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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Matthew 27

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 15-54

We are now to read about our Lord before Pontius Pilate.

Matthew 27:15-30. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

Surely, mockery could have gone no further; we marvel at the boldness and ingenuity of their scorn. Oh, that we were half as earnest in seeking to honour him, — as careful to think of everything that might make our homage perfect. But we, alas! too often fail to give him due honour and glory, even when others are all aflame with zeal to insult him.

Matthew 27:31. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Perhaps they were afraid that he would die from sheer exhaustion and so, with a cruel mercy, they would keep him alive for the infliction of further tortures.

Matthew 27:32. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

Any one of us might well have wished to have been Simon, yet we need not envy him.

There is a cross for every one who is a follower of the Crucified; may we have grace to carry it after him!

Matthew 27:33-34. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

He wholly abstained from that which might have lessened his pain. He came to suffer, and he intended to go through with all that he had undertaken. He would do nothing that would blunt the edge of the sacrificial knife. He forbids not the soothing draught to other sufferers who are in pain; but, as for himself, he will not partake of it.

Matthew 27:35-37. And they crucified him, and parted his garment, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there, and set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

And so he is, and so he shall be, — King of the Jews even on that cross, and never so royal as when he had surrendered everything for love of those whom he came to redeem.

Matthew 27:38-43. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

What pain this taunt must have caused to the Saviour! Because he is so pure, and never yields to temptation, we are very apt to forget that temptation was really temptation even to him, and that it grieved his pure and holy Soul thus to be tempted to turn aside from the path of perfect trust in his Father, and complete obedience to him. No doubt the pain of temptation is in inverse ratio to our willingness to yield to it. When we yield to temptation, we feel a pleasure in it; but when we are horrified at it, and start back from it, then we feel the pain of it. Oh, for a mind and heart, so perfectly subject to the will of God, that we should feel such a temptation as this to be the very agony of grief to us, as it was to our Lord!

Matthew 27:44. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

Nobody seemed to look upon him with any desire to help him, but even the lowest of the low would contribute their portion of mockery to increase his misery.

Matthew 27:45-54. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost, and, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

John gives us some details of our Lord before Pilate which Matthew does not mention.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 27:15-54; and John 18:28-38.


Verses 22-50

Our Lord was brought before the Roman governor Pilate. He was anxious to let Jesus go; but he was a weak-minded man, easily swayed by the noisy cry of the people, prompted by the chief priests and elders.

Matthew 27:22-23. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

A blind, unreasoning hate had taken possession of the people. They gave no answer to Pilate’s wondering enquiry, “Why, what evil hath he done?” for he had done nothing amiss; they only repeated the brutal demand, “Let him be crucified! Let him be crucified!” The world’s hatred of Christ is shown in similar fashion today. He has done no evil, no one has suffered harm at his hands, all unite to pronounce him innocent; and yet they practically say, “Away with him! Crucify him!”

Matthew 27:24. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

Ah, Pilate, you cannot rid yourself of responsibility by that farce! He who has power to prevent a wrong is guilty of the act if he permits others to do it, even though be does not actually commit it himself. If you are placed in positions of power and responsibility, do not dream that you can escape from guilt by merely allowing other people to do what you would not do yourself.

Matthew 27:25. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

All the people willingly took upon themselves the guilt of the murder of our dear Lord: “His blood be on us, and on our children.” This fearful imprecation must have been remembered by many when the soldiers of Titus spared neither age nor sex, and the Jewish capital became the veritable Aceldama, the field of blood.

Matthew 27:26. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Why scourge him before delivering him up to be crucified? Surely this was a superfluity of cruelty. The Roman scourging was something which I scarcely care to describe, one of the most terrible punishments to which anyone could be subjected; yet Pilate first scourged Jesus, and then gave him up to die by crucifixion.

Matthew 27:27-28. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

Some old soldier’s coat, that they found lying about, they cast upon Christ in imitation of the royal robes of Caesar or Herod.

Matthew 27:29-31. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

By that fact, though they did not intend it, our Lord was recognized in the street as the same person who had been taken into the Praetorium by the soldiers. Had Jesus been brought forth in the scarlet robe, persons looking at him might not have known him to be the same man who wore the garment woven from the top throughout; but in his own seamless raiment, they readily recognized the Nazarene.

Matthew 27:32. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

I wonder if he was a black man. There was a Simon in the early Church; and it certainly was the lot of the Ethiopian to bear the cross for many and many an age. This Simon was a stranger, anyhow, and a foreigner; truly honoured was he to be compelled to bear the cross after Christ.

Matthew 27:33. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

From its shape. There appears to be to this day a hill still in the form of a human skull outside the gate of Jerusalem. When they came to that common place of execution, the Tyburn or Old Bailey of the city,

Matthew 27:34. They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

A stupefying draught was given to the condemned that is the only mercy that there was about the whole thing. The Romans did give to the crucified a draught of myrrh to take away something of the agony of crucifixion; but our Lord came not to be stupefied, he came to suffer, therefore he would not take anything that would at all impair his faculties. He drank even to the dregs the bitter cup of grief and woe.

Matthew 27:35. And they crucified him,

Horrible scene, to see those blessed hands and feet pierced with nails, and fastened to the cross!

Matthew 27:35. And parted his garments, casting lots:

Rattling the dice-box at the foot of the cross! Gambling is the most hardening of all vices. I believe that crimes have been committed by persons, under the influence of gambling, which never could have been committed by them in any other condition of mind: “They parted his garments, casting lots.” See here, ye gamblers! With Christ’s blood bespattering them, these soldiers dared still to raffle for his robe.

Matthew 27:35-36. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there;

His enemies gloating their cruel eyes with the sight of his sufferings; his friends with many tears watching his amazing griefs. It is for us, tonight, with humble faith and grateful love, to mark the incidents connected with his painful death.

Matthew 27:37-38. And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

Giving him the place of honour, which means in this case the place of dishonour. He was the apex of that terrible triangle.

Matthew 27:39-40. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

This is the cry of the Socinians today, “Come down from the cross. Give up the atoning sacrifice, and we will be Christians.” But, by rejecting his vicarious atonement, they practically un-Christ the Christ, as those mockers at Golgotha did.

Matthew 27:41-42. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

Just so. Get rid of a crucified Saviour, then they will believe in Him. Atonement, substitution, vicarious sacrifice, this staggers them. They will have Christ if they can have him without his cross.

Matthew 27:43-46. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Every word in this terrible cry from the cross is emphatic; every syllable cuts and pierces to the heart.

Matthew 27:47. Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.

They knew better, yet they jested at the Saviour’s prayer.

Matthew 27:48. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge,

It always seems to me very remarkable that the spunge, which is the very lowest form of animal life, should have been brought into contact with Christ, who is at the top of all life. In his death, the whole circle of creation was completed.

Matthew 27:48-50. And filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

Christ’s strength was not exhausted; his last word was uttered “with a loud voice”, like the shout of a conquering warrior. He need not have died on account of any infirmity in himself; but voluntarily, for your sake, for your sake and mine, he “yielded up the ghost.” Blessed be his holy name!


Verses 27-54

Matthew 27:27-30. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

Ridicule is very painful to bear at any time, and soldiers have been masters of that cruel art when they have been encouraged in it by their leaders. Remember, brethren and sisters, who it was that bore all this shameful treatment from these brutal men, — your Lord and the angels’ Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, who had designed, for a while, to veil his Deity in human flesh. And there he stood, to be “set at nought,” — to be made nothing of, — by those rough Roman legionaries, the creatures of his own hand, whom he could have destroyed in a moment by a word or a wish. What matchless condescension our gracious redeemer displayed even in his own deepest degradation and agony!

Matthew 27:31-32. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

And methinks that he must have been a glad man to have such an honour thrust upon him, yet you need not envy him, for there is a cross for you also to carry. Bear it cheerfully. If anything happens to you, by way of ridicule, for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s, bow your shoulder willingly to the burden, and as knights are made by a stroke from a sword held in their sovereign’s hand, so shall you be made princes of the realm of Christ by bearing the cross after him.

Matthew 27:33. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, —

We do not know why it was so called. There have been many conjectures concerning the name, but they are only conjectures. It was probably just a little knoll, outside the gate of the city, — the common place of execution for malefactors, and the special points to be noted are that Jesus suffered without the gate, in the regular place of doom, — the Tyburn or Old Bailey of Jerusalem, — and so was numbered with the transgressors.

Matthew 27:34. They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall:

A stupefying draught was usually given to the criminals who were crucified, to mitigate their agony; but Christ did not wish for that to be done in his case.

Matthew 27:34. And when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

He came to earth that he might suffer, and he would retain all his faculties while suffering, he would have every nerve made into a straight road for the hot feet of pain to travel over, for he would drink, even to the last dregs, every drop that was in the cup of suffering for his people’s sin.

Matthew 27:35-36. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there;

Some of them gloating their cruel eyes with the sight of his suffering others watching him out of mere curiosity, but there were some, hard by the cross, who stood there to weep in sympathy with him, — a sword piercing through their own hearts while the Son of man was being put to death.

Matthew 27:37. And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

And so he is. When will the Jews own him as their King? They will do so one day, perhaps they will do so when Christians begin to think and speak more kindly of them than they usually do. When the hardness of heart on our part towards them shall pass away, it may be that their hardness of heart towards Christ will also pass away. Long have they been despised, and oppressed, and persecuted in many lands, so that, by some means, they might be brought to look, in penitence, upon him whom they crucified, and to own him as their Lord and Saviour!

Matthew 27:38-40. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thy self. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

That is the devil’s old doctrine: “Save thyself; look out for yourselves; live for yourselves; be selfish.” But Christ could never act like that; he came to live and die for others. “Save thyself,” was not the doctrine that he either preached or practiced. And this is another old taunt of Satan and those who follow him: “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross, and we will believe in thee.” There are plenty who would be willing to believe in Christ, but not in Christ crucified. “He was a good man,” say they, “a great prophet, no doubt, far in advance of his times,” and so on. But, if you talk like that, you are not on safe ground, for if Christ was not the Son of God, at any rate he professed to be, and he made people think he was; and if he was not, he was an impostor, and not a good man at all. You must either repudiate Christ altogether, or take him with his cross; it must be Christ crucified, or no Christ at all.

Matthew 27:41-44. Likewise also the chief priest mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, —

Those subjects who were crucified with him, and were sharers of his misery, — ,

Matthew 27:44-46. Which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This was the climax of his grief, — not merely to suffer intense agony of body, not only to be mocked alike by priests and people, but to be forsaken of his God. Yet this was needful as a part of the penalty that was due to sin. God must turn away from anyone who has sin upon him, so, as sin was laid upon Christ, God had to turn away his face even from his well beloved Son because he was bearing his people’s sins upon the accursed tree.

Matthew 27:47-49. Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

Mocking him even in his prayers, for they well knew the difference between Eloi and Elias.

Matthew 27:50. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

You know what he said when he cried with a loud voice: “It is finished.”

Matthew 27:51-54. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquakes, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly that was the Son of God.


Verses 32-49

Matthew 27:32. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

Perhaps they were afraid that Christ would die from exhaustion; so they compelled Simon to bear his cross. Any one of Christ’s followers might have wished to have been this man of Cyrene; but we need not envy him, for there is a cross for each of us to carry. Oh! that we were as willing to bear Christ’s cross as Christ was to bear our sins on his cross! If anything happens to us by way of persecution or ridicule for our Lord’s sake, and the gospel’s, let us cheerfully endure it. As knights are made by a stroke from the sovereign’s sword, so shall we become princes in Christ’s realm as he lays his cross on our shoulders.

Matthew 27:33-34. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

Golgotha was the common place of execution for malefactors, the Tyburn or Old Bailey of Jerusalem, outside the gate of the city. There was a special symbolical reason for Christ’s suffering without the gate, and his followers are bidden to “go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Hebrews 13:11-13). A stupefying draught was given to the condemned, to take away something of the agony of crucifixion; but our Lord came to suffer, and he would not take anything that would at all impair his faculties. He did not forbid his fellow-sufferers drinking the vinegar mingled with gall (“wine mingled with myrrh,” Mark 15:23), but he would not drink thereof. Jesus did not refuse this draught because of its bitterness, for he was prepared to drink even to the last dreadful dregs the bitter cup of wrath which was his people’s due.

Matthew 27:35. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

There is a world of meaning in that short sentence, “and they crucified him,” driving their bolts of iron through his blessed hands and feet, fastening him to the cross, and lifting him up to hang there upon a gibbet reserved for felons. We can scarcely realize all that the crucifixion meant to our dear Lord; but we can join in Faber’s prayer: —

“Lord Jesus! may we love and weep,

Since thou for us art crucified.”

Then was fulfilled all that our Lord had foretold in chapter 20:17-19, except his resurrection, the time for which had not arrived. The criminals clothes were the executioners’ perquisite. The Roman soldiers who crucified Christ had no thought of fulfilling the Scriptures when they parted his garments, casting lots; yet their action was exactly that which had been foretold in Psalms 22:18. The seamless robe would have been spoiled if it had been rent, so the soldiers raffled for the vesture, while they shared the other garments of our Lord. The dice would be almost stained with the blood of Christ, yet the gamblers played on beneath the shadow of his cross. Gambling is the most hardening of all vices. Beware of it in any form! No games of chance should be played by Christians, for the blood of Christ seems to have bespattered them all.

Matthew 27:36. And sitting down they watched him there;

Some watched him from curiosity, some to make sure that he really did die, some even delighted their cruel eyes with his sufferings; and there were some, hard by the cross, who wept and bewailed, a sword passing through their own hearts while the Son of man was agonizing even unto death.

Matthew 27:37. And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

What a marvelous providence it was that moved Pilate’s pen! The representative of the Roman Emperor was little likely to concede kingship to any man; yet he deliberately wrote, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,” and nothing would induce him to alter what he had written. Even on his cross, Christ was proclaimed King, in the sacerdotal Hebrew, the classical Greek, and the common Latin, so that everybody in the crowd could read the inscription. When will the Jews own Jesus as their King? They will do so one day, looking on him whom they pierced. Perhaps they will think more of Christ when Christians think more of them; when our hardness of heart towards them has gone, possibly their hardness of heart towards Christ may also disappear.

Matthew 27:38. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

As if to show that they regarded Christ as the worst of the three criminals, they put him between the two thieves, giving him the place of dishonour. Thus was the prophecy fulfilled, “He was numbered with the transgressors.” The two malefactors deserved to die, as one of them admitted (Luke 23:40-41); but a greater load of guilt vested upon Christ, for “he bare the sin of many,” and, therefore, he was rightly distinguished as the King of sufferers, who could truly ask: — “Was ever grief like mine?”

Matthew 27:39-40. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the son of God, come down from the cross.

Nothing torments a man when in pain more than mockery. When Jesus Christ most wanted words of pity and looks of kindness, they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads. Perhaps the most painful part of ridicule is to have one’s most solemn sayings turned to scorn, as were our Lord’s words about the temple of his body: “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself.” He might have saved himself; he might have “come down from the cross”; but if he had done so, we could never have become the sons of God. It was because he was the Son of God that he did not come down from the cross, but hung there until he had completed the sacrifice for his people’s sin. Christ’s cross is the Jacob’s ladder by which we mount up to heaven. This is the cry of the Socinians today, “Come down from the cross. Give up the atoning sacrifice, and we will be Christians.” Many are willing to believe in Christ, but not in Christ crucified. They admit that he was a good man and a great teacher; but by rejecting his vicarious atonement, they practically un-Christ the Christ, as these mockers at Golgotha did.

Matthew 27:41-43. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

The chief priests, with the scribes and elders, forgetting their high station and rank, joined the ribald crew in mocking Jesus in his death pangs. Every word, was emphatic; every syllable cut and pierced our Lord to the heart. They mocked him as a Saviour; “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” They mocked him as a King; “If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.” They mocked him as a believer; “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him.” They mocked him as the Son of God; “For he said, I am the Son of God.” Those who say that Christ was a good man virtually admit his deity, for he claimed to be the Son of God. If he was not what he professed to be, he was an impostor. Notice the testimony that Christ’s bitterest enemies bore even as they reviled him: “He saved others”; “He is the King of Israel” (R.V.); “He trusted in God.”

Matthew 27:44. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

The sharers of his misery, the abjects who were crucified with him, joined in reviling Jesus. Nothing was wanting to fill up his cup of suffering and shame. The conversion of the penitent thief was all the more remarkable because he had but a little while before been amongst the mockers of his Saviour. What a trophy of divine grace he became!

Matthew 27:45. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

Some have thought that this darkness covered the whole world, and so caused even a heathen to exclaim, “Either the world is about to expire, or the God who made the world is in anguish.” This darkness was supernatural; it was not an eclipse. The sun could no longer look upon his Maker surrounded by these who mocked him. He covered his face, and traveled on in tenfold night, in very shame that the great Sun of righteousness should himself be in such terrible darkness.

Matthew 27:46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

In order that the sacrifice of Christ might be complete, it pleased the Father to forsake his well-beloved Son. Sin was laid on Christ, so God must turn away his face from the Sin-bearer. To be deserted of his God was the climax of Christ’s grief, the quintessence of his sorrow. See here the distinction between the martyrs and their Lord; in their dying agonies they have been divinely sustained; but Jesus, suffering as the Substitute for sinners, was forsaken of God. The saints who have known what it is to have their Father’s face hidden from them, even for a brief space, can scarcely imagine the suffering that wrung from our Saviour the agonizing cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:47. Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.

They knew better, yet they jested at the Saviour’s prayer. Wickedly, willfully, and scornfully, they turned his death-shriek into ridicule.

Matthew 27:48-49. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

A person in such agony as Jesus was suffering might have mentioned many pangs that he was enduring; but it was necessary for him to say, “I thirst,” in order that another Scripture might be fulfilled. One of them, more compassionate than his companions, ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, from the vessel probably brought by the soldiers for their own use, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. It always seems to me very remarkable that the spunge, which is the very lowest form of animal life, should have been brought into contact with Christ, who is at the top of all life. In his death the whole circle of creation was completed. As the spunge brought refreshment to the lips of our dying Lord, so may the least of God’s living ones help to refresh him now that he has ascended from the cross to the throne.


Verses 33-44

Matthew 27:33-34. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

This was a stupefying draught, which was usually given to prisoners about to die in order to mitigate their pain, and therefore Christ would not drink it, for he was determined to suffer even to the bitter end. He had no mitigation of his agony when he was offering his atonement for us; and so, “when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.”

Matthew 27:35. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

This is a point upon which we cannot say much, but, to the peculiarly sensitive soul of Jesus, it must have been a great part of his shame thus to be stripped of every garment, and hung up before the sun.

Matthew 27:36-37. And sitting down they watched him there; and set up over his head his accusation written: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

By their own confession, he died for being a King, and he died for being too greatly good, too royal in his love. He, being King of kings, died that you and I might live for ever, and be kings and priests unto God,

Matthew 27:38-39. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads.

Not only they that sat there, such as the scribes, and Pharisee, and soldiers, and they that hung there, the thieves that were crucified with him, but the passers-by must needs revile him, indulging in a sneer.

Matthew 27:40-43. And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,Hhe saved others: himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

That is the cry of the mockers today. If we will but give up the Atonement, men say that they will believe in Christ. His character is so excellent that they will accept him as an example, (no they say,) but they will not have his Godhead, nor his precious blood. This proves that they are enemies, for they use the same language as his bitterest foes did when he hung upon the cross. As for the scribes, they were learned in the Psalms, and therefore they quoted what we have already read.

Matthew 27:43-44. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

Thus the Master passed through bitter trial and ignominy for our sakes.

This exposition consisted of readings from Psalms 22:1-9; and Matthew 27:33-44.


Verses 50-54

Matthew 27:50. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

Christ’s strength was not exhausted; his last word was uttered with a loud voice, like the shout of a conquering warrior. And what a word it was, “It is finished”! Thousands of sermons have been preached upon that little sentence; but who can tell all the meaning that lies compacted within it? It is a kind of infinite expression for breadth, and depth, and length, and height altogether immeasurable. Christ’s life being finished, perfected, completed, he yielded up the ghost, willingly dying, laying down his life as he said he would: “I lay down my life for the sheep. I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

Matthew 27:51-53. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Christ’s death was the end of Judaism: The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. As if shocked at the sacrilegious murder of her Lord, the temple rent her garments, like one stricken with horror at some stupendous crime. The body of Christ being rent, the veil of the temple was torn in twain from the top to the bottom. Now was there an entrance made into the holiest of all, by the blood of Jesus; and a way of access to God was opened for every sinner who trusted in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. See what marvels accompanied and followed the death of Christ: The earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened. Thus did the material world pay homage to him whom man had rejected; while nature’s convulsions foretold what will happen when Christ’s voice once more shakes not the earth only, but also heaven. These first miracles wrought in connection with the death of Christ were typical of spiritual wonders that will be continued till he comes again, —rocky hearts are rent, graves of sin are opened, those who have been dead in trespasses and sins, and buried in sepulchers of lust and evil, are quickened, and come out from among the dead, and go unto the holy city, the New Jerusalem.

Matthew 27:54. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

These Roman soldiers had never witnessed such scenes in connection with an execution before, and they could only come to one conclusion about the illustrious prisoner whom they had put to death: “Truly this was the Son of God.” It was strange that those men should confess what the chief priests and scribes and elders denied; yet since their day it has often happened that the most abandoned and profane have acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God while their religious rulers have denied his divinity.

This exposition consisted of readings from Luke 23:27-49, and Matthew 27:50-54.


Verses 50-66

Matthew 27:50. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

Christ’s strength was not exhausted; his last word was uttered with a loud voice, like the shout of a conquering warrior. And what a word it was, “It is finished”! Thousands of sermons have been preached upon that little sentence, but who can tell all the meaning that lies compacted, length, and height altogether unmeasurable. Christ’s life being finished, perfected, completed; he yielded up the ghost, willingly dying, laying down his life as he said he would: “I lay down my life for the sheep . . . I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

Matthew 27:51-53. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many of the bodies of the saints which slept arose. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Christ’s death was the end of Judaism: “The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” As if shocked at the sacrilegious murder of her Lord, the temple rent her garments, like one stricken with horror at some stupendous crime. The body of Christ being rent, the veil of the temple was torn in twain from the top to the bottom. Now was there an entrance made into the holiest of all, by the blood of Jesus; and a way of access to God was opened for every sinner who trusted in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. See what marvels accompanied and followed the death of Christ: “The earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened.” Thus did the material world pay homage to him whom man had rejected; while nature’s convulsions foretold what will happen when Christ’s voice once more shakes not the earth only, but also heaven. These first miracles wrought in connection with the death of Christ were typical of spiritual wonders that will be continued till he comes again —rocky hearts are rent, graves of sin are opened, those who have been dead in trespasses and sins, and buried in sepulchers of lust and evil, are quickened, and come out from among the dead, and go unto the holy city, the new Jerusalem.

Matthew 27:54. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

These Roman soldiers had never witnessed such scenes in connection with an execution before, and they could only come to one conclusion about the illustrious prisoner whom they had put to death, “Truly this was the Son of God,” It was strange that those men should confess what the chief priests and scribes and elders denied; yet since their day it has often happened that the most abandoned and profane have acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God, while their religious rulers. have denied his divinity.

Matthew 27:55-56. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

We have no record of any unkindness to our Lord from any woman, though we have many narratives of the loving ministry of women at various periods in his life. It was meet, therefore, that even at Calvary “many women were there beholding afar off.” The ribald crowd and the rough soldiers would not permit these timid yet brave souls to come near; but we learn from John 19:25 that some of them edged their way through the throng till they “stood by the cross of Jesus.” Love will dare anything.

Matthew 27:57-58. When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

This rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrim, was Jesus’ disciple, “but secretly for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38); yet when his Lord was actually dead, extraordinary courage nerved his spirit, and boldly he went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. Joseph and Nicodemus are types of many more who have been emboldened by the cross of Christ to do what, without that mighty magnet, they would never have attempted. When night comes, the stars appear; so in the night of Christ’s death these two bright stars shone forth with blessed radiance. Some flowers bloom only at night; such a blossom was the courage of Joseph and Nicodemus.

Matthew 27:59-60. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.

Our King, even in the grave, must have the best of the best; his body was “wrapped in a clean linen cloth, and laid in Joseph’s own new tomb, thus completing the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9. Some see in this linen shroud an allusion to the garments in which priests were to be clothed. Joseph’s was a virgin sepulcher, wherein up to that time no one had been buried, so that, when Jesus rose, none could say that another came forth from the tomb instead of him. That rock-hewn cell in the garden sanctified every part of God’s acre where saints lie buried. Instead of longing to live till Christ comes, as some do, we might rather pray to have fellowship with Jesus in his death and burial.

Matthew 27:61. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher.

Love and faith were both typified by these two Mary’s sitting over against the sepulcher. They will be the last to leave their Lord’s resting-place, and the first to return to it when the Sabbath is past.

Can we cling to Christ when his cause seems to be dead and buried? When truth is fallen in the streets, or is even buried in the sepulcher of skepticism or superstition, can we still believe in it, and look forward to its resurrection? That is what-some of us are doing at the present time. O Lord, keep us faithful!

Matthew 27:62-64. Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the Sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen. from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

Those punctilious priests and Pharisees, who were so scrupulous about keeping the Sabbath, did not mind profaning the day of rest by holding a consultation with the Roman governor. They knew that Christ was dead and buried, but they still stood in dread of his power. They called him a “deceiver,” and they even pretended to “remember” what “he said, while he was yet alive.” At his trial, their false witnesses gave another meaning to his words, but they knew all the while that he was speaking of his resurrection, not of the Temple on Mount Zion. Now they are afraid that, even in the sepulcher, he will bring to nought all their plans for his destruction. They must have known that the disciples of Jesus would not steal him away, and say unto the people, “He is risen from the dead”; so they probably feared that he really would come forth from the tomb. Whatever conscience they had made great cowards of them; so they begged Pilate to do what he could to prevent the rising of their victim.

Matthew 27:65-66. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

The chief priests and Pharisees wanted Pilate to make the sepulcher sure, but he left them to secure it. There seems to have been a grim sort of irony about the governor’s reply, “Ye have a watch; go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” Whether he mean it as a taunt, or as a command to secure the sepulcher, they became unconsciously witnesses that Christ’s resurrection was a supernatural act. The tomb in the rock could not be entered except by rolling away the stone, and they guarded that by sealing the stone, and setting a watch. According to the absurd teaching of the Rabbis, rubbing ears of corn was a kind of threshing, and, therefore, was unlawful on the Sabbath; yet here were these men doing what, by similar reasoning, might be called furnace and foundry work, and calling out a guard of Roman legionaries to assist them in breaking the Sabbath. Unintentionally, they did honour to the sleeping King when they obtained the representatives of the Roman emperor to watch his resting-place till the third morning, when he came forth Victor over sin, and death, and the grave. Thus once more was the wrath of man made to praise the King of glory, and the remainder of that wrath was restrained.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Matthew 27:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/matthew-27.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, January 27th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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