Read the Passage: Matthew 27:1-66
Judas and Barabbas (27:1–25)
It is interesting that Matthew omits the details of Jesus appearance before Herod, and he compresses Jesus’ two trials before Pilate into one event. Each of the gospel narratives cites Judas’ betrayal of Jesus; yet, only Matthew mentions Judas’ remorse and suicide (cf. Matt. 27:3–10). Matthew’s purpose in including or omitting events is in accord with his pattern of showing his Jewish readers how events in Jesus’ life were a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. At Matt. 27:9–10 Matthew notes that the events described in this passage, as well as at Matt. 26:14–16, were a fulfillment of Zech. 11:12–13. Interestingly, at Matt. 27:4 even Judas declares that Jesus is innocent. Pilate would later state Jesus’ innocence seven times, yet only one time as recorded by Matthew (cf. Matt. 27:24; Luke 23:4, 14–15, 22; John 18:38; 19:4, 6), and Herod, likewise, found no fault Christ (cf. Luke 23:15).
Although the freeing of Barabbas is sometimes overlooked in studies of the crucifixion, this is an important event that is recorded in all four Gospels. At Matt. 27:16 Barabbas is referred to as “a notorious prisoner.” In the other Gospel narratives we learn that Barabbas was a robber (cf. John 18:40) and a murderer (cf. Luke 23:18–19), which likely indicates that he was a religious zealot or terrorist. The Jews had a custom that a prisoner was to be released at the Passover (cf. John 18:39). Since Pilate knew that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of jealousy (cf. Matt. 27:18), he likely viewed the traditional release of a prisoner as an opportunity to free Christ, for the crowds had welcomed Him as the Messiah six days earlier. Yet, Pilate underestimated the influence of the rulers upon the crowds, thus he is surprised at their request to release Barabbas.
Scourging and Crucifixion (27:26–50)
Matt. 27:26–34 records details about Jesus’ scourging and humiliation before His crucifixion. This punishment entailed being scourged with a whip (cf. Matt. 27:26), enduring public nakedness (cf. Matt. 27:28) and mocking (cf. Matt. 27:29), being spat upon (cf. Matt. 27:30a), and being beaten over the head with a stick (cf. Matt. 27:30b). John adds that Jesus was also struck with fists (cf. John 19:3). Interestingly, Matthew records the Roman soldiers’ insincere confession that Jesus was “King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:30). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention that Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Christ’s cross to Calvary. This detail is included, it seems, to emphasize Jesus’ humanity and the toll that the scourging and humiliation had taken upon Him. Yet, despite His pain, Jesus refused the narcotic beverage of myrrh that was offered Him.
Matt. 27:35–50 contains the account of the actual death of Christ. In this passage Matthew furthers his purpose of showing that Jesus is the promised Messiah by recording that Christ’s garments were divided by the soldiers in fulfillment of Ps. 22:18. John records that Jesus’ tunic was gambled for, as it was a seamless garment (cf. John 19:23–24). Matthew also notes that Pilate put a sign above Christ on the cross reading, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37; cf. Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19). It is also reported that the religious leaders, those passing by, and even those who were crucified with Christ—who likely were colleagues of Barabbas—mocked Christ. Note that only Luke mentions the conversion of one of the crucified thieves. Finally, Matthew records Jesus’ final cry and willful yielding up of His spirit (cf. Matt. 27:50).
Death and Burial (27:51–66)
Matt. 27:51–54 records four miraculous signs that accompanied Jesus’ death: (1) the tearing of the Temple veil from top to bottom—cf. Matt. 27:51a, (2) an earthquake that caused rocks to split—cf. Matt. 27:51b, (3) the resurrection of certain dead saints who were seen walking in Jerusalem—cf. Matt. 27:52–53, and (4) a centurion’s profession that Jesus was the Son of God—cf. Matt. 27:54. Note that only Matthew records the earthquake and resurrection of dead saints. In Matt. 27:57–60 we learn that the burial of Jesus was facilitated by a member of the Sanhedrin named Joseph of Arimathea, an event record in all four gospels. John reports Nicodemus also helped with the burial (cf. John 19:39). Only Matthew records the religious leaders’ request to post a Roman guard at Jesus’ tomb (cf. Matt. 27:62–66), as well as the guards’ later bribery (cf. Matt. 28:11–15).
- Why does Matthew omit some events related to the crucifixion, such as Jesus’ trial before Herod, all of the details of Pilate’s interview, and the command to John to care for Mary?
- What is the difference between remorse and repentance? What is the difference between feeling sorry about sin and being convicted over sin (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10)?
- What does Isaiah mean in writing, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Christ” (Isa. 53:10; cf. Heb. 12:2)?
- In what sense did God the Father forsake God the Son at the crucifixion (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8–10; 1 Pet. 3:18)?
- What is the significance of the miraculous signs that accompanied Jesus’ death? Do you think the centurion’s confession at the cross was authentic?