Matthew 27: 1- 26, Jesus is handed over!
General Idea: Jesus was obedient! Jesus suffered on our behalf! Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate for a hearing because of the evil requests of the religious leaders who sought His death. Meanwhile, Judas suffered his own fate as remorse and guilt overcame him; he ended his suffering on his own terms, his life a vain pursuit that sought self and not Him. Christ, on the other hand, sought God's will and endured suffering for a triumphant life that gives us the victory. Jesus' ordeal was the ultimate injustice of an innocent man suffering on behalf of others! It was even further compounded as a guilty murderer was set free while the innocent one was pronounced guilty!
Clearly, Jesus had the power and ability to take out all those who were causing Him harm. With a single thought, they would have been reduced to ashes and vapor or endured the same suffering as He did. Jesus chose to stick to the plan, God's will, even though its price was beyond human comprehension. Fortunately for us, He is also God, and stayed obedient to the Father for our benefit! It was the will of the Father that Jesus would suffer and go through this phony, illegal, and unjust trial for the very people who cause injustice, evil, and sin in the world-us! He, who was without sin, covered us with His righteousness!
1. Plotted against Jesus. The religious leaders were unable to carry out their death penalty under Roman law; thus, they had to scheme to involve the Romans and have them do their dirty work.
a. When morning came. Most Roman officials did their public business in the mornings, and were done by noon, leaving the rest of the day for personal pleasures and pursuits.
b. Seeing he had been condemned. Judas' work was complete. He could not take it back or even go to Pilate and renounce his words of incrimination. As in most legal systems, the Romans did not accept recanting testimonies.
c. Pieces of silver were the bribe that turned Judas from being disgruntled with Jesus to betraying Him. Bribery and being a false witness was forbidden in the O.T. (Deut. 19:18-19; 21:1-9; 27:25).
d. Threw down the pieces of silver. This is irony and alludes to Zachariah 11:13. What Judas desired was what he got, and ended up what he did not want!
e. Hanged himself. This was an act of despair as he saw no hope. Judas was remorseful; however, this is not the same as repenting; it only acknowledges guilt; it does not seek forgiveness or restitution (Matt. 3:2)! If he had repented, he would have been restored as Peter was. But, he chose to stick to his situation, and in doing so, there was no hope and nothing left for him to do (1 Sam. 31:4; 2 Sam. 17:23). The Greeks considered suicide a noble way to die, as Socrates drank the hemlock. However, in his case, it was more of an execution (Acts 16:27). Most nominal Jews also considered suicide a noble way to save oneself from torture or defilement or to cause dishonor for the family and clan. Strict Jews considered suicide evil (4 Maccabees-a Jewish apocryphal book). Judas responded to his situation with the easy way out, whereas Peter had sincere remorse that led to repentance and restoration (Matt. 26:69-75; John 21:15-19). In Acts 1:18, it is stated that his body burst, and poses a contradiction; however, the site at which Judas hanged himself is over rocks on a cliff, so it is likely he hanged, and then fell and was dashed against the rocks.
f. It is not lawful. Here we see another irony as the leaders kept this small part of the law and ignored its veracity to condemn Jesus! They allowed themselves to bribe someone-which is sternly forbidden-and then debated how to let the blood money not touch them! It is further ironic that they considered themselves the most pious of all people of all time!
g. Potters field is a play on the Hebrew word for treasury; the people knew of the leader's hypocrisy and passing on of responsibility, thus named the field in their dishonor! To bury a person who has no family or means provided is considered an act of mercy. There are no O.T. ordinances for this; this idea of burying non-Jews comes from tradition, and the apocryphal book of Tobit.
h. Spoken by Jeremiah. This passage is from Zachariah and is also attributed a saying from Jeremiah that Zack possibly quoted. It was popular then to blend texts together, as this one seems to have been (Jer. 19:1-11; 32:6-10; Zach. 11:12-13).
i. Value of him refers to the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32)!
2. Jesus stood. The charge against Jesus that caused the Romans to take interest was that He claimed to be king. This would be an act of rebellion. This was a capital offence and would be quickly dealt with as there could be no king except Caesar. However, Pilate saw through the pious, fraud leaders, and knew Jesus was innocent. Jesus even testified of His innocence to the Romans in saying His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36-37). Thus Pilate tried to please the people and religious leaders by first punishing Jesus, then trying to set Him free.
a. He answered him not one word. Most of the time, Jesus kept silent. The other Gospels record a few retorts. Why did Jesus not answer them (Isa. 53:7)? They would not have believed Him and they did not deserve an answer! Jesus exercised discernment, as we need to at times; we do not always need to open our mouths even to defend ourselves (Eccles. 3:7). Jesus also modeled for us bravery and the refusal to compromise even in the face of immeasurable adversity!
b. Releasing…prisoner. Romans preformed acts of amnesty from acquittal before a trial, or a pardon after. This was to show altruism and mercy so to captivate crowds, avoid further unrest and uprisings, and give just enough hope to the conquered people to motivate them not to feel defeated, thus helping spur on loyalty. The specifics were left to the local governor; this seems to be an act Pilate instigated after Passover.
3. Judgment seat refers to the power of being a judge; it does not refer to a specific "chair" although a specific chair was used. Pilate could have his chair moved to the courtyard, if it was good weather, and judge there. Wives were allowed to participate, especially those of aristocratic, "politically contended," or prominent "wealthy" families.
a. Dream. Dreams were very powerful influences in a pre-scientific society. They were believed to hold truth and foretell events. Pilate listened, but his fear of civil unrest overpowered his refusal to punish and condemn an innocent man whom he marveled (vs. 14), as in, He captivated him.
b. These events took place at dawn; so, from the arrest to the crucifixion was an "all nighter" for Jesus-a time of no rest and constant torture (See The Crucifixion of Jesus!).
c. Persuaded the multitudes. Crowds are easily swayed as in those who hated Saul's becoming King changing quickly to support of him (1 Sam. 11)!
d. They cried out…crucify him. The crowd that welcomed Jesus, calling Him Hosanna, was the same crowd that now called for His execution (Matt. 21:1-11)!
e. Barabbas was a revolutionary figure who more depicted the people's mindset of what a messiah ought to be. So, they favored him and not the true Messiah who came to save the lost (Luke 23:19; John 18:40). They sought a military leader, not a soul saver (Jer. 38:1-6)!
f. Washed his hands. Pilate sought both to please the crowd and keep from punishing an innocent man. This was a public declaration to absolve guilt, saying, I do not approve and I have no part in this (Duet. 21:6). However, Pilate still had the power to release Jesus and control the crowd if he chose; his response was "double minded" (Psalm 119:113; James 1:8; 4:8). Jesus modeled bravery while Pilate modeled cowardice (Matt. 5:39, 43-44). The early church fathers point to Pilate, in their writings, as the one responsible.
g. His blood be on our hands. The people were relying only on their emotions. They did not care about guilt or innocence, only their thirst for blood and sport. This phrase proclaimed responsibility for Jesus' death but violated the Law, as children are not responsible for their parent's crimes unless they also conspired to do the crime (Gen. 27:13; 2 Sam. 3:28-29; Ezek. 18:20; Acts 2:23, 39). This passage is used to justify (sinfully) the persecution of the Jews; but, the fact is, they did not kill Jesus; you and I did! Every Christian who has ever accepted Him by faith killed Him because He died for our sins, not because of the Jews or the Romans (Acts 4:27)! If He had not died, we would not have been saved. To blame others for His death diminishes the act He did for you!
h. Scourged Jesus. Scourging was a long process of whipping. His hands were tied to a pike above His head (1 Peter 2:24). Then, He was brutally whipped with a "flagellum," or a "cattail," which was a short whip of several heavy tentacles, the ends tied with small balls of lead, rocks, or bone fragments. It produced deep, large, painful bruises and intense pain. Cutting deep into the subcutaneous tissues, it literally tore the flesh off His back, exposing the muscles as well as maybe a rib or two. The flesh from the back would have hung in long ribbons and looked like a mass of torn, bleeding muscle. The person(s) doing this torture was a trained centurion, and when the victim was near death, the beating would be stopped. They were also careful not to puncture a lung, as that would have killed the victim and ended the intended, prolonged agony. The purpose? To weaken a person's constitution! It was possible Pilate was having Jesus whipped to please the crowd so he would not have to kill Him.
Here, our Lord and Savior began His tremendous physical suffering on our behalf! He was accused of a crime He did not commit; we committed it. He was unjustly tried for our crimes and scourged for our sins. We should have been put in His place; yet, He took our place in life, in suffering, and then in death to give us new life. Do you realize the magnitude of what our Lord did for you?
Do you see the mistake Judas and Pilate made? They took hold of their desires and sought themselves regardless of guilt; they refused to deal with their sin, so sin took them over. If we do not deal with sin, it will take us out, as sin produces all of the disasters of life. We cannot seek virtue unless we deal with sin; we cannot grow in Him unless we deal with sin; so-deal with your sin! If you do not, pride, selfishness, and hate will win out and you will lose in your faith formation and in your testimony to others!
Jesus models for us how to handle suffering and injustice. The key principle is not to retaliate in spite or revenge. Jesus knew what His mission was and He stayed focused in the midst of reprobates thinking they determined His destiny and death (Isa. 53:7; Eccles. 3:7). He dealt with our sin here and all the way to the cross; we are to receive His grace and continue to look to Him to do away with our sin-not look to ourselves or to circumstances. If not, even if pride does not get you, compromise will! It will take over your integrity and you will lose. Look to Him; Jesus kept His composure, focusing on God, and did not allow anyone to distract Him from His purpose (1 Pet. 2:18-23). He did not allow them to provoke Him to lose His focus, and thus repaid their evil. He would have been just in doing so, but the result would have neutered the plan for our redemption.
1. Have you ever done something that you regretted and wished you could take it back? How did this experience help you be more careful from then on with your words and actions? Or, did it?
2. What does Jesus' being obedient mean to you? Affected your life? Influenced your behaviors?
3. How does Jesus going though an unjust trial and punishment make you feel? How does this help your faith?
4. If Jesus had the power and ability to take out all those who were causing Him harm, why did He not do so?
5. Why did the religious leaders have to scheme in order to involve the Romans? Consider their personal motivations and how they might have rationalized breaking their own law.
6. How would you explain Judas' motivations and remorse?
7. How did Judas respond to the situation? How should he have? Do you think Jesus would have restored Him as He did with Peter? Consider-there is no hierarchy of sin; all sin, no matter how small or large, is sin, and Paul was a murderer, too!
8. What are the ironies (behavior contradictions and sarcasm) in this passage?
9. Why did Jesus not answer them (Isa. 53:7)?
10. How would you explain Pilate's motivations as he saw Jesus and marveled, yet desired to prevent civil unrest?
11. Why do you suppose the crowds were so easily swayed from exalting to denouncing Jesus?
12. Do you think Pilate was innocent or guilty, and why?
13. Why was Barabbas more of a messiah in the people's mindset?
14. Who is responsible for the death of Jesus, and why?
15. Why did Pilate wash his hands? How does this help you understand his character? How does it help you understand your character?
16. Now that scourging has been described to you, how do you feel about the fact that Jesus took your place in punishment for your sin?
17. Do you realize the magnitude of what our Lord did for you?
18. Do you see Judas' and Pilate's mistake? How so? How have you made similar mistakes?
19. How do you suppose most Christians you know would react to fully understanding that our Lord and Savior endured tremendous physical suffering on their behalf? What about you?
20. If you faced a dilemma of either letting an innocent person off the hook or appeasing an angry crowd that could cause you to lose your job, what would you do? (For example, say you are an assistant DA, and charged with prosecuting a person whom you know to be innocent; yet, if you do not, you will lose your job and be disbarred.)
© 2004, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org