Thursday, November 17, 2011

Matthew 27:32–44

Matthew 27:32–44 (ESV): The Crucifixion


In the last passage Jesus was tried, and, although not actually found guilty, sentenced for execution anyway, on the basis of the crowd’s reaction. (Comparisons to American Idol anyone?)

The soldiers now take Jesus for his crucifixion, and, coming across a man named Simon, have him carry Jesus’ cross (probably because Jesus is no longer in any kind of shape to do it himself, having been scourged and then beaten some more). Later on they offer him some wine mixed with gall to drink (probably another form of mockery, since the ESV Study Bible notes indicate that “gall” is “a bitter herb that could even be poisonous”), but after a taste Jesus refuses to drink it.

They then crucify Jesus, along with two robbers, writing out his charge (“This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (verse 37 (ESV)) over his head, and then cast lots (probably similar to tossing dice) for his clothes, and then sit down to keep watch over him.

Then the mocking gets back underway; people walking by start to deride Jesus, saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (verse 40 (ESV)), meaning that obviously word of Jesus’ trial has gotten out. The religious leaders also mock Jesus in a similar way, although the wording is particular interesting:

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (verses 41–43 (ESV))
Even the robbers crucified with Jesus get in on the act, and mock him with the others.


In a way, along with the actual crucifixion of Jesus, a main theme of this passage is the continuation of the mocking that he had been enduring in the last passages; everyone is mocking Jesus at this point. “He calls himself the Messiah, and there he is hanging on a cross! Some Messiah!” And in a sense, I understand where they’re coming from; they’re judging Jesus based on their own misunderstandings of who the Messiah would be, and what he would do. They expected the Messiah to be a political leader who would free them from the Romans; by that yardstick, obviously Jesus seemed like a huge disappointment. I’d like to think that his disciples were starting to get the idea that Jesus’ ministry was different from the political one people had been expecting, but even they are confused by this turn of events; seeing Jesus on the cross wasn’t what they expected either.

If you follow along with your bible’s footnotes, you’ll see lots of references to the Old Testament in this passage, since a number of the things that happen here are fulfillments of prophecies that were made earlier. i.e.:There are also a couple more instances in this passage of Matthew giving only the facts which he considers relevant, while other Gospel writers give more detail. For example, in John 19:19–22 (ESV) we are told that it was actually Pilate who wrote the inscription to go above Jesus’ head (and that the religious leaders weren’t happy about it), and in Luke 23:39–43 (ESV) we are told that only one of the robbers crucified with Jesus was mocking him; although John lumps them together, in Luke we are told that one of the robbers actually stands up for Jesus—and is saved from his sins! (Obviously deathbed confessions leading to salvation are possible, although I don’t recommend anyone counts on it; by that point, for most people, it’s much too late. If you’re going to repent, do it now.)

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