Chapter 27 is one of the most important chapters of the Bible. This is the moment that Jesus has been building throughout the book of Matthew. It begins with Jesus being taken to Pilate.
Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea under Emperor Tiberius. Even though the Romans gave their subjects some leeway to try their cases by their laws and standards, they kept the death penalty under their jurisdiction and reserved the right to veto such judgments, if necessary. This is why the religious trial of Jesus, with the death penalty handed down as the verdict, was directly followed by a Roman trial of Jesus.
One quick observation I want to make is about the different responses to the denial/betrayal of Jesus by Peter and Judas. Both these men had serious moments of failure. Both men end up doing what Jesus had spoken to them about, but both Judas and Peter handle those moments differently.
As we read about in this chapter, Judas is so overwhelmed with grief he runs away from Jesus and the disciples and tries to do everything he can to absolve his sin. He tries telling the religious leaders it was a mistake and he tries to give the money back, but none of those acts free him from the guilt and shame he has. So Judas makes the wrong decision to end his life because he can't get past the guilt.
While Peter on the other hand, as soon as the rooster crows after his third denial in the previous chapter, Peter breaks and begins to weep, but ultimately ends up bringing his regret, guilt, and shame to Jesus and is restored.
Today, I understand the weight of the guilt of our sins can be overwhelming, but I can't help by notice the difference in how each of these men handled that weight. One ran to Jesus and ultimately to life, and one ran away from Jesus, ultimately ending in death.
Today choose like Peter to take your sin, guilt, and shame to Jesus and allow God to restore you.
In previous chapters, We have described the setting of this week in Israel. It was Passover week, and God's sovereign timing for Jesus's betrayal was impeccable. Jesus was delivered up at the time of Passover, a holiday in which the Jewish people remembered the significant deliverance of their ancestors from Egypt. At the first Passover, the Lord sent an angel to kill all the firstborns of the families whose doors weren't covered by the blood of a lamb. This final and fatal plague convinced Pharaoh to let God's people leave Egypt; the Jewish people would forever remember that the lamb had died instead of them. Now Jesus, the perfect and final sacrifice, would die for the sins of all humanity to deliver all who believe from sin and death forever.
Lambs are sweet, innocent, defenseless, and humble. Jesus, the Lion of Judah, humbled himself and became a human, the God–Man, the only One who could be the perfect lamb to die for sinful, wayward sheep like us.
Isaiah actually prophesied about the coming Messiah, specifically describing how He would suffer like a lamb on behalf of lost sheep like us: He wrote, "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth." Isaiah 53:5-7 NIV
Matthew knew this prophecy and its significance, and he specifically mentions Jesus's attitude and remarkable repose when attacked. Look at verse 14 - "But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor." Matthew 27:14 NIV
Jesus could be silent amidst slanderous accusations and ridicule because His self-worth was founded in God, not people; His self-confidence and personal security were based on His Father's view of Him, not society's view of Him. In the same way, our self-esteem and self-worth should be grounded in God. Like Jesus, this allows us to suffer silently but confidently, even in times of immense criticism and misrepresentation.
Peter was likely an eyewitness to Jesus's silence while suffering. It is clear that Peter understood the significance of the Jewish tradition of the Passover lamb, as well as Isaiah's prophecy, when he connects Jesus's sacrifice as the Lamb of God to our new ability to live life God's way: Peter writes, "When they hurled their insults at Him, he did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him, who judges justly." "He Himself bore our sins" in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by His wounds you have been healed." For "you were like sheep going astray," but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." 1 Peter 2:23-25 NIV
Death to sin and life to righteousness transpires through the power of the Spirit, who works to apply the benefits of Christ and the victories of the cross to us. This doesn't happen automatically. We must voluntarily choose to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ and cooperate with the Spirit's guidance. We should ask God to help us die to the flesh and live in the Spirit daily.
In this chapter, we see the humanity of Jesus clearly; it describes not just Jesus's death by crucifixion but also His physical weakness and vulnerability. Jesus was so weak after a night of torture that He couldn't carry the crossbeam alone the entire way to the execution site, so another man was called on to carry it for Him, as we see in verses 32–33. Yet Jesus refused to drink the narcotic agent offered to Him, the wine mixed with gall as described in verse 34, because He wanted to remain conscious until the moment of His death that is written about in verse 50.
We might assume that Jesus was like a superhero in that He had a special power to ward off human weaknesses. But Jesus wasn't superhuman. He was fully human, even as He was fully God. His human body got tired, hungry, and thirsty, and He felt the pain of the cross in every way. Jesus truly suffered.
An additional significant event happens in verse 51. It says at the moment that Jesus took His last breath that the curtain that separated the holy of holies was torn in two from top to bottom. This was significant because since the garden of Eden God's presence remained in the holy of holies, and only one priest once a year could enter into the presence of God. But now God has restored the ability for all to enter into the presence of God. We once again can walk in the cool of the day with God as we read about in the book of Genesis. Jesus had made this type of relationship available again to each of us. Now Eternal life and a personal relationship are once again open to us like God intended in creation.
Now, this chapter ends on a low moment. We call this Good Friday, and after reading through all that took place that Friday, it is hard to say it was good. But for you and me, this was good. It's the very thing that was necessary for us to have eternal life.
There are two main applications that stem from the story of the crucifixion of Christ.
First, the cross summons us to reflect on our corruption, guilt, and shame and to confess and repent.
Second, the cross calls us to sacrifice for God and the people He loves.
We could also talk about a third application: the cross should motivate us to fall on our faces and praise God for what He has done for us!
Today can we do just that and focus with a heart of gratitude for all that took place on the cross and be committed to living the life He intended us to based on His sacrifice?