given in v. 85 by documents of no great value. Jewish feeling required (Mishna, Sanh., VI, 3) that the person of one stripped when about to be stoned should not be left wholly exposed; and though the Roman custom for crucifixion was otherwise, we may perhaps suppose that Jewish feeling was in this case regarded.
And they set up(1) over his head his accusation written, it being common to put over a crucified man a statement of his crime. We know not whether in this case, as in one described by Suetonius, the title was borne before the criminal in the procession. John says, (John 19:20, correct text) "it was written in Hebrew, and in Latin, and in Greek." The first (Aramaic) was the language of the people, the second that of the civil rulers, the third that of general intercourse throughout that part of the world. A pillar was dug up at Jerusalem not many years ago, bearing an inscription in these three languages. The inscription on the cross is given in different terms by the four Gospels. We have seen that the same is to some extent true of the words spoken from heaven at the baptism and the transfiguration, so as to show beyond question that the Evangelists are not solicitous to give always the exact words. It is very likely that the inscription was verbally different in the three languages; and it has been ingeniously suggested (Westcott, "Int." p. 328) that John, who says carefully, 'and it was written,' etc., gives the exact Greek form, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,' of which Mark gives only the special point of accusation, 'the King of the Jews'; and that then Matt. has the Hebrew, and Luke the Latin form. This is possible, but the matter is of little importance, as the inscription is substantially the same in all the forms. John adds that Pilate himself wrote the inscription, and curtly refused to alter it when requested. He had been compelled to yield the main point, and he was determined not to yield here; see as to his character see on "Matthew 27:11".
Then were there two thieves (robbers) crucified with him. It is quite likely that these were comrades of Barabbas, (Matthew 27:16) who would have been here between them had not Jesus taken his place. Our Lord had said the night before, (Luke 22:37) "This that is written must yet be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12) This was substantially fulfilled by punishing him as if for transgression; but all the more strikingly by associating him with actual transgressors. Wetstein gives passages of ancient writers which show that crucifixion was the regular punishment for robbery. The Greek language has two words, kleptes 'thief,' and leistes 'robber,' differing very much as our words do. The former occurs sixteen times in New Testament, and in Com. Ver. is always correctly rendered 'thief'; the latter is four times correctly rendered 'robber,' but eleven times 'thief'; including all the references to the two persons crucified with Jesus, and also Matthew 21:13, Matthew 26:55. In John 10:1, John 10:8 the distinction is observed in Com. Version. One evil result of this irregular translation has been that people would read "Barabbas was a robber", (John 18:40) and it did not occur to them that these two were like him. Besides, a robber would be more likely than a thief to exhibit the character shown by the penitent on the cross. Rev. Ver., and other recent versions, observe the distinction throughout, as there is no difficulty whatever in doing. Luke has here a general term, 'malefactors' or evil-doers; John simply 'two others.'
III. Matthew 27:39-44. On The Cross He Is Mocked And Reviled
Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-43.
Crucifixion itself was the most disgraceful punishment in use, being appointed by the Romans for slaves, and expressly forbidden for Roman citizensâ€”while the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 21:23) declared one "accursed" who even after being killed was hanged on a tree. In this case all that could be thought of was done to aggravate the disgrace. Several different classes of persons joined in railing and mocking at Jesus. We must remember the similar treatment when he appeared before the Sanhedrin, (Matthew 26:67 f.) before Herod, (Luke 23:11) and before Pilate. (Matthew 27:27-31)
(a) They that passed by, probably along a road leading into and out of the city, which according to the above-stated theory concerning Golgotha (on Matthew 27:33) would be the great northern road. Some have inferred that this must have been a working day, and not the first day of the passover, which would be a Sabbath; but Edersheim says that "travelling, which was forbidden on Sabbaths, was not prohibited on feast-days, "adding that" this is distinctly stated in the Talmud." Reviled him. The Greek word is borrowed as 'blasphemed' in Matthew 9:3, Matthew 26:65, and explained above see on "Matthew 12:31". Com. Ver. translated it 'railed on him' in the parallel passages, Mark 15:29, Luke 23:39. Thou that destroyest the temple, etc. This accusation (see on "Matthew 26:61") the rulers had probably spread while persuading the crowds to prefer Barabbas. Save thyself. The word is used (see on "Matthew 1:21") both of bodily and spiritual saving. If thou be the Son of God, as in Matthew 4:3, Matthew 4:6. The form of expression assumes that he is the Son of God, but their whole tone and manner showed that they meant the contrary. It is not clear that the Jews understood this expression to carry the idea of Deity (compare on Matthew 26:63); they certainly understood that one who assumed it claimed supernatural power.
(b) The chief priestsâ€”with the scribes and elders. Of these three classes the Sanhedrin was constituted (see on "Matthew 26:59"); so all classes of the rulers took part in the mocking. While the other mockers all address Jesus, the rulers do not condescend to speak to him, but speak contemptuously about him in his presence. Notice Mark 15:31, R.V., "mocking him among themselves"; and Luke has the same difference. The rulers make three distinct taunts. (1) He saved others, probably refers to bodily healing. The other clause may be either an assertion or a question (margin, Rev. Ver.), as the Greek in this class of expressions makes no difference; the substantial meaning is the same either way. (2) If he be the King of Israel. This is said in irony, derision. He had that morning claimed before them to be the Messiah (Matthew 26:63 f.), and the Messiah was of course to be king; the inscription also declared him to be the King of Israel. Euthym.: "For as they could not change the inscription, they try to prove it false." The irony not being understood, 'if' was inserted, like Mark 15:40, and passed into most documents, but is wanting in some of the earliest and best.(1) And we will believe him, or, on him. They would have done no such thing. He had wrought miracles even more wonderful, and upon learning it they were only the more determined to kill him. (John 11:47-53) Our Lord never responded to any demand for signs of his mission. (3) He trusted in God, properly perfect tense, has placed his trust on God and keeps it there. 'Trusted,' past tense, Com. Ver., is an erroneous translation; 'on' here and in Matthew 27:42 is the literal meaning of the Greek preposition. The similar words of Psalms 22:8 probably occurred to the rulers through general familiarity as expressing their thoughtâ€”a sort of unconscious Messianic quotation (compare below on Matthew 27:46), like the unconscious Messianic prediction of Caiaphas in John 11:51 f.â€” Edersheim: "These jeers cast contempt on the four great facts in the Life and Work of Jesus, which were also the underlying ideas of the Messianic Kingdom: the new relationship of Israel's religion and temple ('thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days'); the new relationship to the Father through the Messiah, the Son of God ('if Thou art the Son of God' R. V.); the new all-sufficient help brought to body and soul in salvation ('He saved others'); and finally, the new relationship to Israel in the fulfilment and perfecting of its mission through its King ('He is the King of Israel, R. V.')."
(c) Luke states (Luke 23:36) that "the soldiers also mocked him," offering him the sour wine they were drinking. At a later period, this was given him in kindness. (John 19:29)
(d) The thieves also; better as in Rev. Ver., the robbers (see on "Matthew 27:38") also that were crucified with him, east upon him the same reproach, viz., that he had professed to trust in God and claimed to be the Son of God and yet was not now delivered. Cast the same in his teeth, is a vigorous image of Com. Ver., but not presented by the Greek. Mark makes a similar statement, 'they that were crucified with him reproached him.' But in Luke we find a striking difference. There, (Luke 23:39-43) "one of the malefactors railed on him," as pretending to be the Messiah, while the other believed that he was the Messiah; yea, more discerning than the Twelve, he believed that though now despised and rejected he would come again as king, even as he had of late been teaching (Luke 19:11 f.; Matthew 25:31, Matthew 16:28), and in humble petition said, "Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom," R.V. How he learned so much, and understood so well, we do not know; but the Saviour, who made no response to taunts and revilings, from whatsoever source, answered the first word of petition, and promised more than he had asked. Not merely shall the penitent robber be remembered when the crucified comes again as king, but "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." â€”Now the question has been much discussed, and cannot be solved with certainty, how we are to reconcile Luke's account with that of Matt. and Mark. The prevailing view is that both the robbers at first reviled, and afterwards one of them, impressed by the Saviour's aspect and his prayer for the crucifiers, and perhaps recalling earlier knowledge of his teachings and miracles, became now convinced that he was indeed the Messiah. This makes it all the more wonderful that he should understand so thoroughly, though of course not impossible under special divine influence. But Matthew and Mark may be understood, with many expositors, as merely including in general the Saviour's fellow-sufferers among the different classes of revilers, without distinguishing between the two, which would have required a full account of a matter they did not undertake to narrate. If it be asked how they could omit this, the same question arises as to their giving only one of the seven words on the cross, and so in many other cases. In this view the penitent robber may have become a believer in Jesus as the Messiah on some earlier day, since his crime, yet hardly since his sentence, for among the Jews that was quickly followed by execution (see on "Matthew 27:1").â€”However this may be regarded, we must remember the general and impressive fact that Jesus was reviled by many classes of persons, by the people at large, the rulers (all sections of the Sanhedrin), the soldiers; and even participation in suffering did not prevent reviling. This mocking and railing probably began when he was first lifted on the cross, and continued from time to time. Observe that all the verbs here, 'railed,' 'said,' (Matthew 27:41), 'reproached, (Matthew 27:44, Rev. Ver.), are in the Greek imperfect tense, denoting continued or repeated action.â€”At some point during the first three hours occurred the pathetic incident of John 19:25-37, "Behold thy son," and "Behold thy mother." Thus the Saviour spoke three times that we know of during the first half of the crucifixion.
IV. Matthew 27:45-50. He Cries Out In The Darkness, And Dies
Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46, John 19:28-30. From the sixth hour.... unto the ninth hour (compare on Matthew 20:3), from twelve o'clock to about three P. M. Darkness, supernatural. It cannot have been an eclipse of the sun, because the Passover was at the middle of the month, and the month always began with the new moon, so that the moon was now full, i. e., on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. Thus all the long discussion about the account of an eclipse said to have been given by Phlegon, a writer of the second century, is beside the mark, for this was not an eclipse. 'The sun's light failing,' Rev. Ver., Luke 23:45 (correct text), need not mean what is technically called an eclipse, but simply states that the sun failed, without indicating the cause. All men feel alarmed by any sudden and great darkness. The Rabbis said (WÃ¼n.) that such an occurrence was a bad sign for the world, and was to be expected upon occasion of certain great crimes or misfortunes. Wetstein has many passages from Greek and Latin authors showing a similar feeling. Over all the land, viz., of Palestine. The word might mean 'earth' (margin Rev. Ver.), compare on Matthew 5:5; but it was dark, naturally, over half the earth, and a miraculous darkness over all the enlightened half is improbable, seeing that so large a proportion of the persons involved would not know its meaning, and so it would be a useless miracle. The supernatural darkness was an appropriate concomitant, and may be regarded as a sort of symbol of the Saviour's mental suffering, which at last found expression in his loud cry. Through nearly all this period he seems to have continued silent. He must have been enduring a dark sorrow, a crushing grief, even greater than in Gethsemane, seeing that he speaks here in more impassioned distress; and here, as there (see on "Matthew 26:44"), it can be explained only by the fact that "he was wounded for our transgressions," was "made sin for us," "gave his life a ransom for many" (compare on Matthew 20:28). Cried with a loud voice, showing great suffering. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. The original words are given, because Eli, explains the supposition of 'some' (Mark likewise) of the bystanders, that he was calling for Elijah. The first words are here given in the Hebrew, like the Psalm, but by Mark in tile Aramaic Eloi, which Jesus had doubtless spoken. The last word is given by both in the Aramaic (so in the Targum, Buxtorf), the Hebrew having another term(1) of the same sense. Our Lord's borrowing the phraseology of Psalms 22:1, does not show that Psalm to be Messianic; compare his borrowing in Luke 23:46 from Psalms 31:5, and his answering each of Satan's three special temptations by quoting from Deuteronomy 6-8. Still, as Psalms 22:13, was a Messianic prophecy, (John 19:24) we may suppose that Psalms 22:1 was designed by the Spirit of inspiration to be used by the Messiah on the cross. It is commonly said that Psalms 22 was not regarded by the Jews as Messianic. Edersheim. (App. IX) gives two references to it (Matthew 27:7, Matthew 27:15) as applied to the Messiah in a collection made in the thirteenth century, but believed to consist of ancient material. Tertullian thought that Psalms 22 "contains the whole passion of Christ." Why hast thou forsaken me? A more literal translation would be, Why didst thou forsake me (margin Rev. Ver.), but it would amount to the same thing. 'Why' is not here 'for what cause,' but 'to what end'; yet the distinction must not be pressed. (compare Matthew 9:4) If the question be asked in what sense the Father forsook the Son, the answer is that we really do not know. In himself the Saviour was still well-pleasing to the Father, in voluntarily laying down his life that he might take it again; (John 10:17 f.) it must have been as our substitute, because he "bare our sins in his own body on the tree," that he was forsaken. If it be asked how he could feel himself to be forsaken, we must remember that a human soul as well as a human body was here suffering, a human soul thinking and feeling within human limitations (Mark 13:32), not psychologically unlike the action of other devout souls when in some great and overwhelming sorrow. Compare W. N. Clarke on Mark 15:34. Hanna: "It was the sensible comfort only of the divine presence and favour that was for the time withdrawn; the felt inflowings of the divine love that were for the time checked. But what a time of agony must that have been to him who knew, as none other could, what it was to bask in the light of his Father's countenance; who felt, as none other could, that his favour indeed was life! On usâ€”so little do we know or feel what it is to be forsaken by Godâ€”the thought of it, or sense of it, may make but a slight impression, produce but little heartfelt misery; but to him it was the consummation and concentration of all woe, beyond which there was and could be no deeper anguish for the soul."
This man calleth for Elias, or Elijah. The grand figure which Elijah made in the history, and the promise of his coining in Malachi 4:5 f., caused him to stand out in the Jewish mind as the greatest of the prophets. There was a general expectation, derived from Mal., that he would work various wonders (compare on Matthew 16:14). It is not easy to determine whether this utterance was a mocking misrepresentation by Jews, or a misunderstanding by Roman soldiers. Jews can hardly have really misunderstood, for the opening vowel of Eli has to the Oriental ear a very different sound from that of Elijah. Soldiers, if long resident in Palestine, might have become acquainted with the popular expectations concerning Elijah. Gave him to drink, is imperfect tense, probably describing the kindly soldier as repeatedly applying the sponge to the sufferer's parched lips. The rest said, imperfect tense, describing them as engaged in saying. Bengel: "After the dreadful darkness they returned to scoffing." Let be, let things stay as they are; do not give him any aid or comfortâ€”see if Elijah will hear his prayer; for if so, all his wants will be supplied. They seem to have amused themselves with the thought that this pretended Messiah was in his helpless extremity calling on tim predicted forerunner of Messiah to come and help him. Whether Elias, or Elijah, will come,(2) or is coming. As to spelling Elijah, instead of Elias, see on "Matthew 1:2".
The reed probably means in general a staff for walking, which we in like manner call a cane. From John 19:29 it appears to have been made from a stalk of hyssop; and Tristram ("Nat. Hist.") says that the capers which is probably the Biblical hyssop, would furnish a stalk three or four feet in length. The vinegar was probably a sort of sour wine, though vinegar itself (no doubt diluted with water) was used as a cooling drink. (Ruth 2:14) It was given mercifully, to refresh the sufferer's parched mouth. John shows (John 19:28) that it was done in consequence of his saying "I thirst." He had refused the stupefying draught at the beginning, but asked for this slight refreshment when near the end. Then he uttered a third word (John), "It is finished," and finally a fourth (Luke), "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." So there were four sayings close together, and near the end; and with the three uttered during the first three hours, we find in all seven sayings on the cross, of which one is recorded by Matt. and Mark only, three by Luke only, three by John only.
Cried again with a loud voice, Mark likewise. This seems to denote great bodily suffering. The sayings just quoted from Luke and John can hardly be here meant, for they were not of such a nature as to be uttered in a loud voice; it must have been a cry of pain or distress. This great outcry in the moment of dying was not a natural result of mere death by crucifixion, which would produce gradual exhaustion. Taken in connection with the blood and water brought forth by the soldier's spear, (John 19:34) it has been thought to shew that our Lord died from a bursting of the heart. This is argued with great force by Stroud, "Physical Cause of the Death of Christ," republished in New York, and by Hanna, App. to "Life of Christ." The question possesses a certain kind of interest, but cannot be settled. Let us beware of spending too much thought upon the surroundings and physical conditions of our Lord's death. The great matter is that he "died for our sins," "tasted death for every man."â€”Yielded up the ghost (spirit). The closing expiration seems a natural indication of letting the immaterial in us, which is oftenest called spirit, go forth from the body "unto God who gave it." 'Gave up the ghost' was good in old English, but we do not now use 'ghost' in that sense.
V. Matthew 27:50-55. Portents Following His Death, And The Effects
Mark 15:38-41, Luke 23:47-49. The vail of the temple (naos, see on "Matthew 4:5"), was a richly wrought and heavy curtain which hung between the "Holy Place" and the "Holy of Holies." (Exodus 26:31-35) There are some Talmudic statements to the effect that this vail was double in the second temple, but that is a matter of no consequence; nor have we anything to do here with an outer vail (Grimm), which hung between the porch and the Holy Place. Once a year the high priest lifted a corner of this heavy curtain and passed into the Holy of Holies, carrying sacrificial blood which he sprinkled on the mercy seat, and made supplication for the forgiveness of his own sins and those of the people. (Hebrews 9:7) The sudden rending of this vail from the top to the bottom (Mark likewise, showing that it was not done by human agency) symbolized the complete opening for all of a way of access through Christ to the throne of divine mercy. Christ, our high priest, has entered the true Holy of Holies in heaven, offering once for all the all-sufficient atoning sacrifice of his own blood; (Hebrews 9:11-28) and now in his name we may look without dread upon the very throne of God, and come with boldness to the throne of grace.â€”The (Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19) other portent is mentioned by Matthew only. Earthquakes are common in Palestine, and this earthquake need not be thought supernatural. The earthquake might naturally rend rocks and open tombsâ€”not graves like ours, but tombs in the rock. (Compare on Matthew 27:61) But the rising of the dead was of course supernatural. Notice that they were bodies of the saints. The clause after his resurrection is ambiguous, as it may be connected with what precedes or what follows. It is more naturally connected with what follows; then we understand that they rose at the time of Christ's death, when the earthquake opened the tombs, but appeared only after he appeared. It may be that they appeared only to believers, who knew that Jesus had risen. The conjecture of Plump. concerning this matter is of some interest. He holds that the tombs opened by the earthquake were near Jerusalem, and as the term "saints" was almost from the first applied to Christians, he thinks that these saints were believers in Jesus who had died before his crucifixion. On this supposition, we see some reason for their appearing to Christian friends and kindred, in order to show that they were not shut out from a share in the kingdom. (Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13 f.) "The statement that they did not appear till after our Lord's resurrection, is from this point of view significant. The disciples were thus taught to look on that resurrection, not as an isolated phenomenon but as the 'first fruits' of the victory over death, (1 Corinthians 15:20) in which not they themselves only, but those also whom they had loved and lost were to be sharers."â€”The holy city, compare on Matthew 4:5.
Our Lord's death is described as specially impressing three classes of persons. (a) The Roman centurion, or as we should say, captain (see on "Matthew 8:5"), and also his soldiers who conducted the crucifixion, were convinced that Jesus was what he claimed to be. When... they saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, ere taking place (correct text), or coming to pass (compare on Matthew 1:22), apparently referring to the long-continued supernatural darkness, and perhaps also to the Saviour's aspect and expressions, they feared exceedingly. (Rev. Ver.) Well they might fear; for they had been engaged in putting to an ignominious death one who, as they now felt sure, was not a criminal, not an impostor nor a fanatic, but truly the Son of God. Was, because his life had ended. Mark has the same expression as Matt. Luke gives "Certainly this was a righteous man." If so, he was what he claimed to be, and he had claimed to be the Son of God. So the difference is only apparent, and in fact we may in this case suppose that he used both expressions. The Greek might mean 'a son of God,' and some suppose that the heathen centurion thought only of one among many demigods. But this Greek phrase is very often used as definite, determined by the connection, and here it is easy to suppose that he had borrowed the phrase from the Jews, and understood it in their sense, which was more or less vague. (Compare on Matthew 26:63)
(b)"All the multitudes that came together to this sight," the throngs of Jewish spectators, (Luke 23:48, Rev. Ver.) "returned smiting their breasts," satisfied that a great wrong had been done, and fearing that they would suffer for it.
(c) Many of his own followers beheld his death, with the deepest grief. Many women. But Luke mentions also menâ€”"all his acquaintances", (Luke 23:49) nominative plural, masculine. Beholding afar off through timidity, and through delicacy. The only women of his following who came near the cross were his mother and her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25) Ministering unto him. They personally bought and prepared food; and they also furnished money wherewith to purchase food and to pay for cooking itâ€”all this being suggested by the term and circumstances, compare Luke 8:2 f.
Mary Magdalene, i. e., from Magdala, probably the place now called Mejdel, on the western shore of the Lake of Galilee (see on "Matthew 15:39", where the correct text is Magadan.) Mary Magdalene has received scant justice in Christian literature and art. The heavy affliction of being possessed by "seven demons," from which it was doubtless Jesus that delivered her, does not prove that she had been exceptionally wicked. A late tradition identified her with the "woman that was a sinner," in Luke 7:37 ff. This tradition is first mentioned in Jerome and Ambrose, was probably nothing but an inference from the severe demoniacal possession, and was never received in the Greek Church. The identification is not only unsupported by anything in Scripture, but rendered highly improbable by the way in which Luke just afterwards mentions Mary Magdalene as a new personage. (Luke 8:2) Next, it was taken for granted that the "woman that was a sinner " had been guilty of unchastity, and upon this foundation only, this highly improbable tradition, and this uncertain supposition, it long ago became common to call an abandoned woman a Magdalen. The celebrated paintings of the Magdalen are historically an abomination, and religiously quite hurtful. There is at Dresden a painting "of the School of Titian," which represents her as a woman of middle age, once very beautiful, with deep lines of suffering in her face but over it all a look of gentleness, peace, and unutterable gratitude. This conception is historically reasonable. Christ did save persons of the class to which she is usually referred, (Matthew 21:32) and will save such persons still if they repent and believe him; but that is no reason for involving this special friend of his in undeserved dishonour. The usage about Mary cannot now be wholly corrected, but It may be personally avoided. With this list of three women, 'Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee,' comp, Mark's three (Mark 15:40, Rev. ver.; Mark 16:1), "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Little, and of Joses, and Salome." This leaves little doubt that the mother of Zebedee's sons was Salome. Again, in John, (John 19:25) the women present are "his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." Here his mother's sister might be Mary the wife of Clopas. But it is not likely that two sisters would be named Mary; and if we understand that here are four distinct persons, then they fall into two groups, the first group being two unnamed persons, the second two named personsâ€”and this rhythmical form of statement (Westcott on John) resembles the style of the Fourth Gospel. Now it is generally agreed that John's "Mary the wife of Clopas" is the same as "Mary the mother of James the Little and of Joses" in Mark and Matt. (Compare on Matthew 10:3) Leave aside then the mother of Jesus in John's list, with Mary Magdalene, who is the same in all, and it becomes highly probable that Salome, the mother of Zebedee's sons, was the sister of our Lord's mother. This theory helps to account for the prominence of James and John, and for the ambitious request of their mother in Matthew 20:20. Then also John's omission of his mother's name would be (Westcott) exactly like his constant omission of his own name. These devout and loving women, and (Luke) some men with them, saw for themselves that the Master really died, and where he was buried. (Matthew 27:61)
Homiletical And Practical
Sermons and devotional books often give overwrought descriptions of the crucifixion. The feelings excited by contemplating it ought to be natural and genuine, and not galvanized. It is better to imitate the reserve and simplicity of the Evangelists, making our narration and description quiet and in elaborate. Any other course is injudicious, in questionable taste, and really irreverent.
Matthew 27:32. Simon of Cyrene. (1) A man sharing undeserved reproach. (2) A man rendering involuntary service to Christ. (3) Yet, let us hope, learning to walk voluntarily after Christ, bearing his own cross, (Matthew 16:24) as we know that his two sons did. (Mark 15:21) Calvin: "In the sight of men, this task brought him to the lowest degradation; but God turned it into the highest honour."
Shall Simon bear thy cross alone,
And other saints be free?
Each saint of thine shall find his own,
And there is one for me.(1)
Matthew 27:33. Because of Gethsemane and Golgotha, we sinners may hope for Paradise.
Matthew 27:35. Shakespeare:
In those holy fields
Over whose acres walked those blessed feet,
Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed,
For our advantage, on the bitter cross.
Matthew 27:40."Save thyself." How easily he could have done so! But his object was still to save others (Matthew 27:41); he was dying that men might live.
Matthew 27:42. Euthym. "And he would have come down, if it had been true that they would believe. Like them are many now who propose their own conditions of believing, but really would not believe on any condition." Calvin: "It is too common with the impious to measure the power of God by present appearances, so that whatever he does not do, they think he cannot do."
(1) He is my God, yet he has forsaken me.
(2) He has forsaken me, yet he is my God.â€”
"Yes, once Immanuel's orphaned cry his universe hath shaken.
It went up single, echoless, 'My God, I am forsaken!'
It went up from the Holy's lips amid his lost creation,
That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation."
Matthew 27:47. Henry: "It is no new thing for the most pious devotions of the best men to be ridiculed and abused by profane scoffers."-
Matthew 27:50. Jer. Taylor: "O holy and immaculate Lamb of God, who wert pleased to suffer shame and sorrow, teach me to apprehend the baseness of sin, in proportion to the greatness of those calamities which my sin made it necessary for Thee to suffer, that I may hate the cause of Thy sufferings, and adore Thy mercy, and imitate Thy charity, and copy out Thy patience and humility, and love Thy person to the uttermost extent and degrees of my affections."â€”Through the cross of Christ may the world be crucified unto us, and we unto the world (Galatians 6:14)
Matthew 27:51. Our "great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God,"has passed through the vail of the heavens into the true sanctuary, and there ever lives to intercede; let us therefore come with boldness. (Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 7:25)
Matthew 27:54. If men will but look candidly at the life and death, the teachings and claims of Jesus Christ, must they not acknowledge him to be more than a mere man?
Matthew 27:55. Calvin: "When the disciples had fled hither and thither, yet some women from their company had been kept by God as witnesses; more brightly then shone out their piety towards the Master."
Jesus Buried And Remaining In The Tomb
Found also in Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50; John 19:31-42.
Before the interment comes the proposition of the Jews (John) to break the legs of the three crucified persons, which was usually followed (Edersheim) by giving them a death-stroke. The object of the proposition was that they might die and be removed before sunset, when the great Sabbath of the Passover week would begin. The soldiers were surprised to find Jesus dead already, as persons usually remained alive on a cross more than twenty-four hours, and sometimes even for three days; and one of them pierced his side with a spear, bringing out blood and water. John appeals to this as seen by himself, probably because it proved that Jesus had a real human body, in opposition to the Docetic notions referred to in 1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7, and that he was really dead.
I. Matthew 27:57-61 The Burial
Luther : "From this conclusion of the history of our Lord's passion we see what the death of our dear Lord Christ has effected, both with his friends and his enemies. The enemies become unquiet and fearful, and evidently fall deeper into sin. But those who love the Lord Christ, although they are feeble, fearful folk, are yet through the death of Christ consoled and confident, and venture now upon what before they would not have dared to think about." We see that the Father, who appeared to have "forsaken" Christ, is exercising a special providence over his death and interment, with reference to his speedy resurrection. His bones were not broken like those of the robbers, nor his body flung into a public receptacle, but while "numbered with transgressors" he "was with the rich in his death"; (Isaiah 53:9-12) his tomb was in a conspicuous place, was occupied by no other body, closed with the government seal and guarded by Roman soldiers.â€”When the even was come, towards sunset, which at that season would be about 6 P. M. A rich man of Arimathea, a place not otherwise known. The name is obviously formed upon Ramah, 'high place,' dual Ramathaim, the name of several cities in Palestine. Luke says it was "a city of the Jews," which probably means of Judea. Eusebius and Jerome ("Onom.") held it to be the Ramathaim of 1 Samuel 1:1, which was Samuel's birth-place, apparently a few miles northward from Jerusalem; the Sept. calls this place Armathaim, and Josephus ("Ant.," 5, 10, 2) Armatha. The fact that Joseph was rich explains his owning grounds near the city, and also adds importance to the marks of respect he paid to Jesus. Mark and Luke say he was "a councillor," i. e., a member of the Sanhedrin, and Luke adds "a good man and a righteousâ€”he had not consented to their counsel and deed." John says, "in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb." Joseph may have stood in his garden, which perhaps occupied a slope of the hill on whose summit the crosses stood (see on "Matthew 27:32"), and his eye falling on the unoccupied tomb, he determined upon his course. Who also himself was Jesus' disciple (compare on Matthew 5:1), John adding "but secretly, for fear of the Jews." He the more readily became a disciple because (Mark) he was "looking for the kingdom of God." Went to Pilate, Mark adding "boldly." It required courage to offer so much honour to one whom his associates of the Sanhedrin had sentenced for blasphemy, and who had died an ignominious death. He had shrunk from declaring himself a disciple, but now, when all the world had turned against Jesus, he came out boldly. As the execution was by the Roman authorities, their permission was naturally required in order to take charge of the body. The Romans often left the bodies of crucified persons on the cross till they decayed or were devoured by birds of prey, just as in England and the American colonies bodies used to be hung in chains; but the law of Moses required that a dead body hung on a tree should not remain over night, as it would defile the land. (Deuteronomy 21:23) Josephus says ("War," 4, 5, 2),"The Jews are so attentive to the rites of sepulture as to take down even those who have undergone the sentence of crucifixion, and inter them before sunset." Begged. Asked is the exact meaning, not 'begged,' as in Com. Ver. Mark relates that Pilate wondered if he had died so much sooner than was common with the crucified, and sent to ask the centurion in charge. This message (though the distance was small), and the various purchases, took a considerable part of the time between three and six o'clock, and made it needful to act promptly, and fortunate that "the tomb was nigh at hand" (John). Commanded the body to be delivered, not requiring money, as was so common when favours were asked from the Roman governors. (Acts 24:26) Mark says in effect, "made a present of the corpse to Joseph." 'The body,' after 'commanded,' is wanting in several of the best early documents, and was easily added from the preceding sentence.â€”It was, perhaps, some little comfort to Pilate to see respect shown the remains of one whom he had so reluctantly yielded to an undeserved punishment.
Took the body, Mark and Luke 'took down,' which was the "descent from the Cross," so often represented in pictures. They of course washed off the stains of blood. Wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, which Mark mentions his purchasing. John adds, "There came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to him by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight." The hundred pounds (probably of twelve oz. each) could be easily borne by two servants. In the funeral procession of Herod the Great, five hundred domestics and freedmen bore spices (Josephus "Ant," 17, 8, 3; "War," 1, 83, 9). A rabbinical writing says (Wet. on John) that at the funeral of Gamaliel the elder, a proselyte burned more than eighty pounds of balsam.â€”Nicodemus doubtless recalled with deep emotion, as he aided in taking down the body, what Jesus had said in their conversation of three years before: (John 3:14). "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." â€”The linen cloth, in consequence of their haste, was probably not torn into many narrow strips, as in the case of Lazarus, (John 11:44) but into several pieces, and these are called cloths (plural) in John 19:40, John 20:5-7, Luke 24:12. There was also a napkin, or as we should say, handkerchief, (John 20:7) probably put under the chin and tied over the head, so as to keep the features in position. (compare John 11:44) In his own new tomb. It was a special honour to occupy a new tomb, like riding the ass's colt, "whereon no man ever yet sat," see above see on "Matthew 21:1"; and all the more that it was the tomb of a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin. Compare Isaiah 53:9. Which he had hewn out in the rock (Mark and Luke likewise), a better kind of tomb than a cave, (John 11:38) less subject to dripping water, and to decay of the walls. The rock tombs now found around Jerusalem usually present a number of recesses in the walls, each large enough to hold one body. Rolled a great stone, too large to lift; compare Mark 16:3, and below Matthew 28:2. This was designed to keep out beasts and birds of prey, and petty thieves. The Talmud (Keim) often mentions the golal, 'roll-stone,' in describing interments. One large tomb now exists, half a mile or so north of the city, which has a circular stone, like a millstone on edge, cut from the solid rock, with the channel in which it revolves (see engraving in Clarke on Mark, or Hovey on John), and originally furnished with a secret fastening, doubtless in the hope of keeping out robbers, who might plunder the spices, costly linen, jewelry.â€”Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre; compare Matthew 27:56. Luke adds that they "beheld the tomb, and how his body was laid," so that they knew whither to go on the next morning but one. They would naturally keep at some distance (Matthew 27:55) while the body was preparing for the tomb, and thus might not know how amply Nicodemus had anticipated them in providing spices; or, they may have wished to complete a process which they knew had been hastily performed.â€”Com. Ver. quite confounds two Greek words, both signifying a tomb. The difference is of no great practical importance, but they ought to be kept distinct, as in Rev. Ver., which consistently gives 'tomb' in Matthew 27:52 f., 60, and so in Matthew 8:28, Matthew 23:29, and 'sepulchre' in Matthew 27:61, Matthew 27:64, Matthew 27:66 and Matthew 28:1, and in Matthew 23:27, Matthew 23:29; so in the other Gospels.
II. Matthew 27:62-66. The Sepulchre Sealed And Guarded
This is narrated by Matt. alone. Next day, etc.; Rev. Ver., the morrow, which is the day after the Preparation. The Preparation usually meant the day of preparation for the Sabbath. This curious circumlocution for the Sabbath may have been used (Plump.) because the term 'Sabbath' would in this case have been ambiguous, as the day of the crucifixion was itself observed as a Sabbath, being the first day of a feast. The chief priests and Pharisees. The chief priests were at this time mostly Sadducees, and so the two parties were uniting in the matter. Compare Matthew 21:45, Matthew 22:16, Matthew 22:23, Matthew 22:34. We remember, literally, we remembered, at some time since the crucifixion. That deceiver. They can now assume that he was a deceiver, (compare John 7:12) since he has been put to a disgraceful death. The world is much disposed to judge character by circumstances and outward results. After three days I will rise again. The present tense (Rev. Ver.) gives an assured fact, compare Matthew 2:4, Matthew 26:2 . There is record of his predicting this in, Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:23, Matthew 20:19. We do not know how the rulers learned that he had made such a prediction; possibly from Judas, when he first came to them. (Matthew 26:15) How can we account for the fact that the rulers remembered, while the disciples seem to have forgotten the prediction? It is probable that the latter regarded the whole idea of the Messiah's being killed and rising again as something figurative. Peter, James, and John, being directed to tell no man of the Transfiguration "save when the Son of man should have risen again from the dead," were accustomed to "question one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." (Mark 9:9 f.) They could not believe that the glorious King Messiah would be literally killed and literally rise again. Compare on Matthew 17:9. Men are much disposed to "interpret spiritually" when the literal sense conflicts with their fixed opinions. If taken as only meaning something figurative, the prediction would he more readily forgotten, till the literal fulfilment brought it to mind. So the angels said to the women, (Luke 24:6) "Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must.., the third day rise again." The rulers, on the other hand, when they heard of such a prediction, would think of it only in a literal sense, and so they remembered it.
After three days has been insisted on by some as showing, here and in Mark 9:31 (correct text), that Jesus must have lain seventy-two hours in the tomb, which they suppose to be confirmed by 'three days and three nights' in Matthew 12:40. But the only natural way to understand 'after three days' in the mouth of Jew, Greek, or Roman, would be (compare on Matthew 26:2) to count both the first and the last day, so that it would mean any time on the third day. The phrase 'on the third day' is employed in seven independent statements about our Lord's resurrection; (1) in Matthew 16:21; (and Luke 9:22) (2) in Matthew 17:23; (and Mark 9:3, common text) (3) in Matthew 20:19; (and Luke 18:33) (4) in Luke 24:7; (5) in Luke 24:21; (6) in Luke 24:46; (7) in 1 Corinthians 15:4. There is then an apparent conflict between these seven statements and Matthew 12:40, while the other expression, 'after three days,' distinctly sides, according to known usage, with the former, and is indeed parallel in Mark 9:31 (correct text) to the former in Matthew 16:21, Luke 9:22, and in Mark 10:34 to Matthew 20:19 and Luke 18:33; compare here also Matthew 27:64 with 63. Now 'the third day,' so often used, cannot possibly mean after seventy-two hours, while the single statement 'three days and three nights' can be understood as meaning three onahs or night-day periods of twenty-four hours, any part of such a period being counted, according to the Talmud, as a whole onah (see on "Matthew 12:39"). There is therefore no propriety whatever in saying that our Lord remained in the grave seventy-two hours. And the narratives show that it was in fact a very small portion of one day, all of a second, and less than half of a third day.â€”Lest his disciples come. By night is given in none of the earliest manuscripts and few of tile early versions, and was obviously added from Matthew 28:13. Ye have a watch, or take a guard (margin, Rev. Ver.). The Greek is ambiguous, and either the indicative or the imperative idea will suit the connection, the former being somewhat more probable. Make it as sure as you can. As sure as ye know (how to do), is a more literal translation (margin, Rev. Ver.), and would indicate such measures as they understood and actually proceeded to take. So they went, not probably a Sabbath day' s journey, though in their present mood that would not have restrained them. Setting a watch, or as Rev. Ver., the guard being with them. The guard were present and united with the rulers in sealing the stone; and then of course remained to watch the sealed tomb. (Compare Matthew 28:11) To break a seal fixed by government authority would be a high crime, bringing condign punishment. (Compare Daniel 6:17) A cord was probably drawn across the stone which closed the door, and its ends were fastened by seals to the walls. This labour was contrary to all the Jewish ideas of Sabbath observance, and would be performed by the chief priests and Pharisees only in some extraordinary emergency, even as they had on the first day of the feast condemned the Saviour and secured his execution. We may suppose ("Bib. Comm.") that they had expected Pilate himself to take all these steps, and when he simply authorized them to do so, they could not draw back. It is difficult to suppose they did the sealing after sunset, when the Sabbath was ended, for that would not be 'on the morrow' (Matthew 27:62) after the crucifixion and interment.
Homiletical And Practical
Matthew 27:57. Joseph of Arimathea. (1) A member of the Sanhedrin, who had refused to go with the current. (2) A man of high official and social position, who at a crisis was ready to risk all. (3) A wealthy man, whom the governor would listen to, and who could offer the most honourable burial to the body of the crucified. (4) A man who looked for the kingdom of God and knew it when he found it. (5) A disciple of Christ, whose timidity we must not judge harshly, since be came out so grandly at last. â€”Henry: "Worldly wealth, though it is to many an objection in religion's way, yet in some services to be done for Christ it is an advantage and an opportunity, and it is well for those who have it, if withal they have a heart to use it for God's glory."
Resting from his work to-day,
In the tomb the Saviour lay;
Still be slept, from head to feet
Shrouded in the winding-sheet,
Lying in the rock alone,
Hidden by the sealed stone.
Let me hew thee, Lord, a shrine
In this rocky heart of mine,
Where, in pure embalmed cell,
None but thou may ever dwell.
Myrrh and spices will I bring,
True affection's offering;
Close the door from sight and sound
Of the busy world around;
And in patient watch remain
Till my Lord appear again.
â€”T. Whytehead, 1842.
Matthew 27:66. Chrys.: "They who seized him when living, are afraid of him when dead. And yet if he had been a mere man, they had reason to have taken courage. But that they might learn, that when living also he endured of his will what he did endure; behold, both a seal, a stone, and a watch, and they were not able to hold him."
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Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 27". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany