In Summary:In truth, Matthew 27 deserves about a half-dozen thoughts to deal with. This chapter gives us Judas and his recognition of failure. From Matthew 27:1-4, some have inferred that Judas had hoped his betrayal of Jesus would turn out differently. That is an entirely different discussion than we’ll have here—the text does not supply any greater motive than financial. That turns out to not be enough, for Judas recognizes that he has a hand in condemning an innocent man for profit.
Yes, there’s a principle there about profiting off the death of the innocent. What exactly expanded your 401(k)?
Then we have the Roman trials of Jesus. The Jewish trials were held in the nighttime and are recorded in Matthew 26. It is worth noting that the Jewish leadership did not wake up the Romans with their demands but waited until an opportune moment to involve Pilate. Also worth noticing here is that Matthew does not record the Pilate shipping Jesus over to Herod and then Herod shipping Him back. That detail is only in Luke 23.
The chapter wraps with some of the details of the crucifixion of Jesus. The original readers of Matthew would have known the mechanics of this execution method—in the same way that those of us in recent American life need no added explanation of what “Give him the chair!” would mean for an execution. (This even though I think there are no remaining states using the electric chair as an execution method.)
While Jesus is on the Cross, we see that He is mocked and taunted. This was normal because the slow public execution was meant to also humiliate. He was mocked for what He had said. He was mocked for what He was not doing. Then darkness fell, the veil of the Temple is torn, and a centurion realizes that something very important just happened.
The chapter closes with the Son of God laid in a gifted tomb, soldiers keeping Him as locked up as they possibly could. (Can you imagine that orders package? “Lucius, go, make sure this Jesus guy doesn’t come back to life and get out of the tomb.” “Surely, you can’t be serious! If He comes back to life, you think we can get Him to stay in the tomb?” “The name is Surius, not Shirley. And I’m dead serious.”)
In Focus:For a focal verse, take a look at Matthew 2:2. Really. The Magi arrive in Jerusalem some 30 years prior to Matthew 27 and ask about the King of the Jews. Then take a look at Matthew 27:11. Jesus only answers one question during His trial before Pilate.
It was this: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Look at Matthew 27:29. And Matthew 27:37. And Matthew 27:42.
Matthew’s recounting of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God comes to its fullness here. Jesus is the King. And this is how the world treated the King. One betrayed Him. One denied Him. Dozens fled Him, hundreds shouted, “Crucify!”
If Jesus were only a normal king, the story would end here. As with so many other stories, the next page would tell of who became the king next. But that’s not what happens because Jesus is no ordinary king. His Kingdom is not of this earth or restricted to it, but He is above all things. Including death.
In Practice:Unfortunately, we must remind ourselves that, had we been in the crowd, we probably would have yelled “CRUCIFY!” with them. Or we might have betrayed the Lord Jesus instead of Judas. Perhaps we simply would have been like Pilate and washed our hands at getting involved.
Instead, let us take this as our commitment: the King will not have suffered for us in vain. We will follow the example of Simon of Cyrene and carry the cross. Not literally—that would be unnecessary. Instead, let us carry the message of the cross to the world. Let us be like Joseph of Arimathea and come out of the darkness and follow fully in public. Let us weep over the cost of our sin.
And let us tell the world that the One who was King then is still King today!
In Nerdiness:1. Simon of Cyrene is from Libya. It is most likely that he is African—though he could have been a Jewish settler. Either way, he’s either Middle Eastern or African. Remember that.
2. The splitting of the rocks in v. 51 tells us that the creation did not care for the Creator’s suffering.
3. V. 52-53 is a strange story. I don’t know quite what else to say about it. Strange.
4. V. 54 could be translated as “Truly, this was a son of the gods.” It all depends on whether or not the centurion is amazed but unchanged or becomes a follower of Christ.
5. I do not understand putting a seal on the grave. Why not a local animal instead of some aquatic critter? Did they have a beach ball for it to play with? Was it a harp seal?