Christ delivered to Pilate, The despair of Judas. (1-10) Christ before Pilate. (11-25) Barabbas loosed, Christ mocked. (26-30) Christ led to be crucified. (31-34) He is crucified. (35-44) The death of Christ. (45-50) Events at the crucifixion. (51-56) The burial of Christ. (57-61) The sepulchre secured. (62-66)
Verses 1-10 Wicked men see little of the consequences of their crimes when they commit them, but they must answer for them all. In the fullest manner Judas acknowledged to the chief priests that he had sinned, and betrayed an innocent person. This was full testimony to the character of Christ; but the rulers were hardened. Casting down the money, Judas departed, and went and hanged himself, not being able to bear the terror of Divine wrath, and the anguish of despair. There is little doubt but that the death of Judas was before that of our blessed Lord. But was it nothing to them that they had thirsted after this blood, and hired Judas to betray it, and had condemned it to be shed unjustly? Thus do fools make a mock at sin. Thus many make light of Christ crucified. And it is a common instance of the deceitfulness of our hearts, to make light of our own sin by dwelling upon other people's sins. But the judgment of God is according to truth. Many apply this passage of the buying the piece of ground, with the money Judas brought back, to signify the favour intended by the blood of Christ to strangers, and sinners of the Gentiles. It fulfilled a prophecy, ( Zechariah 11:12 ) . Judas went far toward repentance, yet it was not to salvation. He confessed, but not to God; he did not go to him, and say, I have sinned, Father, against heaven. Let none be satisfied with such partial convictions as a man may have, and yet remain full of pride, enmity, and rebellion.
Verses 11-25 Having no malice against Jesus, Pilate urged him to clear himself, and laboured to get him discharged. The message from his wife was a warning. God has many ways of giving checks to sinners, in their sinful pursuits, and it is a great mercy to have such checks from Providence, from faithful friends, and from our own consciences. O do not this abominable thing which the Lord hates! is what we may hear said to us, when we are entering into temptation, if we will but regard it. Being overruled by the priests, the people made choice of Barabbas. Multitudes who choose the world, rather than God, for their ruler and portion, thus choose their own delusions. The Jews were so bent upon the death of Christ, that Pilate thought it would be dangerous to refuse. And this struggle shows the power of conscience even on the worst men. Yet all was so ordered to make it evident that Christ suffered for no fault of his own, but for the sins of his people. How vain for Pilate to expect to free himself from the guilt of the innocent blood of a righteous person, whom he was by his office bound to protect! The Jews' curse upon themselves has been awfully answered in the sufferings of their nation. None could bear the sin of others, except Him that had no sin of his own to answer for. And are we not all concerned? Is not Barabbas preferred to Jesus, when sinners reject salvation that they may retain their darling sins, which rob God of his glory, and murder their souls? The blood of Christ is now upon us for good, through mercy, by the Jews' rejection of it. O let us flee to it for refuge!
Verses 26-30 Crucifixion was a death used only among the Romans; it was very terrible and miserable. A cross was laid on the ground, to which the hands and feet were nailed, it was then lifted up and fixed upright, so that the weight of the body hung on the nails, till the sufferer died in agony. Christ thus answered the type of the brazen serpent raised on a pole. Christ underwent all the misery and shame here related, that he might purchase for us everlasting life, and joy, and glory.
Verses 31-34 Christ was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, as a Sacrifice to the altar. Even the mercies of the wicked are really cruel. Taking the cross from him, they compelled one Simon to bear it. Make us ready, O Lord, to bear the cross thou hast appointed us, and daily to take it up with cheerfulness, following thee. Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? And when we behold what manner of death he died, let us in that behold with what manner of love he loved us. As if death, so painful a death, were not enough, they added to its bitterness and terror in several ways.
Verses 35-44 It was usual to put shame upon malefactors, by a writing to notify the crime for which they suffered. So they set up one over Christ's head. This they designed for his reproach, but God so overruled it, that even his accusation was to his honour. There were crucified with him at the same time, two robbers. He was, at his death, numbered among the transgressors, that we, at our death, might be numbered among the saints. The taunts and jeers he received are here recorded. The enemies of Christ labour to make others believe that of religion and of the people of God, which they themselves know to be false. The chief priests and scribes, and the elders, upbraid Jesus with being the King of Israel. Many people could like the King of Israel well enough, if he would but come down from the cross; if they could but have his kingdom without the tribulation through which they must enter into it. But if no cross, then no Christ, no crown. Those that would reign with him, must be willing to suffer with him. Thus our Lord Jesus, having undertaken to satisfy the justice of God, did it, by submitting to the punishment of the worst of men. And in every minute particular recorded about the sufferings of Christ, we find some prediction in the Prophets or the Psalms fulfilled.
Verses 45-50 During the three hours which the darkness continued, Jesus was in agony, wrestling with the powers of darkness, and suffering his Father's displeasure against the sin of man, for which he was now making his soul an offering. Never were there three such hours since the day God created man upon the earth, never such a dark and awful scene; it was the turning point of that great affair, man's redemption and salvation. Jesus uttered a complaint from ( Psalms 22:1 ) . Hereby he teaches of what use the word of God is to direct us in prayer, and recommends the use of Scripture expressions in prayer. The believer may have tasted some drops of bitterness, but he can only form a very feeble idea of the greatness of Christ's sufferings. Yet, hence he learns something of the Saviour's love to sinners; hence he gets deeper conviction of the vileness and evil of sin, and of what he owes to Christ, who delivers him from the wrath to come. His enemies wickedly ridiculed his complaint. Many of the reproaches cast upon the word of God and the people of God, arise, as here, from gross mistakes. Christ, just before he expired, spake in his full strength, to show that his life was not forced from him, but was freely delivered into his Father's hands. He had strength to bid defiance to the powers of death: and to show that by the eternal Spirit he offered himself, being the Priest as well as the Sacrifice, he cried with a loud voice. Then he yielded up the ghost. The Son of God upon the cross, did die by the violence of the pain he was put to. His soul was separated from his body, and so his body was left really and truly dead. It was certain that Christ did die, for it was needful that he should die. He had undertaken to make himself an offering for sin, and he did it when he willingly gave up his life.
Verses 51-56 The rending of the veil signified that Christ, by his death, opened a way to God. We have an open way through Christ to the throne of grace, or mercy-seat now, and to the throne of glory hereafter. When we duly consider Christ's death, our hard and rocky hearts should be rent; the heart, and not the garments. That heart is harder than a rock that will not yield, that will not melt, where Jesus Christ is plainly set forth crucified. The graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept, arose. To whom they appeared, in what manner, and how they disappeared, we are not told; and we must not desire to be wise above what is written. The dreadful appearances of God in his providence, sometimes work strangely for the conviction and awakening of sinners. This was expressed in the terror that fell upon the centurion and the Roman soldiers. We may reflect with comfort on the abundant testimonies given to the character of Jesus; and, seeking to give no just cause of offence, we may leave it to the Lord to clear our characters, if we live to Him. Let us, with an eye of faith, behold Christ and him crucified, and be affected with that great love wherewith he loved us. But his friends could give no more than a look; they beheld him, but could not help him. Never were the horrid nature and effects of sin so tremendously displayed, as on that day when the beloved Son of the Father hung upon the cross, suffering for sin, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Let us yield ourselves willingly to his service.
Verses 57-61 In the burial of Christ was nothing of pomp or solemnity. As Christ had not a house of his own, wherein to lay his head, while he lived, so he had not a grave of his own, wherein to lay his body, when he was dead. Our Lord Jesus, who had no sin of his own, had no grave of his own. The Jews designed that he should have made his grave with the wicked, should have been buried with the thieves with whom he was crucified, but God overruled it, so that he should make it with the rich in his death, ( Isaiah 53:9 ) . And although to the eye of man the beholding a funeral may cause terror, yet if we remember how Christ by his burial has changed the nature of the grave to believers, it should make us rejoice. And we are ever to imitate Christ's burial in being continually occupied in the spiritual burial of our sins.
Verses 62-66 On the Jewish sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees, when they should have been at their devotions, were dealing with Pilate about securing the sepulchre. This was permitted that there might be certain proof of our Lord's resurrection. Pilate told them that they might secure the sepulchre as carefully as they could. They sealed the stone, and set a guard, and were satisfied that all needful care was taken. But to guard the sepulchre against the poor weak disciples was folly, because needless; while to think to guard it against the power of God, was folly, because fruitless, and to no purpose; yet they thought they dealt wisely. But the Lord took the wise in their own craftiness. Thus shall all the rage and the plans of Christ's enemies be made to promote his glory.
Matthew 27:1-10 . JESUS LED AWAY TO PILATE--REMORSE AND SUICIDE OF JUDAS. ( = 15:1 , Luke 23:1 , John 18:28 ).
Jesus Led Away to Pilate ( Matthew 27:1 Matthew 27:2 ).
For the exposition of this portion,
Remorse and Suicide of Judas ( Matthew 27:3-10 ).
This portion is peculiar to Matthew. On the progress of guilt in the
3. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned--The condemnation, even though not unexpected, might well fill him with horror. But perhaps this unhappy man expected, that, while he got the bribe, the Lord would miraculously escape, as He had once and again done before, out of His enemies power: and if so, his remorse would come upon him with all the greater keenness.
repented himself--but, as the issue too sadly showed, it was "the sorrow of the world, which worketh death" ( 2 Corinthians 7:10 ).
and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders--A remarkable illustration of the power of an awakened conscience. A short time before, the promise of this sordid pelf was temptation enough to his covetous heart to outweigh the most overwhelming obligations of duty and love; now, the possession of it so lashes him that he cannot use it, cannot even keep it!
4. Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood--What a testimony this to Jesus! Judas had been with Him in all circumstances for three years; his post, as treasurer to Him and the Twelve ( John 12:6 ), gave him peculiar opportunity of watching the spirit, disposition, and habits of his Master; while his covetous nature and thievish practices would incline him to dark and suspicious, rather than frank and generous, interpretations of all that He said and did. If, then, he could have fastened on one questionable feature in all that he had so long witnessed, we may be sure that no such speech as this would ever have escaped his lips, nor would he have been so stung with remorse as not to be able to keep the money and survive his crime.
And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that--"Guilty or innocent is nothing to us: We have Him now--begone!" Was ever speech more hellish uttered?
5. And he cast down the pieces of silver--The sarcastic, diabolical reply which he had got, in place of the sympathy which perhaps he expected, would deepen his remorse into an agony.
in the temple--the temple proper, commonly called "the sanctuary," or "the holy place," into which only the priests might enter. How is this to be explained? Perhaps he flung the money in after them. But thus were fulfilled the words of the prophet--"I cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord" ( Zechariah 11:13 ).
and departed, and went and hanged himself--For the details,
6. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury--"the Corban," or chest containing the money dedicated to sacred purposes
because it is the price of blood--How scrupulous now! But those punctilious scruples made them unconsciously fulfil the Scripture.
9. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying--( Zechariah 11:12 Zechariah 11:13 ). Never was a complicated prophecy, otherwise hopelessly dark, more marvellously fulfilled. Various conjectures have been formed to account for Matthew's ascribing to Jeremiah a prophecy found in the book of Zechariah. But since with this book he was plainly familiar, having quoted one of its most remarkable prophecies of Christ but a few chapters before ( Matthew 21:4 Matthew 21:5 ), the question is one more of critical interest than real importance. Perhaps the true explanation is the following, from LIGHTFOOT: "Jeremiah of old had the first place among the prophets, and hereby he comes to be mentioned above all the rest in Matthew 16:14 ; because he stood first in the volume of the prophets [as he proves from the learned DAVID KIMCHI] therefore he is first named. When, therefore, Matthew produceth a text of Zechariah under the name of JEREMY, he only cites the words of the volume of the prophets under his name who stood first in the volume of the prophets. Of which sort is that also of our Saviour ( Luke 24:41 ), "All things must be fulfilled which are written of Me in the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms," or the Book of Hagiographa, in which the Psalms were placed first."
Matthew 27:11-26 . JESUS AGAIN BEFORE PILATE--HE SEEKS TO RELEASE HIM BUT AT LENGTH DELIVERS HIM TO BE CRUCIFIED. ( = 15:1-15 Luke 23:1-25 John 18:28-40 ).
For the exposition,
Matthew 27:27-33 . JESUS SCORNFULLY AND CRUELLY ENTREATED OF THE SOLDIERS, IS LED AWAY TO BE CRUCIFIED. ( = 15:16-22 Luke 23:26-31 John 19:2 John 19:17 ).
For the exposition,
Matthew 27:34-50 . CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS. ( = 15:25-37 Luke 23:33-46 John 19:18-30 ).
For the exposition,
Matthew 27:51-66 . SIGNS AND CIRCUMSTANCES FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS--HE IS TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS, AND BURIED--THE SEPULCHRE IS GUARDED. ( = 15:38-47 , Luke 23:47-56 , John 19:31-42 ).
The Veil Rent ( Matthew 27:51 ).
51. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom--This was the thick and gorgeously wrought veil which was hung between the "holy place" and the "holiest of all," shutting out all access to the presence of God as manifested "from above the mercy seat and from between the cherubim"--"the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest" ( Hebrews 9:8 ). Into this holiest of all none might enter, not even the high priest, save once a year, on the great day of atonement, and then only with the blood of atonement in his hands, which he sprinkled "upon and before the mercy seat seven times" ( Leviticus 16:14 )--to signify that access for sinners to a holy God is only through atoning blood. But as they had only the blood of bulls and of goats, which could not take away sins ( Hebrews 10:4 ), during all the long ages that preceded the death of Christ the thick veil remained; the blood of bulls and of goats continued to be shed and sprinkled; and once a year access to God through an atoning sacrifice was vouchsafed--in a picture, or rather, was dramatically represented, in those symbolical actions--nothing more. But now, the one atoning Sacrifice being provided in the precious blood of Christ, access to this holy God could no longer be denied; and so the moment the Victim expired on the altar, that thick veil which for so many ages had been the dread symbol of separation between God and guilty men was, without a hand touching it, mysteriously "rent in twain from top to bottom"--"the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was NOW made manifest!" How emphatic the statement, from top to bottom; as if to say, Come boldly now to the Throne of Grace; the veil is clean gone; the mercy seat stands open to the gaze of sinners, and the way to it is sprinkled with the blood of Him--"who through the eternal Spirit hath offered Himself without spot to God!" Before, it was death to go in, now it is death to stay out. See more on this glorious subject on Hebrews 10:19-22 .
An Earthquake--The Rocks Rent--The Graves Opened, that the Saints Which Slept in Them Might Come Forth after Their Lord's Resurrection ( Matthew 27:51-53 ).
51. and the earth did quake--From what follows it would seem that this earthquake was local, having for its object the rending of the rocks and the opening of the graves.
and the rocks rent--"were rent"--the physical creation thus sublimely proclaiming, at the bidding of its Maker, the concussion which at that moment was taking place in the moral world at the most critical moment of its history. Extraordinary rents and fissures have been observed in the rocks near this spot.
52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose--These sleeping saints Old Testament believers, who--according to the usual punctuation in our version--were quickened into resurrection life at the moment of their Lord's death, but lay in their graves till His resurrection, when they came forth. But it is far more natural, as we think, and consonant with other Scriptures, to understand that only the graves were opened, probably by the earthquake, at our Lord's death, and this only in preparation for the subsequent exit of those who slept in them, when the Spirit of life should enter into them from their risen Lord, and along with Him they should come forth, trophies of His victory over the grave. Thus, in the opening of the graves at the moment of the Redeemer's expiring, there was a glorious symbolical proclamation that the death which had just taken place had "swallowed up death in victory"; and whereas the saints that slept in them were awakened only by their risen Lord, to accompany Him out of the tomb, it was fitting that "the Prince of Life . . . should be the First that should rise from the dead" ( Acts 26:23 , 1 Corinthians 15:20 1 Corinthians 15:23 , Colossians 1:18 , Revelation 1:5 ).
and went into the holy city--that city where He, in virtue of whose resurrection they were now alive, had been condemned.
and appeared unto many--that there might be undeniable evidence of their own resurrection first, and through it of their Lord's. Thus, while it was not deemed fitting that He Himself should appear again in Jerusalem, save to the disciples, provision was made that the fact of His resurrection should be left in no doubt. It must be observed, however, that the resurrection of these sleeping saints was not like those of the widow of Nain's son, of Jairus' daughter, of Lazarus, and of the man who "revived and stood upon his feet," on his dead body touching the bones of Elisha ( 2 Kings 13:21 )--which were mere temporary recallings of the departed spirit to the mortal body, to be followed by a final departure of it "till the trumpet shall sound." But this was a resurrection once for all, to life everlasting; and so there is no room to doubt that they went to glory with their Lord, as bright trophies of His victory over death.
The Centurion's Testimony ( Matthew 27:54 ).
54. Now when the centurion--the military superintendent of the execution.
and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake--or felt it and witnessed its effects.
and those things that were done--reflecting upon the entire transaction.
they feared greatly--convinced of the presence of a Divine Hand.
saying, Truly this was the Son of God--There cannot be a reasonable doubt that this expression was used in the Jewish sense, and that it points to the claim which Jesus made to be the Son of God, and on which His condemnation expressly turned. The meaning, then, clearly is that He must have been what He professed to be; in other words, that He was no impostor. There was no medium between those two. See, the similar testimony of the penitent thief--"This man hath done nothing amiss"--on Luke 23:41 .
The Galilean Women ( Matthew 27:55 Matthew 27:56 ).
55. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus--The sense here would be better brought out by the use of the pluperfect, "which had followed Jesus."
from Galilee, ministering unto him--As these dear women had ministered to Him during His glorious missionary tours in Galilee accompanied him and ministered to His wants from Galilee on His final journey to Jerusalem.
56. Among which was Mary
and Mary the mother of James and Joses--the wife of Cleophas, or rather Clopas, and sister of the Virgin ( John 19:25 ).
and the mother of Zebedee's children--that is, Salome: compare Mark 15:40 . All this about the women is mentioned for the sake of what is afterwards to be related of their purchasing spices to anoint their Lord's body.
The Taking Down from the Cross and the Burial ( Matthew 27:57-60 ).
For the exposition of this portion,
The Women Mark the Sacred Spot that They Might Recognize It on Coming Thither to Anoint the Body ( Matthew 27:61 ).
61. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary--"the mother of James and Joses," mentioned before ( Matthew 27:56 ).
sitting over against the
The Sepulchre Guarded ( Matthew 27:62-66 ).
62. Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation--that is, after six o'clock of our Saturday evening. The crucifixion took place on the Friday and all was not over till shortly before sunset, when the Jewish sabbath commenced; and "that sabbath day was an high day" ( John 19:31 ), being the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. That day being over at six on Saturday evening, they hastened to take their measures.
63. Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver--Never, remarks BENGEL, will you find the heads of the people calling Jesus by His own name. And yet here there is betrayed a certain uneasiness, which one almost fancies they only tried to stifle in their own minds, as well as crush in Pilate's, in case he should have any lurking suspicion that he had done wrong in yielding to them.
said, while he was yet alive--Important testimony this, from the lips of His bitterest enemies, to the reality of Christ's death; the corner-stone of the whole Christian religion.
After three days--which, according to the customary Jewish way of reckoning, need signify no more than "after the commencement of the third day."
I will rise again--"I rise," in the present tense, thus reporting not only the fact that this prediction of His had reached their ears, but that they understood Him to look forward confidently to its occurring on the very day named.
64. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure--by a Roman guard.
until the third day--after which, if He still lay in the grave, the imposture of His claims would be manifest to all.
and say unto the people, he is risen from the dead--Did they really fear this?
so the last error shall be worse than the first--the imposture of His pretended resurrection worse than that of His pretended Messiahship.
65. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch--The guards had already acted under orders of the Sanhedrim, with Pilate's consent; but probably they were not clear about employing them as a night watch without Pilate's express authority.
go your way, make it as sure as ye can--as ye know how, or in the way ye deem securest. Though there may be no irony in this speech, it evidently insinuated that if the event should be contrary to their wish, it would not be for want of sufficient human appliances to prevent it.
66. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone--which Mark ( Mark 16:4 ) says was "very great."
and setting a watch--to guard it. What more could man do? But while they are trying to prevent the resurrection of the Prince of Life, God makes use of their precautions for His own ends. Their stone-covered, seal-secured sepulchre shall preserve the sleeping dust of the Son of God free from all indignities, in undisturbed, sublime repose; while their watch shall be His guard of honor until the angels shall come to take their place.