He Suffered… (Matthew 27:26-44)
The entire world unites to destroy God-In-Human-Flesh.
26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. 28 And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.
29 When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on 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!” 30 Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
32 Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. 33 And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, 34 they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.
35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:
“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”
36 Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. 37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him:
THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS
38 Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.
39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
Jesus has been condemned to die. And now the entire world, represented by Rome and the Jews, begins to mock Jesus. Little do they know, their mockery is actually what is enthroning Jesus. Their reviling of Jesus is making Him King. And in our passage today we will explore this and see how something men meant for evil, God uses for the greatest of goods.
Roman Synagogue (v. 26-31)
Having been order by the Jews to release Barabbas, Pilate complies. He then has Jesus scourged, beaten and bloodied by sadistic professional killers, and then delivered Him to be crucified. Once Jesus had been taken to the Praetorium, the Roman fortress inside Jerusalem, the entire cohort of 600 infantrymen gathered all around Him. The word that Matthew uses to describe this seems to be deliberate. The word translated as “gather” or “assembled” in our English Bibles is the same root word for synagogue. The Roman soldiers occupying Jerusalem have assembled around Jesus like the multitudes did when He gave the Sermon on the Mount or spoke in Parables. And what are they doing in this assembly? They strip Him naked and put one of their Roman cloaks on Him, fashioned as a kingly scarlet robe. Then they gave Him a crown of thorns and scepter made of reeds. And they mockingly bowed before Him, jeering at Him, saying “Hail, King of the Jews.” They spat on Him, punched Him in the face, stripped Him naked again to return Him to His own clothes to be crucified.
What is going on here? Why do they do this to Jesus? To begin with, the Roman soldiers clearly had great animosity for the Jews. They despised these haughty people who believed their God was the only god. And that this God has chosen them specifically among all the peoples on the earth. You are the most powerful empire on planet earth and this pathetic, conquered people could still believe such things! And so these men probably didn’t care about Jesus all that much. He was just another of many Jewish criminals they had a duty to execute. What made Him different to them was His claims of royalty. Their mocking of Jesus was mocking Israel more than it was of Jesus Himself. Here was this captured man, about to be executed in the most gruesome fashion, already beaten to a bloody pulp, “we can make a spectacle of Him further to embarrass these people we hate.”
But what is actually going on here? What is the deep irony of this situation? Rome, in the person of Pontius Pilate, was not in charge here. If it had been up to him, Jesus would have walked out a free man. The Jews had demanded Pilate kill Jesus. And Pilate acquiesced to that demand. Pilate gave in to them. Far from being in charge, Rome was acting as Israel’s lackey. The Roman mockery of the Jews in the mocking of their King was a mockery of themselves—they were doing the bidding of the people they so hated.
After being mocked by the Romans, they had Jesus bring His own cross to Golgotha, but being scourged He was too weak, so they compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry it for Him. You will remember this Roman practice, from the Sermon on the Mount, where Romans would compel their subject peoples to carry their things for as long as one mile, and Jesus said to go one further when they did that. Here, Simon complies, bearing Christ’s burden for Him. When they reached Golgotha, the Romans gave Jesus something to drink, but when He tasted it and realized it was spoiled wine mixed with gall (a mercy to the condemned to make the suffering more bearable), He would not drink it because He had taken a Nazarite vow at the last supper with His disciples.
Then they took Jesus and crucified Him. Matthew is not descriptive at all. He assumes we know what being crucified means. The other gospels give more detail. Here we are left to assume nails are driven through His hands and feet. More attention is given to what happens to Jesus’s clothing. Matthew refers us to a fulfillment of Psalm 22, that the Romans gamble over Jesus’s garments. Nowadays, because of industrialization, clothing is so cheap that they’d have just thrown it away, but in the ancient world, where a woman would have to sit and painstakingly weave a garment, the clothing of even poor people was relatively precious. And so they all had something to gain gambling over his clothes.
Then the Romans put up a sign calling Jesus the King of the Jews. Another great irony is this accusation was correct. He was indeed their rightful king. The Romans thought they were mocking the Jews with this, the Jews thought their God was being blasphemed, but the reality is this accusation was the glory of Jesus Christ—He is the King of Israel!
Israel Mocks God (38-44)
The mockery of Jesus is not just limited to the Romans. Both Jew and Gentile are united in their reviling of the God who created them. The first to mock Jesus on the cross are the Jewish robbers crucified on either side of Him. These are wicked men, deserving the death they are receiving, but between each excruciating breath they summon the strength to hurl insults at Jesus. They may be at the very, very bottom of the social hierarchy, criminals literally in the middle of their own execution, but for them they have found someone even more contemptible than themselves. Even the very worst men in Israel signal they are better than Jesus. Next, passersby blasphemed Jesus, repeating His prophecies of destroying the temple in three days and raising it up. Mockingly telling Him to save Himself.
Next, Jesus’s great enemies, the leaders of all Israel, the chief priests come to gloat in their triumph. He saved others, but He cannot save Himself. Then these children of Satan begin to speak just like their father: If you are the Son of God… turn these stones to bread, throw yourself down from the temple, worship me, come down from the cross. Matthew then tells us, the robbers began to say the same thing. From top to bottom, Israel has fully rejected their God who came to them in the flesh. From those are the very top, with authority and prestige, wealth, and fame, to those at the very bottom who murder and steal, all of Israel has reviled Jesus and rejoices that His flesh is being butchered before their very eyes.
But something is happening here at an even deeper level than any of these people know.
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