Matthew Chapter 27 Trials and the Cross

Introduction to Chapter 27

  1. Matthew 27 continues the story of Jesus last days on earth. This is narrative. In narrative we learn through the story or the history. Narrative teaches doctrine through example, while in a parable we learn from the question that Jesus is answering. This narrative continues from chapter 26 when Jesus was on trial before Caiaphas the high priest. That was at night and therefore illegal. At that same time, Peter denied the Lord three times.
  2. Chapter 27 begins with the early morning trial before the Sanhedrin, then moves to Pilate, the choice of whom to release, Jesus or Barabbas, the mocking Jesus, the crucifixion, the miraculous signs that accompanied the crucifixion, Jesus’ burial, the two Mary’s, and the sealing of the tomb.
  3. The events of Matthew 27 took place on Friday, April 3, AD 33. The larger historical setting is the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This week was March 28 to April 5, AD33 according to Harold H. Hoehner’s Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, page 143. Jesus ate the Passover, was betrayed, was arrested, and was tried before Caiaphas on Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

Outline, main points, and exposition of Matthew 27

  1. Matthew 27:1-2 begin early Friday morning. This was after the Thursday night arrest by the Romans and the following interrogation by Annas and then Caiaphas. This was a hasty meeting to get around the fact that the Thursday night doings were illegal according to Jewish law.
    • The Sadducees held power then, and the chief priests at that time were likely Sadducees. The scribes were the teachers of the law and the elders were the representatives of the Jewish people.
  2. We know that there were six parts of trials, three Jewish and three Roman. But the Jewish trials ran together. The Roman trials had Jesus moving from Pilate to Herod to Pilate. Each was not a separate trial in the sense that we think of a trial.
    • Dr Tom Constable has a very simple and clear summary of Jesus’ trials. “It may be helpful to take a brief overview of Jesus’ trials since none of the Gospel evangelists gives the complete picture. There were essentially two trials, one Jewish and one Roman. The Jewish trial began when Annas informally examined Jesus late Thursday night (John 18:12–14, 19–23). During this examination, members of the Sanhedrin were evidently assembling. His accusers then brought Jesus before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin who decided He was guilty of blasphemy (Matthew 26:57–68; Mark 14:53–65). At sunrise on Friday the Sanhedrin decided to send Jesus to Pilate for trial (Matthew 27:1–2; Luke 22:66–71). The Roman trial began with Jesus appearing before Pilate (Matthew 27:11–14; John 18:28–38a). Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod for interrogation (Luke 23:6–12). Finally Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate for a second examination (Matthew 27:15–31; John 18:38b–19:16). The trials were over and Jesus was at Golgotha by mid-morning, about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25).” Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003). Matthew 26:55.
      • On Thursday evening the Roman soldiers and temple police arrested Jesus, bound him, and took him to Annas (John 18:12-14). Annas was Caiaphas’ father-in-law. Both could function as the high priest.
      • After that the Romans soldiers and temple police brought Jesus to Caiaphas and the gathering Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57-65; Mark 14:53-65). Annas and Caiaphas probably lived in different wings of the temple. There was questioning, but the Sanhedrin was not allowed to make a judgment at night.
      • Friday morning the Sanhedrin said that Jesus was guilty. They bound him and took him to Pilate because the Sanhedrin could not sentence a man to death without the Roman approval, and the Romans had to carry out the execution (Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 22:66-71).
      • Friday morning Pilate interview – Jesus remained silent (Matthew 27:11-14; John 18:28-38).
      • Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod for further interrogation because he could get no answers and Herod had jurisdiction (Luke 23:6-12). Jesus did not answer Herod.
      • Finally, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate asked if the Jews wanted Jesus or Barabbas set free. The Jews wanted Barabbas set free and Jesus crucified. During this trial, Pilate’s wife warned Pilate that she had a dream and that he should free Jesus (Matthew 27:15-31; John 18:38-19:16).
      • By 9 am Jesus had been handed over to the Jews for crucifixion (Mark 15:25). In all of this the Jews tried to keep their hypocritical hands clean.
  3. Matthew 27:3-10. Judas realized he was responsible for Jesus’ condemnation even though Jesus was innocent. He tried to return the 30 pieces of silver. The chief priests refused to take back the money. Judas, under great guilt, hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). The priest spent the money on a burial place for transients. They named the place Potter’s Field.
  4. Matthew 27:11-26. Jesus faces Pilate, the governor of Judea. Pilate could find no reason to jail Jesus or to execute him.
    • He attempted to free him, but the Jewish authorities (chief priests and elders) persuaded the crowd against Jesus and called for Pilate to crucify Jesus (Matthew 27: 20, 22, 23, 25).
    • Meanwhile, Pilate’s wife warned Pilate not to convict Jesus (Matthew 27:19). Her reason was that she had a bad dream that night and the dream was because of Jesus—whether the dream was about Jesus or simply and bad dream because of the events surrounding Jesus, the text does not say.
    • Pilate tried to release Jesus according to a custom during the Passover festival (Matthew 27:15). The people, aroused by the chief priests and elders, demanded the release of Barabbas, a known criminal, and the crucifixion of Jesus. We can see how evil the Jewish leaders and people were. Barabbas was probably an insurrectionists, one who through guerilla warfare tried to overthrow Rome’s rule in Judea (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19; John 18:40).
    • Pilate gave up trying to uphold justice. He thought that he cleared himself of responsibility by publically washing his hands in front of the crowd and then handing Jesus over to be crucified (Matthew 27:24-26).
    • Pilate under intense pressure refused to uphold justice. Pilate is not a picture of good leadership.
    • An inscription bearing the names Tiberius and Pontius Pilate was found in 1961 in Caesarea, the official residence of the Roman official. Pilate was a real person who lived and governed in Jesus Day.
  5. Matthew 27:27-56. The events of the crucifixion are next narrated – the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus, mocked him, put a scarlet robe and crown of thorns of him, spit on him, beat him, and then put His own clothes back on Him. See the prophecy of these events in Matthew 20:19. Matthew tells the story by going back to the Old Testament. The Jews should be familiar with these statements. Furthermore, some striking parts of the narrative bring out the importance of what takes place.
    • The Old Testament references.
      • The drink noted in Matthew 27:34 and 48 recalls Psalm 69:21.
      • Dividing up the clothes in Matthew 27:35 recalls Psalm 22:18.
      • People mocking Jesus in Matthew 27:39 recalls Psalm 22:7.
      • What the people said in Matthew 27:43 recalls Psalm 22:8.
      • Jesus cried to his father in Matthew 27:46 recalls Psalm 22:1.
    • The viscous mocking by the mob (Matthew 27:39, 40, 49), religious leaders (Matthew 27:41-43), and thieves (Matthew 27:44) shows the gross unbelief.
    • The charge put over his head, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews,” (Matthew 27:37) enforces the point of the entire gospel.
    • Jesus freely died for the sins of the world (Matthew 27:50).
    • The miraculous signs that accompanied his death.
      • The darkness over at least Jerusalem from 12 noon until 3 pm.
      • The veil was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51) Exodus 26:31-33, Hebrews 6:19, 9:1-14, and 10:19-22 fill in the importance of this. The way into the holy of holies, the presence of God, was now open to any who believed in the Messiah.
      • The earthquake, rocks split, and opening of tombs in Jerusalem occurred at Jesus death (Matthew 27:51-52).
      • The resurrection of dead saints occurred at Jesus resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53). See notes. Was this resuscitation or resurrection? If this is not resurrection, then what is the significance of this resuscitation? It is just a miracle. If resurrection then this is a demonstration of Jesus’ own resurrection power.
        • Examples of resuscitation include 1 Kings 17; 2 Kings 4 and 13; Matthew 9; Luke 7; John 11:44. These would all die again.
        • Jesus is the first one to be resurrected (Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5). These were raised after His resurrection. See the break in the thought and the grammar. Verse 53 is explanatory of verse 52.
      • The response of the Roman soldiers, men hardened to the process of crucifixion (Matthew 27:54).
  6. Matthew 27:57-66. Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus and buried him in his own grave. See also Mark 15:42-47, Luke 2:50-55; John 19:38-42.
    • Joseph of Arimathea
      • Matthew says he was a rich man and a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 27:57). See Isaiah 53:9.
      • Mark says he was prominent member of the council and he was waiting for the kingdom of God (Matthew 27:15:43).
      • Luke says he was a member of the council and a good and righteous man (Matthew 27:23:50).
      • Arimathea was probably about 10-15 miles east of Joppa, but this is not certain.
      • Nicodemus helped Joseph (John 19:38-42).
    • Matthew 27:62-66. What about the guard at the tomb? The chief priests and Pharisees did not want Jesus body to be taken away and so they met with Pilate. Pilate authorized them to put a guard on the tomb. This was a rich man’s tomb and so was easier to make more secure. It was better constructed.
      • The Jews already had their own temple guard for which they did not have to get permission. They requested that Pilate add a Roman guard. It is unclear whether he sent a Roman guard. The verb “you have” could be either present active imperative or present active indicative. The execution was a Roman execution and therefore a Roman guard was not unusual.
      • Every precaution was to be taken to prevent the continuation of the Messiah myth and to prevent anything from happening that might tend to verify that which some people expected, that He arise from the dead.
      • The religious leaders did not believe He would arise, but were fearful of His disciples stealing the body and claiming resurrection.
  7. How does Matthew 27 help us in our understanding of God’s plan?
    • We have definite historical notes about people, places, and things.
      • People (Jesus, chief priests, elders, scribes, Pilate, Judas, Barabbas, Pilate’s wife, the crowd against Jesus, Roman soldiers, Simon of Cyrene, two robbers,  resurrected saints in Jerusalem, Centurion, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, the mother of James and John, Joseph of Arimathea, Pharisees).
      • Definite places (temple office of the Sanhedrin, temple sanctuary, Potter’s Field, Pilate’s judgment hall, Roman Praetorium, Golgotha, the temple holy of holies, the cemetery in Jerusalem, the garden tomb).
      • Definite things (the interrogations and trumped up trials, outright rejection of Jesus by the Jews, beating Jesus, cross, wine and gall drink, Jesus’ clothes, crown of thorns, robe to mock him, 3 hours of darkness, sour wine on sponge, veil of temple, opened tombs, earthquake, clean linen cloth, large stone to seal the tomb, Roman seal on the tomb).
    • We have many points that recall and actually fulfill the Old Testament predictions, especially from Psalm 22. We will briefly look at Psalm 22.
    • We see the clarity and details of Matthew’s account which would not be the way a Jewish person would write this if he were making the story up.
    • Jesus’ terrible suffering for our sins, not for His own sin. He had no sin.
    • This narrative should strengthen our confidence in the faith once delivered to the saints and our faith in that biblical faith.
    • Questions.
      • Why did Jesus not defend himself? Isaiah 53 said He would not defend himself. God was working His plan through men and Jesus accepted that plan.
      • Why did Jesus not come down from the cross? As the substitute reconciling the world to God, He remained on the cross.
      • Why did he say, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus said this because God was leaving Him alone while He paid for the sins of the world. My God indicates personal relationship. This turning away should not happen. It had to because of the reason for His death.