This is a guest devotion, written by my mother Estelene. Each week she shares with us scripture and commentary as we study God’s word together.
There is so much to be said about this week’s scripture, yet I dare not interrupt this somber but precious reading of God’s Holy Word. I, once again, encourage you to read the other three accounts recorded in the books of Mark, Luke, and John. At the end of the reading, I will make only a few comments. I suggest that you retreat to a quiet place, slowly read this passage taken from the book of Matthew, and meditate on its contents. Savor the richness it has to offer. As this story is unwrapped, what are revealed are hatred, love, mockery, silence, warnings, confusion, holiness, sinfulness, abandonment, terror, sorrow, admittance, realization, and exclamation. Prepare yourself for the burdensome road we must travel this week with Christ that leads us to Calvary.
Earlier that morning the chief priests and the elders bound Jesus and had taken him to stand trial before Pilate, the governor.
In Matthew 27:11-66 we read:
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feastᵃ to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,”ᵇ he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole companyᶜ of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simonᵈ, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”ᵉ
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice,ᶠ he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottomᶢ. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Many women were there, watching from a distanceʰ. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
May the Lord bless the reading of His Word.
ᵃThe Passover (It was a requirement for all Israelite men ages 12 and older to gather in Jerusalem once year to celebrate the miraculous event when God liberated his people from the Egyptians.)
ᵇWashing his hands did not cleanse Pilate from his guilt. He was afraid of what might happen to his position as governor; therefore, he gave in to the angry crowd’s desires. He was warned by his wife, but he thought merely saying he was innocent would remove any guilt. He feared men more than God.
ᶜA company of soldiers consisted of 200 men.
ᵈThose who were to be crucified had to carry their own crosses to the execution site. Jesus was too weak from losing an enormous amount of blood that flowed from his massive open wounds when he was flogged. His flesh had been ripped from his body over and over again by a whip that had pieces of sharp metal attached to it. Prior to his flogging, a crown of thorns which had been placed on his head pierced his flesh followed by beatings to his head with a staff. No man should have survived the cruel torture and beatings he suffered. But Christ’s mission had to be accomplished. So what would have normally killed a man, he endured. Since Jesus was unable to carry his cross, an African man from the crowd was grabbed and forced to carry his cross.
ᵉElijah was one of the greatest Old Testament prophets. He did not face death. Instead, he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. While Jesus was crying out to his Father, God Almighty, their confusion led them to believe that he was crying out to Elijah.
ᶠLuke 23:46 says, “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” This could have been to what Matthew was referring.
ᶢNo longer was man required to communicate with God through a priest. There was a curtain that separated the Most Holy Place in the temple from the other two sections. The High Priest, and only the High Priest, was allowed once a year to enter the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the Israelites’ sins. When the curtain was torn from top to bottom, all men was allowed to communicate with God.
ʰWe know that the disciple John was near the foot of the cross also, because in John 19:26 he wrote, “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. In John’s writings he sometimes referred to himself as the disciple whom he loved. He refers to himself in this manner in chapter 13:23 (the Last supper).
It is important to know that one of the criminals hanging on a cross next to Jesus ceased his hurling of insults and rebuked the other one for continuing. Obviously he came to the realization and admitted that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus forgave him of his sins and welcomed him into his kingdom. This is found in Luke 23:39-43.