The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
"And they crucified Him" -- that is all that is said in the Word of God relating to the pain and shame that our Lord endured for us. There are some details of His words as He hung on the Cross, but nothing of the agony He suffered when the nails were driven into His hands and His feet, when His flesh was torn as He was stretched there on the tree -- Nothing! And if the Holy Spirit has related none of this for us, then surely it is too awful for us to dwell upon. "And they crucified Him;" in these simple words is there described that toward which the Person of the God-head looked from eternity, to which the types of the Old Testament point, upon which we have gazed for the past nineteen hundred years; the focal point of the history of the human race. He hung on that Cross for you, and for me; our sins nailed Him there. Wherefore let us look unto the Lord Jesus, "the Author and Perfecter of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).
Matt. 27:1, 2
"When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death: And when they had bound Him, they led Him away, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor." It had been in the early hours of the morning, when the cock crowed, that Peter had gone out in sorrow that he had denied his Lord. "And when morning was come, all the chief priests and elders ... took counsel against Jesus" -- little sleep for the prisoner that night, little sleep for His enemies. They had Him at last, and in spite of the fact that they had said, "Not on the feast day" (Matt. 26:4), God had appointed the feast day, and the hour was drawing nigh. So the Lord Jesus, before Caiaphas condemned as guilty of death, was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor; for the Jews had no authority to inflict the death penalty.
"Then Judas, who 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, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself" (Matt. 27:3-5).
Here is the final picture of Judas, who had been the companion of our Lord along the pathway of His ministry. He who had been one of the inner circle, at least by profession, became the traitor who delivered the Lord Jesus into the power of His enemies. As we consider this heart-breaking fact, let us look to our own hearts. Are you a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ? Then pray for full yieldedness to the indwelling Holy Spirit, that your life and your every act may be a testimony to your Lord and Saviour. Or have you been merely a professing Christian? If there is any doubt in your heart, right now is the accepted time to receive Him. But though Judas betrayed the Lord into His enemies' hands, thank God it was in the power of God to use that act of heinous deceit to bring about that which bruised the head of Satan, and which has brought every believer into eternal life. "I have sinned -- I have betrayed innocent blood," said Judas. How little the chief priests and elders cared that this man saw his mistake. "What is that to us? See thou to that." What is our attitude toward one who has sinned, toward one who has profaned the love of God? God grant that we may never say, "What is that to us?" but that by His Spirit we may point out to such an one the way of life by the blood of the Cross. "And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed and hanged himself."
The thirty pieces of silver were the price of blood! So even the chief priests refused to place them in the treasury and there "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; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me" (see Jer. 18:1-4; also Zech. 11:12, 13). God's Word is true; not one minutest item which He has prophesied will fail to come to pass. "Prophetically this is a foreshadowing of what was to happen to Israel and Israel's land on account of the blood-guiltiness which they took upon themselves, Israel's land becoming a burying place for strangers, and Israel scattered among the nations" (A.C. Gaebelein).
The fate of Judas is a parenthesis in the narrative. In verses one and two we learned that the chief priests and elders had taken counsel against our Lord to put Him to death, and that they had bound Him and led Him away to be delivered to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, for the Jews did not have the power of inflicting the death penalty, under the Roman rule.
"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" (Matt. 27:11). Of what crime could the Jews have accused our Lord that the Roman governor should try Him? Of blasphemy -- claiming that He was God? No; for Rome would not have been interested in such an accusation. No, not of blasphemy, but of sedition, that is, that the Lord Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews, in open hostility to Rome. "Art Thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest." No denial came from our Lord's lips. This was the accusation, and it was true. He is yet the King of the Jews, and when He shall come again in power He shall sit upon the throne of His father David. "Thou sayest" -- yes, He was King.
"And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto Him, Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee? And He answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly" (Matt. 27:12-14).
That our Lord was the King was true, but the chief priests and elders accused Him falsely. See the account in Luke 23:2: "And they began to accuse Him, saying we found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar." When did they find the Lord "perverting the nation"? He came to seek and to save them that were lost, not to pervert His own people. When did He forbid "to give tribute to Caesar"? Did He not say: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's"? False testimony, and He answered not a word! "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth" (Isa. 53:7). It was of the Lord that the prophet wrote, and before Pilate his words were accomplished.
"Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. ... Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified."
There was a special custom at the time of the Passover Feast, under which the Roman governor released to the Jews some condemned prisoner. Pilate saw no wrong in the Man Who had been brought to him for trial; no doubt, he sensed that the Lord Jesus was being falsely accused. But in order to appease the multitude, he sought to have this Jesus released, thus saving His life. So Pilate asked the leaders of the people: "Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas (a notable Jewish prisoner), or Jesus, Who is called Christ?" Pilate was interrupted by a messenger who brought a plea from his wife to have "nothing to do with that just Man." The bitter hatred of the chief priests is distinctly in evidence here, for in verse twenty we read: "But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus." The chief priests and elders! Those who should have been first to recognize that here was Messiah, their King, and to have acclaimed Him! Then Pilate continued: "Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas." Barabbas, the guilty one, he was to be released. Barabbas, whose name means: son of the father. The true Son of the Eternal Father they wanted to destroy: this false and sinful man they would have released. We can picture Satan gloating over a supposed victory. But by that which he believed would be his winning stroke, Christ, and not Satan, is the victor. "Barabbas! Barabbas!"
"Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus, Who is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let Him be crucified" (Matt. 27:22). Every man and woman in this world must answer for himself or herself the question which Pilate asked. "What shall I do with Jesus, Who is called Christ?" What have you done? On your answer hangs your destiny for eternity. Receive Him as your Saviour and Lord, and yours shall be life everlasting. Reject Him, and you are lost. There is no other alternative. We quote from God's Word, as we have before: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "The wages of sin is death," but praise the Lord, "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
"They all say unto him, Let Him be crucified." Where were the voices of those who had shouted: "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord"? Where were the disciples? Where was Peter? Very much alone our Lord Jesus faced the agony of the Cross and Calvary. Jew and Gentile rejected Him, and crucified Him; for your sins and my sins He was forsaken and suffered.
"And the governor said, Why, what evil hath He done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let Him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing ... 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. Then answered all the people and said, His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matt. 27:23-25). No exposition is needed. They cried the more: "Let Him be crucified." Pilate washed his hands before the multitude. He saw no evil in the Lord, but he delivered Him to be crucified, saying: "See ye to it." What had the chief priests said to Judas? "See thou to that." The fate of a sinner was nothing to them. What did Pilate say to the multitude? "See ye to it." The fate of a sinless Man was little to him. Then all the people said: "His blood be on us, and on our children." The blood of the Holy Son of God! The history of Israel from that day to this is sufficient evidence that His blood is upon them. One cannot wash one's hands and be innocent of the blood of the Lord Jesus, "for all have sinned." Yet by God's grace every Jew, or Gentile, who will receive the Lord Jesus as his Saviour may have his sins washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God.
"Then released he Barabbas unto them: and ... he delivered Jesus to be crucified."
"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus ..." They stripped Him! They put a scarlet robe on Him! They plaited a crown of thorns upon Him! They spit upon Him! They smote Him on the head! Such were the indignities which preceded the agony of the Cross. It is the sin in man which makes him think of these hateful things; the result of Satan's grip upon the heart of the natural man. A crown of thorns upon the One Who should have been presented with a crown of purest gold. The thorn is the symbol of sin and of God's curse upon it; thus did the Lord Jesus, the Holy One, bear our sins for us.
"And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha ... they crucified Him" (Matt. 27:33-35). The physical and spiritual ordeal had been such that our Lord had apparently weakened, and a man, Simon of Cyrene, was compelled to bear His Cross. As they come to Golgotha, the Lord was offered vinegar mixed with gall, to drink. But having tasted it, He refused to partake of it. Vinegar and gall is a mixture that sometimes was given to condemned men that to some extent the pain of crucifixion might be deadened. But our Lord wanted His full faculties as He died there for us. No word is said of His being nailed to the Cross, but how the soldiers must have marvelled at the Lord Jesus. We can picture others being nailed to the tree, but of Him we cannot even think. We can see these men lying on the cross which was placed first on the ground, writhing in agony, and screaming and cursing, as their hands and feet were pierced and torn by the driven spikes. No such actions or words came from the Lord Jesus Christ, but without complaint He suffered for us.
"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" (Matt. 27:35; see Psa. 22:18). "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet;" this recurring phrase is found throughout Matthew's Gospel as the Holy Spirit teaches therein of Jesus the Messiah. He is the One of Whom the prophets spoke. How can any Jew who reads the Gospel with an open mind doubt that this Man is His King, the Messiah?
"And set up over His head His accusation was written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Matt. 27:37). Over the head of every man who was crucified there was written his accusation. In the case of our Lord, the words were intended as a mockery. Mockery? No, not mockery, for This was Jesus the King of the Jews. He it was Who hung there. Praise the Lord, He did not die in vain, for by that death we who believe have life.
In Matthew's account the two thieves are mentioned without further detail. Let us look at those who stood before the Cross, the chief priests and scribes and elders. Gloatingly, they mocked Him. Victory was theirs, they thought! "He saved others; Himself He cannot save" (vs. 42). Their words were truer than they knew. If our Lord had accepted the challenge of His enemies, all those who through the centuries have believed God's Word about the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ would be in Hell, and you and I would go to Hell, too, for there is no salvation but by the finished work which He accomplished at Golgotha. He came to earth to die on that Cross. He could not save Himself, for He could not break His Word.
They railed on Him; they spit upon Him; they bowed the knee in mockery. There will come a day when they shall bow the knee in truth. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ... My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:45, 46).
The darkness was supernatural. Skeptics have claimed that there was an eclipse of the sun at the time, but this could not be so, for the Passover Feast was always held at the Paschal full moon, and there can be no eclipse at full moon. Moreover, an eclipse lasts but a few minutes, not three hours. The darkness was of God, while His Face was turned from His Son because He cannot look at sin, which could nail to the Cross our great Saviour and Lord, Jesus, Messiah. Yet though on earth there was darkness and desolation, in Heaven we can imagine a great gathering of the angels with shouts of joy such as never before rang forth.
"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" This was the bitterest portion of the cup. We can imagine, to some small extent, the horrible, painful, distressing agony of our Lord's physical suffering, but we cannot ever conceive the awful loneliness and heart-suffering of separation from His Father. This was His deepest pain, when the Father's countenance was turned away from Him Who had dwelt in full and perfect communion with Him from eternity. Taking our sins upon Him, the Lord Jesus was receiving sin's reward. He was obedient unto death, and in this obedience He suffered separation. The love of Christ passeth knowledge, but in our limited understanding we should have a deep sense of the enormous debt which we owe Him. Everything that we have, or are, or hope for, in Christ, can be attributed to that death at Golgotha. Through His condemnation we who believe on Him are acquitted, through His sufferings peace is ours, and through His shame we shall have glory.
Some of those who heard our Lord cry with a loud voice: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani," said: "He calleth for Elias." Could these have been the chief priests and elders, and did they not understand their own tongue? Perhaps not! Perhaps these were Roman soldiers, for "straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink." We cannot imagine the chief priests having even that much sympathy for their dying Messiah! When our Lord took the vinegar, for His work was finished now, there was again in Him fulfilled one of the Old Testament prophecies: "They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink" (Psa. 69:21).
"Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost" (Matt. 27:50). This was no ordinary death. Twice we read, verses forty-six and fifty, that "He cried with a loud voice." A dying man does not cry with a loud voice. There was no power on earth that could kill the Son of God. In John 19:30 are His words: "It is finished." That which He had come to do was accomplished, the shedding of His blood for the sins of the world. And so, having wrought redemption for us, He said: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit" (Luke 23:46). His work was done, He gave His life for you and me. "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself" (John 10:17, 18). "Truly, this was the Son of God."
"And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent." In a flash, by the hand of God (for the veil was rent from top to bottom) we were made nigh to God by the blood of Christ, and a new dispensation was ushered in. All barriers between God and man have been cast aside, and the way unto the Highest is now open through the Lord Jesus, the One High Priest. Read Hebrews 9.
Verses fifty-two and fifty-three have confused some. The graves were opened, but since our Lord is the Firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:20), these could not have risen until after He arose, and this is clearly indicated. "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection."
"And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death" (Isa. 53:9). The record of verses fifty-seven to sixty-one reveals once more that the Lord Jesus was He of Whom the prophets spoke.
"Now the next day ... the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure. ... Pilate said, ... make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch" (Matt. 27:62-66). Before Pilate they called our Lord a deceiver, but they were afraid! The Lord had said that He would rise again, and they feared that He would prove Himself true. So they made every effort to make the tomb sure. Satan and his instruments cannot defeat God's purposes and plans. God turned Satan's greatest attack to the praise of His Name. The very precaution that these men took to keep the Lord Jesus in the tomb resulted in indisputable proof that He is risen, and therefore that He is God. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it" (Acts 2:22-24).
"Truly this was the Son of God."