1472.) Matthew 27

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Matthew 27  (NRSV)

Jesus Brought before Pilate

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. 2They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

Various scholars on Pontius Pilate:

“Pilate was in fact appointed prefect or procurator by Tiberius Caesar in a.d. 26. Prefects governed small, troubled areas; and in judicial matters they possessed powers like those of the far more powerful proconsuls and imperial legates; in short, they held the power of life and death.”

–D. A. Carson

“The ordinary residence of procurators was Caesarea, on the sea coast, but it was their custom to be in Jerusalem at Passover time, with a detachment of soldiers, to watch over the public peace.”

–F. F. Bruce

“Philo, the ancient Jewish scholar from Alexandria, described Pilate: ‘His corruption, his acts of insolence, his rapine, his habit of insulting people, his cruelty, his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.'”

–William Barclay

The Suicide of Judas

3When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

5Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.

“Judas Hangs Himself” by Jean Colombe, 1485 (Musee Conde, Chantilly)

6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” 7After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Pilate Questions Jesus

11Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus said, “You say so.”

12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Barabbas or Jesus?

15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

“Le Rêve de la femme de Pilate” (“The dream of Pilate’s wife”). Engraving by Alphonse François (1814-1888) after Gustave Doré.

20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.

21The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

And they said, “Barabbas.”

22Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

23Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?”

But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

“Jesus Before Pilate” charcoal print by Jan Richardson

24So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Spurgeon marvels that Pilate could commit murder, and then disclaim it.  Oh, the lies we tell ourselves about our own sins!

25Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Hymn:  “Go to Dark Gethsemane”  (verse 2)

Follow to the judgment hall,
View the Lord of life arraigned.
Oh, the wormwood and the gall!
Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
Learn from him to bear the cross.

–James Montgomery (1771-1854)

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

“Le Christ aux injures” by contemporary French artist Macha Chmakoff

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”  — Fernando Ortega, with verses of Scripture and pictures from the movie The Passion of Christ.

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27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

“Jesus is nailed to the cross” stained glass window from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Layton, Utah.

32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.

There is reason to believe that Simon came to know what it really meant to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus, for there is some evidence to suggest that his sons became leaders among the early Christians (Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13).

33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

Psalm 69:21 (New American Standard Bible)

They also gave me gall for my food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him.

Psalm 22:18 (New American Standard Bible)

They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.

37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

Psalm 22:7 (New American Standard Bible)

All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head.

The Death of Jesus

45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o”clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Psalm 22:1 (New American Standard Bible)

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”

48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

55Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Hymn:  “Go to Dark Gethsemane”  (verse 3)

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at his feet
Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!”  hear him cry;
Learn from Jesus Christ to die.

–James Montgomery (1771-1854)

The Burial of Jesus

57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The tomb of Jesus, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

The Guard at the Tomb

62The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

from Meditations on the Cross,
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945):

We stand between Good Friday and Easter, the days of God’s overpowering deeds in history, the deeds in which God judgment and grace were made visible to the world:
–Judgment, in those hours when Jesus Christ, the Lord, hung on the cross;
–Grace, in the hour when death was devoured by victory.
No human beings acted here.  No, God alone did this.  He walked the path to the people in endless love.  He judged what is human.  And He gave grace beyond merit.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Mexican crucifixion.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/27-mexican-crucifixion.gif?w=450
Colombe.   http://www.christusrex.org/www2/berry/DB-f147v.jpg
Francois.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_dream_of_Pilate%27s_wife_by_Alphonse_Fran%C3%A7ois.jpg
Richardson.   http://janrichardson.com/lentencharcoalseries.html
Chmakoff.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/27le-christ-aux-injures.jpg?w=450
hand nailed to cross.   http://www.stroseoflimacatholic.net/Station10.jpg
Holy Sepulcher.   http://www.jerusalemshots.com/i/holly_sepulcher/Holly_Sepulcher72.jpg

 

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One Response to 1472.) Matthew 27

  1. The Jesus Barabbas (“Jesus, Son of the Father”) story as part of the chapter for today’s Dwelling in the Word lesson (Matthew 27:11-26 [cf. Mark 15:1-15, Luke 23:1-25, and John 18:28 – 19:19]) really provides a microcosm from a Jewish perspective of troubling undercurrents in the Gospels.

    Here, in this crowd scene, all of the players in the on-going drama of the Gospels come together. Similar to our times, the Roman republican-corporate-educational-financial-industrial-media-medical-military-police-political-prison-terrorism complex (or “hero-system”) hardly ever appears in the Gospels (surprisingly, because the last remnant of Jewish political independence had ceased in 6 AD, when Jesus was about 10 years old), but in this case is represented by their Prefect (or “Governor”), Pontius Pilate. And, from what we can tell, all of the Jewish power groups are represented – the High Priest with his Sadducean followers, the Pharisees and Scribes (Shammaites, Hillelites, etc.), the revolutionary Zealots, the Herodians – and also, apparently, the Jewish masses. Would the Essenes or the disciples of John the Baptist have been represented?

    Would it be too much to say that in this “Jesus, Son of the Father” episode we not only have the elements that go into making up the story of the Gospels but, if we can really understand the story, can we then also understand the orientation and attitude of the Gospels towards the life and death of Jesus?

    Let’s piece together the story from the Gospels and then see what issues it raises.

    Jesus of Nazareth has been captured and handed over to Pilate, the Roman Prefect, who has been favorably impressed by Jesus’ personality and is also convinced of his innocence of the charges against him. Jesus Barabbas, a “freedom fighter” or “terrorist” (depending upon one’s point of view, cf., for example, Pope Benedict XVI’s “Jesus Before Pilate,” in his Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalen to the Resurrection, [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011] (the second volume in his Jesus of Nazareth writings), is being housed in the same prison where Jesus of Nazareth is being held. This all takes place during the Passover festival, and during festivals like these, the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem has the right to demand the release of one prisoner. The crowd begin to shout for the customary release of a prisoner. Pilate seizes the opportunity to release Jesus of Nazareth, “King of the Jews.” However, the Jewish priests have been moving among the crowd, persuading them not to accept Pilate’s offer. The crowd is persuaded and refuse Pilate’s offer to release Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, they shout for the release of Jesus Barabbas the “freedom fighter”. Pilate, sorrowfully realizing that he will have to comply, asks what he should then do with Jesus of Nazareth. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” shout the crowd. Pilate is horrified by this bloodthirsty request, which he cannot refuse. However, he wishes to absolve himself from guilt in the matter, so he publicly washes his hands in token of his innocence. The Jewish crowd, on the other hand, insist on their own responsibility, calling a curse on their own heads and on the heads of their children. And so Jesus, Son of the Father, is released, and Jesus of Nazareth is led away to be crucified.

    Certain questions present themselves at once. We’ll take a look at a few here, others will be raised in the parallels mentioned in the first paragraph of these comments. Did Pilate have to crucify Jesus of Nazareth? The only Gospel that speaks to this question is that of John where it is written that the Jews blackmailed Pilate by threatening to report him to Caesar Augustus if he did not execute Jesus of Nazareth, for “anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.” But, did Pilate have to be reminded of this, especially by the Jews who were not remarkable for their subservience to Roman power? Why is Pilate, the Roman Governor, portrayed as being oblivious to the fact that a claim to be “king of the Jews” amounted to sedition against Rome? In fact, he is portrayed as being so oblivious of this that he actually endorses Jesus of Nazareth’s kingship, asking the crowd, “Do you want me to pardon the ‘King of the Jews’?” and presenting him to the crowd with the words, “Here is your king!”

    If the Jews had the right to release the prisoner of their choice, they certainly did not have the right to dictate to the Roman Prefect what penalty he should inflict on other prisoners who were not released.

    As puzzling as the answers to these questions are, even more perplexing are the questions that arise when we consider the events leading up to the “Jesus, Son of the Father” episode. Look at the comments on Mark 15:1-15 for further in-depth study.

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