Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Matthew Chapter 27

Matthew 27:1 "When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:"

Jesus is brought before Pilate - See also Mark 16:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:28.

When the morning was come - This was not long after Jesus had been condemned by the Sanhedrin.

Peter's last denial was probably not far from three o'clock a. m., or near the break of day. As soon as it was light, the Jews consulted together for the purpose of taking his life. The sun rose at that season of the year in Judea not far from five o'clock a. m., and the time when they assembled, therefore, was not long after Peter's denial.

The chief priests and elders of the people took counsel - They had agreed on his trial (Matthew 26:65-66) agreed that he deserved to die, "on a charge of blasphemy;" yet they did not dare to put him to death by stoning, as they did afterward Stephen Acts 7, and as the law commanded in case of blasphemy, for they feared the people. They therefore "consulted," or took counsel together, to determine on what pretence they could deliver him to the Roman emperor, or to fix some charge of a civil nature by which Pilate might be induced to condemn him. The charge which they fixed on was not that on which they had tried him, and on which they had determined he ought to die, but "that of perverting the nation, and of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar," (Luke 23:2). On this accusation, if made out, they supposed Pilate could be induced to condemn Jesus. On a charge of "blasphemy" they knew he could not, as that was not an offence against the Roman laws, and over which, therefore, Pilate claimed no jurisdiction.

To put him to death - To devise some way by which he might be put to death under the authority of the Roman governor.

 

Matthew 27:2 "And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor."

And when they had bound him - He was "bound" when they took him in the garden, (John 18:12). Probably when he was tried before the Sanhedrin in the palace of Caiaphas, he had been loosed from his bonds, being there surrounded by multitudes, and supposed to be safe. As they were about to lead him to another part of the city now, they again bound him. The binding consisted, probably, in nothing more than tying his hands.

Pontius Pilate, the governor - The governor appointed by the Romans over Judea. The governor commonly resided at Caesarea; but he came up to Jerusalem usually at the great feasts, when great numbers of the Jews were assembled, to administer justice, and to suppress tumults if any should arise. The "title" which Pilate received was that of "governor or procurator." The duties of the office were, chiefly, to collect the revenues due to the Roman emperor, and in certain cases to administer justice. Pilate was appointed governor of Judea by Tiberius, then Emperor of Rome. John says (John 18:28) that they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment - that is, to the part of the "praetorium," or governor's palace, where justice was administered. The Jews did not, however, enter in themselves, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. In Numbers 19:22 it is said that whosoever touched an unclean thing should be unclean. For this reason they would not enter into the house of a pagan, lest they should contract some defilement that would render them unfit to keep the Passover.

 

Matthew 27:3 "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,"

Then Judas, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself - This shows that Judas did not suppose that the affair would have resulted in this calamitous manner. He probably expected that Jesus would work a miracle to deliver himself, and not suffer this condemnation to come upon him. When he saw him taken, bound, tried, and condemned - when he saw that all probability that he would deliver himself was taken away - he was overwhelmed with disappointment, sorrow, and remorse. The word rendered "repented himself," it has been observed, does not of necessity denote a change "for the better," but "any" change of views and feelings. Here it evidently means no other change than that produced by the horrors of a guilty conscience, and by deep remorse for crime at its unexpected results. It was not saving repentance. That leads to a holy life this led to an increase of crime in his own death. True repentance leads the sinner to the Saviour. This led away from the Saviour to the gallows. Judas, if he had been a true penitent, would have come then to Jesus; would have confessed his crime at his feet, and sought for pardon there. But, overwhelmed with remorse and the conviction of vast guilt, he was not willing to come into his presence, and added to the crime of treason that of self-murder. Assuredly such a man could not be a true penitent.

 

Matthew 27:4 "Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that."

I have sinned - I have been guilty. I have done wrong.

In that I have betrayed the innocent blood - That is, in betraying an innocent being to death. Blood is put here for "life," or for the "man." The meaning is, that he knew and felt that Jesus was innocent. This confession is a remarkable proof that Jesus was innocent. Judas had been with him for three years. He had seen him in public and private; he had heard his public teaching and his private views; he had seen him in all circumstances; and if he had done anything evil, or advanced anything against the Roman emperor, Judas was competent to testify it. Had he known any such thing he would have stated it. His testimony, being a disciple of Jesus, would have been to the chief priests far more valuable than that of any other man; and he might not only have escaped the horrors of a troubled conscience and an awful death, but have looked for an ample reward. That he did not make such a charge that he fully and frankly confessed that Jesus was innocent - and that he gave up the ill-gotten price of treason, is full proof that, in the belief of Judas, the Saviour was free from crime, and even the suspicion of crime.

What is that to us? - This form of speaking denoted that they had nothing to do with his remorse of conscience, and his belief that Jesus was innocent. They had secured what they wanted - the person of Jesus - and they cared little now for the feelings of the traitor. So all wicked men who make use of the agency of others for the accomplishment of crime or the gratification of passion care little for the effect on the instrument. They will soon cast him off and despise him, and in thousands of instances the instruments of villainy and the panders to the pleasures of others are abandoned to remorse, wretchedness, crime, and death.

 

Matthew 27:5 "And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself."

And he cast down ... - This was an evidence of his remorse of conscience for his crime. His ill-gotten gain now did him no good. It would not produce relief to his agonized mind. He "attempted," therefore, to obtain relief by throwing back the price of treason; but he attempted it in vain. The consciousness of guilt was fastened to his soul; and Judas found, as all will find, that to cast away or abandon ill-gotten wealth will not alleviate a guilty conscience.

In the temple - It is not quite certain what part of the temple is here meant. Some have thought that it was the place where the Sanhedrin were accustomed to sit; others, the treasury; others, the part where the priests offered sacrifice. It is probable that Judas cared little or thought little to what particular part of the temple he went. In his deep remorse he hurried to the temple, and probably cast the money down in the most convenient spot, and fled to some place where he might take his life.

And went and hanged himself - The word used in the original, here, has given rise to much discussion, whether it means that he was suffocated or strangled by his great grief, or whether he took his life by suspending himself. It is acknowledged on all hands, however, that the latter is its most usual meaning, and it is certainly the most obvious meaning. Peter says, in giving an account of the death of Jesus (Acts 1:18), that Judas, "falling headlong, burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." There has been supposed to be some difficulty in reconciling these two accounts, but there is really no necessary difference. Both accounts are true. Matthew records the mode in which Judas attempted his death by hanging. Peter speaks of the result. Judas probably passed out of the temple in great haste and perturbation of mind. He sought a place where he might perpetrate this crime.

He would not, probably, be very careful about the fitness or the means he used. In his anguish, his haste, his desire to die, he seized upon a rope and suspended himself; and it is not at all remarkable, or indeed unusual, that the rope might prove too weak and break. Falling headlong - that is, on his face - he burst asunder, and in awful horrors died - a double death, with double pains and double horrors - the reward of his aggravated guilt. The explanation here suggested will be rendered more probable if it be supposed that he hung himself near some precipitous valley. "Interpreters have suggested," says Professor Hackett (Illustrations of Scripture, pp. 275, 276), "that Judas may have hung himself on a tree near a precipice over the valley of Hinnom, and that, the limb or rope breaking, he fell to the bottom, and was dashed to pieces by the fall. For myself, I felt, as I stood in this valley and looked up to the rocky terraces which hang over it, that the proposed explanation was a perfectly natural one. I was more than ever satisfied with it. I measured the precipitous, almost perpendicular walls in different places, and found the height to be, variously, 40, 36, 33, 30, and 25 feet. Trees still grow quite near the edge of these rocks, and, no doubt, in former times were still more numerous in the same place. A rocky pavement exists, also, at the bottom of the ledges, and hence on that account, too, a person who should fall from above would be liable to be crushed and mangled as well as killed. The traitor may have struck, in his fall, upon some pointed rock, which entered the body and caused 'his bowels to gush out.'"

 

Matthew 27:6 "And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood."

It is not lawful ... - It was forbidden (Deuteronomy 23:18) to take what was esteemed as an abomination and to offer it to God. The price of blood - that is, of the life of a man - they justly considered as an improper and unlawful offering.

The treasury - The "treasury" was kept in the court of the women. See plan of the temple, Matthew 21:12. It was composed of a number of small "chests" placed in different parts of the "courts" to receive the voluntary offerings of the people, as well as the half shekel required of every Jew. The original word rendered here as "treasury" contains the notion of an "offering to God." What was given there was considered as an offering made to him.

The price of blood - The life is in the "blood." See the notes at Romans 3:25. The word "blood" here means the same as "life." The price of blood means the price by which the life of a man has been purchased. This was an acknowledgment that in their view Jesus was innocent. They had bought him, not condemned him justly. It is remarkable that they were so scrupulous now about so small a matter, comparatively, as putting this money in the treasury, when they had no remorse about "murdering an innocent" man, and crucifying him who had given full evidence that he was the Messiah. People are often very scrupulous in "small" matters, who stick not at great crimes.

 

Matthew 27:7 "And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in."

And they took counsel ... - They consulted among themselves about the proper way to dispose of this money.

And bought with them - In Acts 1:18, it is said of Judas that "he purchased a field with the reward of his iniquity." By the passage in the Acts is meant no more than that he "furnished the means" or "was the occasion" of purchasing the field. It is not of necessity implied that Judas actually made the contract and paid down the money to buy a field to bury strangers in - a thing which would be in itself very improbable, but that it was "by his means" that the field was purchased. It is very frequent in the Scriptures, as well as in other writings, to represent a man as doing that which he is only the cause or occasion of another's doing. See Acts 2:23; John 19:1; Matthew 27:59-60.

The potter's field - Probably this was some field well known by that name, which was used for the purpose of making earthen vessels. The price paid for a field so near Jerusalem may appear to be very small; but it is not improbable that it had been worked until the clay was exhausted, and was neither suitable for that business nor for tillage, and was therefore considered as of little value.

To bury strangers in - Jews, who came up from other parts of the world to attend the great feasts at Jerusalem. The high priests, who regarded the "Gentiles" as abominable, would not be inclined to provide a burial-place for them.

 

Matthew 27:8 "Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day."

The field of blood - The field purchased by the price of blood. The name by which this field was called was "Aceldama," (Acts 1:19). It was just without the walls of Jerusalem, on the south of Mount Zion. It is now used as a burying-place by the Armenian Christians in Jerusalem, who have a magnificent convent on Mount Zion - Missionary Herald, 1824, p. 66. See the plan of Jerusalem.

To this day - That is, to the day when Matthew wrote this gospel, about 30 years after the field was purchased.

 

Matthew 27:9 "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;"

Spoken by Jeremy the prophet - The words quoted here are not to be found in the prophecy of Jeremiah. Words similar to these are recorded in Zechariah 11:12-13, and from that place this quotation has been doubtless made. Much difficulty has been experienced in explaining this quotation. In ancient times, according to the Jewish writers; "Jeremiah" was reckoned the first of the prophets, and was placed first in the "Book of the Prophets," thus: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the twelve minor prophets. Some have thought that Matthew, quoting this place, quoted the Book of the Prophets under the name of that which had the "first" place in the book, that is, Jeremiah; and though the words are those of Zechariah, yet they are quoted correctly as the words of the Book of the Prophets, the first of which was Jeremiah. Others have thought that there was a mistake made by ancient transcribers, writing the name Jeremiah instead of Zechariah; and it is observed that this might be done by the change of only a single letter. It was often the custom to abridge words in writing them. Thus, instead of writing the name of Jeremiah in full, it would be written in Greek, "Iriou." So Zechariah would be written "Zion." By the mere change of Zinto I, therefore, the mistake might easily be made. Probably this is the correct explanation. Others have supposed that the words were "spoken by Jeremiah," and that "Zechariah" recorded them, and that Matthew quoted them as they were - the words of Jeremiah. The passage is not quoted literally; and by its being "fulfilled" is meant, probably, that the language used by Zechariah on a similar occasion would express also this event. See the notes at Matthew 1:22-23. It was language appropriate to this occasion.

The price of him that was valued - That is, the price of him on whom a value was set. The word rendered "valued," here, does not, as often in our language, mean to "esteem," but to "estimate;" not to love, approve, or regard, but to fix a price on, to estimate the value of. This they considered to be thirty pieces of silver, "the common price of a slave."

They of the children of Israel did value - Some of the Jews, the leaders or priests, acting in the name of the nation.

Did value - Did estimate, or fix a price on.

 

Matthew 27:10 "And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me."

And gave them - In Zechariah it is, I gave them. Here it is represented as being given by the priests. The meaning is not, however, different. It is, that this price "was given" for the potter's field.

As the Lord appointed me - That is, "commanded" me. The meaning of the place in Zechariah is this: He was directed to go to the Jews as a prophet - a pastor of the people. They treated him, as they had done others, with great contempt. He asks them to give him "his price" - that is, the price which they thought he and his pastoral labors were worth, or to show their estimate of his office. If they thought it of value, they were to pay him accordingly; if not, they were to "forbear" - that is, to give nothing. To show their "great contempt" of him and his office, and of God who had sent him, they gave him thirty pieces of silver - "the price of a slave." This God commanded or "appointed him" to give to the potter, or to throw into the pottery to throw away. So in the time of Jesus the same thing was substantially repeated. Jesus came as the Messiah. They hated and rejected him. To show their contempt of him and his cause, they valued him "at the price of a slave." This was thrown down in the temple, taken by the priests, and appropriated to the purchase of a field owned by a "potter" - worn-out land of little or no value; all showing at how low a price, through the whole transaction, the Son of God was estimated. Though the words quoted here are not precisely like those in Zechariah, yet the sense and general structure are the same.

 

Matthew 27:11 "And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest."

And Jesus stood before the governor - Many things are omitted by Matthew, in the account of this trial, which are recorded by the other evangelists. A much more full account is found in John 18:28-40.

And the governor asked him ... - This question was asked On account of the "charge" which the Jews brought against Jesus, "of perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar," (Luke 23:2). It was on this charge that, after consultation, they had agreed to arraign him before Pilate. See the notes at Matthew 27:1. "They" had condemned him for "blasphemy," but they well knew that Pilate would altogether disregard an accusation of that kind. They therefore attempted to substitute a totally different accusation from that on which they had professed to find him guilty, to excite the jealousy of the Roman governor, and to procure his death on a charge of treason against the Roman emperor.

Thou sayest - That is, thou sayest right, or thou sayest the truth. We may wonder why the Jews, if they heard this confession, did not press it upon the attention of Pilate as a full confession of his guilt. It was what they had accused him of. But it might be doubtful whether, in the confusion, they heard the confession; or, if they did, Jesus took away all occasion of triumph by explaining to Pilate the "nature" of his kingdom, (John 18:36). Though he acknowledged that he was a king, yet he stated fully that "his kingdom was not of this world," and that therefore it could not be alleged against him as treason against the Roman emperor. This was done "in the palace," apart from the Jews, and fully satisfied Pilate of his innocence, (John 18:23).

 

Matthew 27:12 "And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing."

When he was accused ... - To wit, of perverting the nation, and of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, (Luke 23:2, Luke 23:5). Probably this was done in a tumultuous manner and in every variety of form.

He answered nothing - He was conscious of his innocence. He knew that they could not prove these charges. They offered no testimony to prove them, and, in conscious innocence, he was silent.

 

Matthew 27:13 "Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?"

They witness against thee - This means, rather, that they accused him. They were not "witnesses," but accusers. These accusations were repeated and pressed. They charged him with exciting the people, teaching throughout, all Judea from Galilee to Jerusalem, and exciting the nation to sedition, (Luke 23:5).

 

Matthew 27:14 "And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly."

To never a word - That is, not at all. He said nothing. This is, an emphatic way of saying that he answered nothing. There was no need of his replying. He was innocent, and they offered no proof of guilt. Besides, his appearance was full evidence in his favor. He was poor, unarmed, without powerful friends, and alone. His life had been public, and his sentiments were well known, and the charge had on the face of it the aspect of absurdity. It deserved, therefore, no answer.

Marvelled greatly - Wondered exceedingly, or was much surprised. He was probably more surprised that he bore this so meekly, and did not return railing for railing, than that he did not set up a defense. The latter was unnecessary - the former was unusual. The governor was not accustomed to see it, and was therefore greatly amazed.

It was at this time that Pilate, having heard them speak of Galilee (Luke 23:5), asked if he was a Galilean. Having ascertained that he was, and being probably desirous of freeing himself from any further trouble in the affair, under pretence that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Jesus to Herod, who was then at Jerusalem attending the feast of the Passover, (Luke 23:6-12). Herod, having examined him, and finding no cause of death in him, sent him back to Pilate. Pleased with the respect which had been shown him, Herod laid aside his enmity against Pilate, and they became friends. The cause of their friendship does not appear to be at all that they were united in opposing the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah, but the respect which Pilate had shown in sending Jesus to him.

 

Matthew 27:15-23

See also the parallel places in Mark 15:6-14; Luke 23:17-23; John 18:39-40.

 

Matthew 27:15 "Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would."

At that feast - The feast of the Passover.

The governor was wont to release ... - that is, was "accustomed" to release.

From what this custom arose, or by whom it was introduced, is not known. It was probably adopted to secure popularity among the Jews, and to render the government of the Romans less odious. Any little indulgence granted to the Jews during the heavy oppression of the Romans would serve to conciliate their favor, and to keep the nation from sedition. It might happen often that when persons were arraigned before the Romans on charge of sedition, some special favorite of the people, or some leader, might be among the number. It is evident that if they had the privilege of recovering such a person, it would serve much to allay their feelings, and make tolerable the yoke under which they groaned.

 

Matthew 27:16 "And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas."

A notable prisoner - The word "notable" means one that is "distinguished" in any way either for great virtues or great crimes.

In this place it evidently means the latter He was perhaps the leader of a band who had been guilty of sedition, and had committed murder in an insurrection, (Luke 23:19).

 

Matthew 27:17 "Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?"

Whom will ye that I release ... - Pilate was satisfied of the innocence of Jesus, (Luke 23:13-16)

He was therefore desirous of releasing him. He expected to release one to the people. He knew that Jesus, though condemned by the chief priests, was yet popular among the people He therefore attempted in this manner to rescue him from the hands of the priests, and expected that the people would prefer Him to an odious and infamous robber and murderer. Had the people been left to themselves it would probably have been done.

Jesus, which is called Christ - That is, Jesus, who claims to be the Messiah. Pilate probably did not believe it, or care much for it. He used the name which Jesus had acquired among the people. Perhaps, also, he thought that they would be more likely to ask him to be released if he was presented to them as the Messiah. Mark (Mark 15:9) adds that he asked them whether they would that he should release "the King of the Jews?" It is probable that he asked the question in both ways. Perhaps it was several times repeated, and Matthew has recorded one way in which it was asked, and Mark another. He asked them whether they would demand him who "was called the Christ," expecting that they would be moved by the claims of the Messiah - claims which, when he entered Jerusalem in triumph, and in the temple, they had acknowledged. He asked them whether they would have the "King of the Jews" probably to ridicule the priests who had delivered him on that charge. He did it to show the people how absurd the accusation was. There Jesus stood, apparently a poor, inoffensive, unarmed, and despised man. Herod had set him at naught and scourged him, and sent him back. The charge, therefore, of the priests, that he was a "king" opposed to the Roman emperor, was supremely ridiculous; and Pilate, expecting that the people would see it so, hoped also that they would ask that he might be released.

 

Matthew 27:18 "For he knew that for envy they had delivered him."

For he knew that for envy ... - This was envy at his popularity.

He drew away the people from them. This Pilate understood, probably, from his knowledge of the pride and ambition of the rulers, and from the fact that no danger could arise from a person that appeared like Jesus. If Pilate knew this, he was bound to release him himself. As a governor and judge, he was under obligation to protect the innocent, and should, in spite of all the opposition of the Jews, at once have set him at liberty. But the Scriptures could not then have been fulfilled. It was necessary, in order that an atonement should be made. that Jesus should be condemned to die. At the same time. it shows the wisdom of the overruling providence of God, that he was condemned by a man who was satisfied of his innocence, and who proclaimed before his accusers his "full belief" that there was no fault in him.

 

Matthew 27:19 "When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him."

When he was set down on the judgment-seat - Literally, "While he was sitting." This message was probably received when he had resumed his place on the judgment-seat, after Jesus had been sent to Herod.

See the notes at Matthew 27:14.

His wife sent unto him - The reason why she sent to him is immediately stated - that she had a dream respecting him. We know nothing more of her. We do not know whether she had ever seen the Saviour herself, but it would seem that she was apprised of what was taking place, and probably anticipated that the affair-would involve her husband in trouble.

Have thou nothing to do ... - That is, do not condemn him. Perhaps she was afraid that the vengeance of heaven would follow her husband and family if he condemned the innocent.

That just man - The word "just," here, has the sense of "innocent," or not guilty. She might have been satisfied of his innocence from other sources as well as from the dream.

I have suffered many things ... - Dreams were considered as indications of the divine will, and among the Romans and Greeks, as well as the Jews, great reliance was placed on them. Her mind was probably agitated with the subject. She was satisfied of the innocence of Jesus; and, knowing that the Jews would make every effort to secure his condemnation, it was not unnatural that her mind should be excited during her sleep, perhaps with a frightful prospect of the judgments that would descend on the family of Pilate if Jesus was condemned. She therefore sent to him to secure, if possible, his release.

This day - It was now early in the morning. The Jewish "day" began at sunset, and she employed the usual language of the Jews respecting time. The dream was, in fact, in the night.

 

Matthew 27:20 "But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus."

Persuaded the multitude - The release of a prisoner was to be to the people, not to the rulers.

The rulers, therefore, in order to secure the condemnation of Jesus, urged on the people to demand Barabbas. The people were greatly under the influence of the priests. Galileans among the citizens of Jerusalem were held in contempt. The priests turned the pretensions of Jesus into ridicule. Hence, in a popular tumult, among a flexible and changing multitude, they easily excited those who, but a little before, had cried Hosanna, to cry, Crucify him.

 

Matthew 27:21 "The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas."

Whether of the twain? - Which of the two, Jesus or Barabbas?

 

Matthew 27:23 "And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified."

And the governor said, Why? - Luke informs us that Pilate put this question to them "three times," so anxious was he to release him.

He affirmed that he had found no cause of death in him. He said, therefore, that he would chastise him and let him go. He expected, probably, by causing him to be publicly whipped, to excite their compassion, to satisfy "them," and thus to evade the demands of the priests, and to set him at liberty with the consent of the people. So weak and irresolute was this Roman governor! Satisfied of his innocence, he should at once have preferred "justice to popularity," and acted as became a magistrate in acquitting the innocent.

Let him be crucified - See the notes at Matthew 27:39. Luke says they were instant with loud voices demanding this. They urged it. They demanded it with a popular clamor.

 

Matthew 27:24 "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it."

He took water ... - The Jews were accustomed to wash their hands when they wished to show that they were innocent of a crime committed by others. See Deuteronomy 21:6; Psalm 26:6. Pilate, in doing this, meant to denote that they were guilty of his death, but that he was innocent. But the mere washing of his hands did not free him from guilt. He was "bound" as a magistrate to free an innocent man; and whatever might be the clamour of the Jews, "he" was guilty at the bar of God for suffering the holy Saviour to be led to execution, in order to gratify the malice of enraged priests and the clamors of a tumultuous populace.

See ye to it - That is, take it upon yourselves. You are responsible for it, if you put him to death.

 

Matthew 27:25 "Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children."

His blood be on us ... - That is, let the guilt of putting him to death, if there be any, be on us and our children. We will be answerable for it, and will consent to bear the punishment for it. It is remarked by writers that, among the Athenians, if anyone accused another of a capital crime, he devoted himself and children to the same punishment if the accused was afterward found innocent. So in all countries the conduct of the parent involves the children in the consequences of his conduct. The Jews had no right to call down this vengeance on their children, but, in the righteous judgment of God, it has come upon them. In less than forty years their city and temple were overthrown and destroyed. More than a million of people perished in the siege. Thousands died by famine; thousands by disease; thousands by the sword; and their blood ran down the streets like water, so that, Josephus says, it extinguished things that were burning in the city. Thousands were crucified suffering the same punishment that they had inflicted on the Messiah. So great was the number of those who were crucified, that, Josephus says, they were obliged to cease from it, "room being wanted for the crosses, and crosses for the men." See the notes at Matt. 24. To this day, also, the curse has remained. They have been a nation scattered and peeled; persecuted almost everywhere, and a hissing and a byword among people. No single nation, probably, has suffered so much; and yet they have been preserved. All classes of people, all the governments of the earth, have conspired to overwhelm them with calamity, and yet they still live as monuments of the justice of God, and as proofs, going down from age to age, that the Christian religion is true - standing demonstrations of the crime of their fathers in putting the Messiah to death, and in calling down vengeance on their heads.

 

Matthew 27:26 "Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified."

And when he had scourged Jesus - See the notes at Matthew 10:17. Among the Romans it was customary to scourge or whip a "slave" before he was crucified. This was done to inflict greater suffering than crucifixion would be alone, and to add to the horrors of the punishment. Our Lord, being about to be put to death after the manner of a slave, was also treated as a slave as one of the lowest and most despised of mankind.

He delivered him to be crucified - Not merely gave him up to them to crucify him, as if they only were answerable, but he gave him up as a judge, when he ought to have saved his life and might have done it. Crucifixion was a Roman punishment; it was performed by Roman soldiers; Pilate pronounced the sentence from a Roman tribunal, and Pilate affixed the title to the cross. Pilate, therefore, as well as the Jews, was answerable to God for the death of the Savior of the world.

Matthew 27:27-30

See also Mark 15:15-20; John 19:1-3.

 

Matthew 27:27 "Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers."

Into the common hall - The original word here means, rather, the governor's palace or dwelling.

The trial of Jesus had taken place outside of the palace. The Jews would not enter in John 18:28, and it is probable that courts were held often in a larger and more public place than would be a room in his dwelling. Jesus, being condemned, was led by the soldiers away from the Jews "within" the palace, and subjected there to their profane mockery and sport.

The whole band - The "band" or cohort was a tenth part of a Roman legion, and consisted of from 400 to 600 men, according to the size of the legion. Compare the notes at Matthew 8:29.

 

Matthew 27:28 "And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe."

And they stripped him - That is, they either took off all his upper garments or removed all his clothing, probably the former.

A scarlet robe - Mark says they clothed him in "purple." The "scarlet" color was obtained from a species of fruit; "purple" from shell-fish.

See the notes at Isaiah 1:18. The ancients gave the name "purple" to any color that had a mixture of "red" in it, and consequently these different colors might be sometimes called by the same name. The "robe" used here was the same kind worn by Roman generals and other distinguished officers of the Roman army, and also by the Roman governors. It was made so as to be placed on the shoulders, and was bound around the body so as to leave the right arm at liberty. As we cannot suppose that Pilate would array him in a new and splendid robe, we must suppose that this was one which had been worn and cast off as useless, and was now used to array the Son of God as an object of ridicule and scorn.

 

Matthew 27:29 "And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon 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!"

Had platted - The word "platted" here means "woven together." They made a "wreath" of a thorn-bush.

A crown - Or perhaps, rather, a wreath.

A crown was worn by kings, commonly made of gold and precious stones. To ridicule the pretensions of Jesus that he was a king, they probably plucked up a thornbush growing near, made it into something resembling in shape a royal crown, so as to correspond with the old purple robe, and to complete the mockery.

Of thorns - What was the precise species of shrub denoted here is not certainly known. It was, however, doubtless, one of that species that has sharp points of very hard wood. They could therefore be easily pressed into the slain and cause considerable pain. Probably they seized upon the first thing in their way that could be made into a crown, and this happened to be a "thorn," thus increasing the sufferings of the Redeemer. Palestine abounds with thorny shrubs and plants. "The traveler finds them in his path, go where he may. Many of them are small, but some grow as high as a man's head. The Rabbinical writers say that there are no less than 22 words in the Hebrew Bible denoting thorny and prickly plants." Professor's Hackett's Illustrations of Scripture, p. 135. Compare Proverbs 24:30-31; Proverbs 15:19; Jeremiah 4:3.

And a reed in his right hand - A reed is a straight, slender herb, growing in marshy places, and abundant on the banks of the Jordan. It was often used for the purpose of making staves for walking, and it is not improbable that this was such a staff in the possession of some person present. The word is several times thus used. See 2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6; Ezekiel 29:6. Kings commonly carried a "sceptre," made of ivory or gold, as a sign of their office or rank, (Esther 4:11; Esther 8:4). This "reed" or "staff" they put in his hand, in imitation of a "sceptre," to deride, also, his pretensions of being a king.

And they bowed the knee - This was done for mockery. It was an act of pretended homage. It was to ridicule his saying that he was a king. The common mode of showing respect or homage for kings was by kneeling or prostration. It shows amazing forbearance on the part of Jesus that he thus consented to be ridiculed and set at naught. No mere human being would have borne it. None but he who loved us unto death, and who saw the grand results that would come from this scene of sufferings, could have endured such mockery.

Hail, King of the Jews! - The term "hail" was a common mode of salutation to a king, or even to a friend. It implies, commonly, the highest respect for office as well as the person, and is an invocation of blessings. Here it was used to carry on what they thought to be the farce of his being a king; to ridicule in every possible way the pretensions of a poor, unattended, unarmed man of Nazareth, as if he was a weak impostor or was deranged.

 

Matthew 27:30 "And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head."

And they spit upon him - This was a token of the deepest contempt and insult.

See the notes at Matthew 26:67.

And took the reed - The cane, probably so large as to inflict a heavy blow.

And smote him on the head - Not merely to injure him by the force of the blow, but to press the "thorns" into his head, and thus to add cruelty to insult.

 

Matthew 27:31-32 "And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. 32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross."

As they came out - That is, either out of the governor's palace where he had been treated with such cruelty and contempt, or out of the gates of the city, to crucify him.

A man of Cyrene - Cyrene was a city of Libya, in Africa, lying west of Egypt. There were many Jews there, and they were in the habit, like others, of going frequently to Jerusalem.

Him they compelled go bear his cross - John says (John 19:17) that Jesus went forth "bearing his cross." Luke says (Luke 23:26) that they laid the cross on Simon, that he might bear it after Jesus. There is no contradiction in these accounts. It was a part of the usual punishment of those who were crucified that they should bear their own cross to the place of execution. Accordingly, it was laid at first on Jesus, and he went forth, as John says, bearing it. Weak, however, and exhausted by suffering and watchfulness, he probably sunk under the heavy burden, and they laid hold of Simon that he might bear "one end" of the cross, as Luke says, "after Jesus." The cross was composed of two pieces of wood, one of which was placed upright in the earth, and the other crossed it after the form of the figure of a cross. The upright part was commonly so high that the feet of the person crucified were 2 or 3 feet from the ground.

On the middle of that upright part there was usually a projection or seat on which the person crucified sat, or, as it were, "rode." This was necessary, as the hands were not alone strong enough to bear the weight of the body; as the body was left exposed often many days, and not unfrequently suffered to remain till the flesh had been devoured by vultures or putrefied in the sun. The feet were fastened to this upright piece either by nailing them with large spikes driven through the tender part, or by being lashed by cords. To the cross-piece at the top, the hands, being extended, were also fastened, either by spikes or by cords, or perhaps, in some cases, by both. The hands and feet of our Saviour were both fastened by spikes. Crosses were also sometimes made in the form of the letter X, the limbs of the person crucified being extended to the four parts, and he suffered to die a lingering death in this cruel manner. The cross used in the Crucifixion of Christ appears to have been the former. The mention of the cross often occurs in the New Testament. It was the instrument on which the Saviour made atonement for the sins of the world. The whole of the Christian's hope of heaven, and all his peace and consolation in trial and in death, depend on the sacrifice there made for sin, and on just views and feelings in regard to the fact and the design of the Redeemer's death. See the notes at John 21:18.

 

Matthew 27:33 "And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,"

Golgotha - This is a Hebrew word, signifying the place of a skull. This is the word which in Luke is called "Calvary." The original Greek, there, also means a skull. The word "calvary" is a Latin word meaning "skull," or place of "skulls." It is not known certainly why this name was given to this place. Some have supposed that it was because the mount resembled in shape a human skull. The most probable opinion, however, is that it was a place of execution; that malefactors were beheaded there or otherwise put to death, and that their bones remained unburied or unburned. Golgotha, or Calvary, was probably a small eminence on the northwest of Jerusalem, without the walls of the city, but at a short distance. Jesus was put to death out of the city, because capital punishments were not allowed within the walls. See Numbers 15:35; 1 Kings 21:13. This was a law among the Romans as well as the Jews. He also died there, because the bodies of the beasts slain in sacrifice as typical of him were "burned without the camp." He also, as the antitype, suffered "without the gate," (Hebrews 13:11-12). The place which is shown as Calvary now is within the city, and must also have been within the ancient walls, and there is no reason to suppose that it is the place where the Saviour was put to death.

 

Matthew 27:34 "They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink."

They gave him vinegar ... - Mark says that, "they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh." The two evangelists mean the same thing. Vinegar was made of light wine rendered acid, and was the common drink of the Roman soldiers, and this might be called either vinegar or wine in common language. "Myrrh" is a bitter substance produced in Arabia, but is used often to denote anything bitter. The meaning of the name is "bitterness." See the notes at Matthew 2:11. "Gall" is properly a bitter secretion from the liver, but the word is also used to denote anything exceedingly "bitter," as wormwood, etc. The drink, therefore, was vinegar or sour wine, rendered "bitter" by the infusion of wormwood or some other very bitter substance. The effect of this, it is said, was to stupefy the senses. It was often given to those who were crucified, to render them insensible to the pains of death. Our Lord, knowing this, when he bad tasted it refused to drink. He was unwilling to blunt the pains of dying. The "cup" which his "Father" gave him he rather chose to drink. He came to suffer. His sorrows were necessary for the work of the atonement, and he gave himself up to the unmitigated sufferings of the cross. This was presented to him in the early part of his sufferings, or when he was about to be suspended on the cross. "Afterward," when he was on the cross and just before his death, vinegar was offered to him "without the myrrh" - the vinegar which the soldiers usually drank - and of this he drank. See Matthew 27:49, and John 19:28-30. When Matthew and Mark say that he "would not drink," they refer to a different thing and a different time from John, and there is no contradiction.

 

Matthew 27:35 "And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots."

And they crucified him - To "crucify" means to put to death on a cross. The "cross" has been described at Matthew 27:32. The usual manner of the crucifixion was as follows: After the criminal had carried the cross, attended with every possible gibe and insult, to the place of execution, a hole was dug in the earth to receive the foot of it. The cross was laid on the ground; the person condemned to suffer was stripped and was extended on it, and the soldiers fastened the hands and feet either by nails or thongs. After they had driven the nails deeply in the wood, they elevated the cross with the agonizing sufferer on it, and, in order to fix it more firmly in the earth, they let it fall violently into the hole which they had dug to receive it. This sudden fall gave to the person that was nailed to it a violent and convulsive shock, and greatly increased his sufferings. The crucified person was then suffered to hang, commonly, until pain, exhaustion, thirst, and hunger ended his life. Sometimes the sufferings continued for days; and when friendly death terminated the life, the body was often suffered to remain - a loathsome object, putrefying in the sun or devoured by birds.

This punishment was deemed the most disgraceful and ignominious that was practiced among the Romans. It was the way in which slaves, robbers, and the most notorious and abandoned wretches were commonly put to death. It was this, among other things, that exposed those who preached the gospel to so much shame and contempt among the Greeks and Romans. They despised everything that was connected with the death of one who had been put to death as a slave and an outlaw.

Since it was the most ignominious punishment known, so it was the most painful. The following circumstances made it a death of special pain:

1. The position of the arms and the body was unnatural, the arms being extended back and almost immovable. The least motion gave violent pain in the hands and feet, and in the back, which was lacerated with stripes.

2. The nails, being driven through the parts of the hands and feet which abound with "nerves," created the most exquisite anguish.

3. The exposure of so many wounds to the air brought on a violent inflammation, which greatly increased the poignancy of the suffering.

4. The free circulation of the blood was prevented. More blood was carried out in the arteries than could be returned by the veins. The consequence was, that there was a great increase of blood in the veins of the head, producing an intense pressure and violent pain. The same was true of other parts of the body. This intense pressure in the blood-vessels was the source of inexpressible misery.

5. The pain gradually increased. There was no relaxation and no rest. There was no prospect but death. The sufferer was commonly able to endure it until the third, and sometimes even to the seventh day. The intense sufferings of the Saviour, however, were sooner terminated. This was caused, perhaps, in some measure, by his previous fatigue and exhaustion, but still more by the intense sufferings of his soul in bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows in making an atonement for the sins of the world.

And parted his garments - It was customary to crucify a person naked. The clothes of the sufferer belonged to those who were executioners. John says (John 19:23) that they divided his garments into four parts, to each soldier a part, but for his coat they cast lots. See the notes at the place. When Matthew says, therefore, that they parted his garments, casting lots, it is to be understood that they "divided" one part of them, and for the other part of them they cast lots.

That it might be fulfilled ... - The words here quoted are found in Psalm 22:18. The whole psalm is usually referred to Christ, and is a most striking description of his sufferings and death.

 

Matthew 27:36 "And sitting down they watched him there;"

They watched him there - That is, the four soldiers who had crucified him. They watched him lest his friends should come and release him.

 

Matthew 27:37 "And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS."

And set up over his head - John says (John 19:19) that Pilate wrote the title and put it upon the cross. Probably Pilate wrote it or caused it to be written, and directed the soldiers to set it up. A man is often said to do what he directs others to do. It was customary to set up over the heads of persons crucified the crime for which they suffered, and the name of the sufferer The accusation on which Jesus had been condemned by Pilate was his claiming to be the King of the Jews.

This is Jesus, the King of the Jews - The evangelists differ in the account of this title. Mark (Mark 15:26) says it was, "The King of the Jews." Luke (Luke 23:38), "This is the King of the Jews." John (John 19:19), "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." But the difficulty may be easily removed. John says that the title was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. It is not at all improbable that the inscription "varied" in these languages. One evangelist may have translated it from the Hebrew, another from the Greek, a third from the Latin, and a fourth may have translated one of the inscriptions a little differently from another. Besides, the evangelists all agree in the main point of the inscription, namely, that he was the King of the Jews.

 

Matthew 27:38 "Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left."

Two thieves crucified ... - Rather two "robbers." Pilate did not reside in Jerusalem. When he came there on the great feasts, or at other times, it was, in part, to hold courts for the trial of criminals. These robbers had been probably condemned at that time; and to show greater contempt for Jesus, he was crucified between men of that abandoned character, and on a cross that should have been occupied by their companion and leader, Barabbas.

 

Matthew 27:39 "And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,"

Wagging their heads - In token of derision and insult. See Job 16:4; Psalm 109:25.

 

Matthew 27:40 "And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross."

Thou that destroyest the temple ... - Meaning, Thou that didst boast that thou couldst do it. This was one of the things that had been falsely charged on him. It was intended for painful sarcasm and derision. If he could destroy the "temple," they thought he might easily come down from the cross.

 

Matthew 27:42-43 "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be 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."

He saved others - It does not seem probable that they meant to admit that he had actually saved others, but only that he "pretended" to save them from death by miracles, or that he claimed to be the Messiah, and thus affirmed that he "could" save them. This is, therefore, cutting irony.

If he be the King of Israel ... - It may seem strange to some that Jesus did not vindicate by a miracle his claims to be the Messiah, and come down from the cross. But the time had come for him to make an atonement. He had given full and sufficient proof that he was the Christ. Those who had rejected him, and who mocked and taunted him, would have been little likely to admit his claims if he had come down from the cross, since they had set at naught all his other miracles. They said this for the purpose of insult; and Jesus chose rather to suffer, though his character was assailed, than to work a new miracle for their gratification. He had foretold his death, and the time had come; and now, amid revilings, and gibes, and curses, and the severe sarcasms of an angry and apparently triumphant priesthood, he chose to die for the sins of the world. To this they added "insult" to God, profanely calling upon him to interpose by miracle and save him, if he was his friend; and all this when their prophets had foretold this very scene, and when they were fulfilling the predictions of their own Scriptures. See the Isaiah 53 notes, and Daniel 9:24-27 notes. So wonderful is the way by which God causes His word to be fulfilled.

 

Matthew 27:44 "The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth."

The thieves also - The robbers, or highwaymen. Luke says (Luke 23:39) that one of them did it, and that the other reproved him and was penitent. The account in Luke may, however, easily be reconciled with that in Matthew by supposing that "at first both" of them reviled the Saviour, and that it is of this fact that Matthew speaks. Afterward one of them relented and became penitent perhaps from witnessing the patient sufferings of Christ. It is of this one particularly that Luke speaks. Or it may be that what is true of one of the criminals is by Matthew attributed to both. The evangelists, when for the sake of brevity they avoid particularizing, often attribute to many what is said or done by single persons, meaning no more than that it was done by some one or more of them, without specifying the one. Compare Mark 7:17 with Matthew 15:15; Mark 5:31 with Luke 8:45; Luke 9:13 with John 6:8-9.

Cast the same in his teeth - This is a most unhappy translation. It means in the original simply, they upbraided him or reproached him in the same manner.

 

Matthew 27:45 "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour."

Now from the sixth hour - That is, from our twelve o'clock. The Jews divided their day into twelve hours, beginning to count at sunrise.

There was darkness - This could not have been an eclipse of the sun, for the Passover was celebrated at the time of the full moon, when the moon is opposite to the sun. Luke says (Luke 23:45) that "the sun was darkened," but it was not by an eclipse. The only cause of this was the interposing power of God - furnishing testimony to the dignity of the sufferer, and causing the elements to sympathize with the pains of his dying Son. It was also especially proper to furnish this testimony when the "Sun of righteousness" was withdrawing his beams for a time, and the Redeemer of men was expiring. A thick darkness, shutting out the light of day, and clothing every object with the gloom of midnight, was the appropriate drapery with which the world should be clad when the Son of God expired. This darkness was noticed by one at least of the pagan writers. Phlegon, a Roman astronomer, speaking of the 14th year of the reign of Tiberius, which is supposed to be that in which our Saviour died, says "that the greatest eclipse of the sun that was ever known happened then, for the day was so turned into night that the stars appeared."

Over all the land - That is, probably, over the whole land of Judea, and perhaps some of the adjacent countries. The extent of the darkness is not known.

The ninth hour - Until about three o'clock in the afternoon, at which time the Saviour is supposed to have died.

 

Matthew 27:46 "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Eli, Eli ... - This language is not pure Hebrew nor Syriac, but a mixture of both, called commonly "Syro-Chaldaic." This was probably the language which the Saviour commonly spoke. The words are taken from Psalm 22:1.

My God, my God ... - This expression is one denoting intense suffering. It has been difficult to understand in what sense Jesus was "forsaken by God." It is certain that God approved his work. It is certain that he was innocent. He had done nothing to forfeit the favor of God. As his own Son - holy, harmless, undefiled, and obedient - God still loved him. In either of these senses God could not have forsaken him. But the expression was probably used in reference to the following circumstances, namely:

1. His great bodily sufferings on the cross, greatly aggravated by his previous scourging, and by the want of sympathy, and by the revilings of his enemies on the cross. A person suffering thus might address God as if he was forsaken, or given up to extreme anguish.

2. He himself said that this was "the power of darkness," (Luke 22:53). It was the time when his enemies, including the Jews and Satan, were suffered to do their utmost. It was said of the serpent that he should bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, (Genesis 3:15). By that has been commonly understood to be meant that, though the Messiah would finally crush and destroy the power of Satan, yet he should himself suffer "through the power of the devil." When he was tempted Luke 4, it was said that the tempter "departed from him for a season." There is no improbability in supposing that he might be permitted to return at the time of his death, and exercise his power in increasing the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. In what way this might be done can be only conjectured. It might be by horrid thoughts; by temptation to despair, or to distrust God, who thus permitted his innocent Son to suffer; or by an increased horror of the pains of dying.

3. There might have been withheld from the Saviour those strong religious consolations, those clear views of the justice and goodness of God, which would have blunted his pains and soothed his agonies. Martyrs, under the influence of strong religious feeling, have gone triumphantly to the stake, but it is possible that those views might have been withheld from the Redeemer when he came to die. His sufferings were accumulated sufferings, and the design of the atonement seemed to require that he should suffer all that human nature "could be made to endure" in so short a time.

4. Yet we have reason to think that there was still something more than all this that produced this exclamation. Had there been no deeper and more awful sufferings, it would be difficult to see why Jesus should have shrunk from these sorrows and used such a remarkable expression. Isaiah tells us (Isaiah 53:4-5) that "he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him; that by his stripes we are healed." He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13); he was made a sin-offering (2 Corinthians 5:21); he died in our place, on our account, that he might bring us near to God. It was this, doubtless, which caused his intense sufferings. It was the manifestation of God's hatred of sin, in some way which he has not explained, that he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering endured by Him that was due to us, and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death.

 

Matthew 27:47 "Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias."

This man calleth for Elias - This was done purposely to deride him and his pretensions to be the Messiah. The words "Eli, Eli," they might easily pretend that they understood to mean Elias, or so pervert them. The taunt would be more cutting, because it was the universal belief of the Jews, as well as the doctrine of Christ, that "Elias" would come before the Messiah. They derided him now, as calling upon "Elias" when God would not help him; still keeping up the pretensions to being the Messiah, and invoking "Elijah" to come from the dead to aid him. Or it is possible that this might have been said by some bystanders who did not understand the language in which he spoke, or who might not have been near enough to hear him distinctly.

 

Matthew 27:48 "And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink."

One of them ran - John (John 19:28) says that this was in consequence of Jesus' saying "I thirst." One of the effects of crucifixion was excessive thirst.

Took a sponge - A sponge is a well-known porous substance that easily absorbs water. It was used in this case because, Jesus being elevated, it was difficult to convey a cup to his lips.

Filled it with vinegar - This was the common drink of Roman soldiers. It was a light wine, turned sour and mixed with water. John says (John 19:29) there was a vessel set full of vinegar, probably for the use of the soldiers who watched his crucifixion.

And put it on a reed - John says it was put upon "hyssop." The "hyssop" was a "shrub," growing so large sometimes as to be called a "tree," (1 Kings 4:33). The stalk of this was what Matthew calls a "reed." The sponge fastened to this could easily be extended to reach the mouth of "Jesus." This vinegar Jesus drank, for it was not intended to "stupefy" him or blunt his sense of pain, like the "wine" and myrrh.

 

Matthew 27:49 "The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him."

The rest said ... - Still deriding his sufferings, and refusing to allow even the poor consolation of a drink, to assuage the thirst of the Saviour of the world in his dying agonies.

 

Matthew 27:50 "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."

Cried again with a loud voice - He cried, "It is finished," (John 19:30). It was in the height of his agony, probably attended with deep groaning, and uttered amid sorrows which were never else experienced in our world. It finished the work of atonement, made the way of salvation possible, rolled away the curse from guilty people, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all true believers.

Yielded up the ghost - This, though a literal translation, is unhappy. It means resigned his spirit, or "expired." The same phrase is used by the Septuagint in describing the death of Rachel (Genesis 35:18).

 

Matthew 27:51 "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;"

The vail of the temple - This was doubtless the veil, curiously performed, which separated the holy from the most holy place, dividing the temple into two apartments, (Exodus 26:31-33).

In twain - In two pieces or parts. This was the time of day when the priest was burning incense in the holy place, and it is probable that he witnessed it. The most holy place has been usually considered as a type of heaven, and the tearing of the veil to signify that the way to heaven was now open to all - the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus, being about to enter in as the forerunner of his people. However, about the design of the tearing of the veil, the Scriptures are silent, and conjecture is useless.

And the earth did quake - Or shook. Earthquakes are violent convulsions of the ground, caused commonly by confined and rarefied air. This was probably, however, a miraculous convulsion of the earth, in attestation of the truth that the sufferer was the Messiah, the Son of God, and as an exhibition of wrath at the crimes of those who put him to death. It was not confined to Judea, but was felt in other countries. It is mentioned by Roman writers.

The rocks rent - That is, were torn asunder. Rocks are still seen at Mount Calvary thus rent asunder, which are said to be the ones that were convulsed when the Saviour died.

 

Matthew 27:52 "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,"

And the graves were opened - "Graves" or sepulchres were most commonly made, among the Jews, in solid rocks or in caves of rocks. The rending of the rocks, therefore, would lay them open. The graves were opened by this earthquake, but the dead in them did not rise until after his resurrection.

And many bodies of the saints arose - Of course, it is not known who these were, nor what became of them. It is probable that they were persons who had recently died, and they appear to have been known in Jerusalem; at least, had the ancient saints risen, they would not have been known, and would not so soon have been credited as those who had recently died.

Which slept - Which had died. The death of saints is often called "sleep," (Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:15).

 

Matthew 27:53 "And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

And came out of the graves after his resurrection - The narrative of Matthew does not determine whether they came to life before Jesus rose, and remained in the tombs, or came to life after he died. The latter is probably the correct opinion. There is nothing said of the reason why they were raised. It is not improbable to suppose that it was, amid the other wonders attending the death of Jesus, to convince the Jews that he was the Messiah. Perhaps some who had been his open friends were raised up now as an attestation that he in whom they had believed was the Christ. What became of them after they had entered into the city whether they again died or ascended to heaven, is not revealed, and conjecture is vain.

The holy city - Jerusalem, called holy because the temple was there, because it was devoted to God, and because it was the place of religious solemnities.

 

Matthew 27:54 "Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."

Now when the centurion ... - Centurion, a captain of a hundred soldiers. He was here placed over the band that attended the crucifixion.

They feared greatly - They regarded these things as proof that God was angry, and they were terrified at the prospect that vengeance was coming on them.

Truly this was the Son of God - They had heard, probably, that Jesus professed to be the Son of God. Seeing these wonders, they believed that God was now attesting the truth of his professions. The centurion was a pagan, and had probably no very distinct notions of the phrase "the Son of God" - perhaps understanding by it only that he was like the pagan heroes who had been deified; but he certainly regarded these wonders as proof that he was "what he professed to be." In the original it is "a son of a god;" an expression perfectly suitable to a polytheist, who believed in the existence of many gods. Mark (Mark 15:39) says that they affirmed that "this man was the Son of God." Luke (Luke 23:47), that they said, "Certainly this was a righteous man.' These things were said by "different persons," or at different periods of his sufferings - one evangelist having recorded one saying, and another another.

 

Matthew 27:55 "And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:"

Beholding afar off - These women were probably not suffered to come near the cross because it was surrounded by soldiers. They witnessed with intense feelings his sufferings from some convenient place as near as they could approach.

Ministering unto him - Attending him and providing for his wants. While multitudes of people joined in the cry, "Crucify him!" and forsook him in his trying moments, it does not appear that any of his female followers were thus unfaithful. In the midst of all his trials, and all the Contempt poured upon him, they adhered to their Redeemer. Never did female constancy shine more brightly, and never was a happier example set for all who should afterward believe on him!

 

Matthew 27:56 "Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children."

Mary Magdalene - Mary of Magdala. She had a special cause of attachment to the Saviour, having been relieved by him of a most dreadful calamity and restored to her right mind, after being possessed by seven devils. See the notes at Luke 8:2.

And the mother of Zebedee's children - That is, of James and John, (Matthew 10:2). Her name was Salome, (Mark 15:40).

 

Matthew 27:57 "When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:"

When the even was come - That is, some time after three o'clock in the afternoon. Before this, the Jews had besought Pilate that the legs of those who were crucified might be broken and the bodies be taken down, that they might not remain on the cross during the Sabbath. The soldiers, coming to Jesus for that purpose, found that he was already dead, contrary to their expectation. A soldier, however, thrust a spear into his side, and there was furnished the fullest proof that he had expired. See the notes at John 19:31-37.

A rich man of Arimathea - It is uncertain where Arimathea was. There were several cities of that name in Judea. It is commonly supposed to be the same as Rama. See the notes at Matthew 2:17. Luke says that this was a "city of the Jews," and it is probable, therefore, that it was in the tribe of Benjamin, and but a short distance from Jerusalem. This man sustained a high character. He was an "honorable counsellor, who also waited for the kingdom of God" Mark 15:43; he was "a good man and a just" (Luke 23:50); he had nobly set himself against the wicked purposes of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:51); he was a disciple of Jesus, though he was not openly his follower, because he feared the Jews, (John 19:38).

 

Matthew 27:58 "He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered."

He went to Pilate - Because no one had a right to remove the body but by authority of the magistrate. Jesus was condemned to be crucified, usually a long and most bitter death, and in common cases it would have been unlawful to have removed the body so soon.

 

Matthew 27:59 "And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,"

"He wrapped it in a clean linen cloth." John adds that this was done "with spices" (John 19:40). The Jews were accustomed to use myrrh, aloes, and other aromatics in large quantities when they buried their dead. When they were not regularly embalmed, which was a long and tedious process, they enclosed the spices in the folds of the linen, or wrapped the body in it. Spices were sometimes used in such quantities as to form a "heap or bed," on which the dead body was laid. Thus it is said of Asa (2 Chronicles 16:14), "they laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and spices," etc. There not being time properly to embalm the body of Jesus, he was buried in this manner. The women who attended him, either not being aware of this, or desirous of showing a further regard for him, returned from the sepulchre and prepared other spices with which to embalm him on the first day of the week, (Luke 23:56; Luke 24:1).

 

Matthew 27:60 "And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed."

In his own new tomb - John says (John 19:41) that this was in a garden that was "in" or "near" the place where he was crucified. This tomb Joseph had prepared for himself, as was not uncommon among the Jews. Compare the notes at Isaiah 22:16. In this tomb Luke and John inform us that no man had been laid. This was so ordered, in the providence of God, doubtless, that there might be no suspicion about his identity when he rose; that it might not be alleged that another person had risen, or that he was raised by touching the bones of some prophet, as happened to the corpse that touched the bones of Elisha, (2 Kings 13:21). Farther, by being buried here an important prophecy was remarkably fulfilled (Isaiah 53:9); "He made his grave - with the rich in his death." The fulfillment of this is the more remarkable, because during his life he associated with the poor and was himself poor. See the notes at Isaiah 53:9. "Which he had hewn out in the rock." This was a common way of constructing tombs in Judea. See the notes at Matthew 8:28. Being cut out of a rock, there was no way by which the disciples could have access to it but by the entrance, at which the guard was placed, and consequently it was impossible for them to steal him away. The sepulchre, thus secure, was rendered more so by rolling a great stone at its entrance; all possible precautions thus being used, in the providence of God, against imposition and deceit.

 

Matthew 27:62 "Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,"

Now the next day, that followed the days of the preparation - The first day of the feast of the Passover was called the day of "preparation," because all things were on that day got in readiness for the observances of the paschal week. The Jewish day closed at sunset, and the Sabbath at that time commenced. The "next day" mentioned here does not mean the following day in our acceptation of the word, or the following "morning," but the next day in the Jewish way of speaking - that is, after the next day had commenced, or after sundown. To suppose them to have waited until the next morning would be absurd, as the disciples would be as likely to steal him away the first night as the second.

 

Matthew 27:63 "Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again."

We remember - They had either heard him say this, or, more probably, had understood that this was one of his doctrines.

That deceiver - One of the charges against him was that he deceived the people, (John 7:12). By this title they still chose to designate him, thinking that his death had fully confirmed the truth of the charges against him.

 

Matthew 27:64 "Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first."

Until the third day - That is, during two nights and the intervening day. This proves that when the Jews spoke of "three days," they did not of necessity mean three "whole days," but parts of three days, as was the case in our Saviour's lying in the grave. See the notes at Matthew 12:40.

The last error shall be worse than the first - That is, the last "deception," or the taking him from the tomb, pretending that he rose, will have a wider influence among the people than the first, or his pretending to be the Messiah.

 

Matthew 27:65 "Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can."

Ye have a watch - The Jews had a guard of Roman soldiers, who kept watch in the tower of Antonia, on the northwest of the temple. Pilate either referred to these, or to the "watch" that attended the crucifixion - the whole "band" that had been appointed for that. As the torments of crucifixion sometimes lasted many days, the band had been probably granted to them during that time, and they were therefore still at the direction of the chief priests.

 

Matthew 27:66 "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."

Sealing the stone - The sepulchre was made sure by affixing the large stone to the entrance in such a way that it could not be removed without detection. It was sealed. In what way this was done cannot now be certainly told. The cave in which Daniel was cast was fastened in the same manner, and sealed with the king's signet (Daniel 6:17), perhaps by fastening the stone in its place with cords, and bringing them together and uniting them with wax, and impressing on that the seal of the king. In this way, letters and books were anciently sealed. Possibly on the sepulchre of Jesus was impressed in this manner the seal of Pilate - the seal of office - making it doubly sure; or it may be that the stone was fitted into the tomb with clay or cement, and on that was impressed the seal of Pilate.

Setting a watch - That is, as large a number of soldiers as they judged necessary to secure the tomb.

We cannot but be struck with the wisdom of God in ordering the circumstances of the Saviour's burial in such a manner as to avoid the possibility of deception. Had all this been done by his "friends," it might have been said that they only pretended to secure the tomb, and only pretended that he was dead. But he was adjudged to be dead "by the Jews themselves;" Pilate was satisfied that that was the fact; they had their own way about his burial; he was buried alone; the place of his sepulchre was made sure, "expressly to prevent his being removed;" and they placed around him a guard, in their own judgment large enough to prevent his being taken away by force or strength. His very enemies, therefore, took every possible precaution to place his resurrection beyond the possibility of suspicion of fraud and imposture, and those precautions were the very means of furnishing the most striking proof that his death, burial, and resurrection were not impositions, but most affecting, awful, and yet cheering realities.


Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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