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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:
27:2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
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,
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.
27:5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
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.
27:7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
27:8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
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;
27:10 And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
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.
27:12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
27:13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
27:14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
27:15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.
27:16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
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?
27:18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
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.
27:20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
27:21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
27:22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
27:23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
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.
27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
27:26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
27:28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
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!
27:30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
27:31 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.
27:32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
27:33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
27:34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
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.
27:36 And sitting down they watched him there;
27:37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
27:38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
27:39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
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.
27:41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
27:42 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.
27:43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
27:44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
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?
27:47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
27:48 And 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.
27:49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
27:50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
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;
27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
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.
27:55 And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:
27:56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.
27:57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:
27:58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.
27:59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
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.
27:61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.
27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
27:63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
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.
27:65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.
27:66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

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Everything King James Bible:Matthew

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Matthew
Book: Matthew
Chapter: 27

Christ delivered to Pilate, The despair of Judas. (1-10)
Christ before Pilate. (11-25) Barabbas loosed, Christ mocked.
(26-30) Christ led to be crucified. (31-34) He is crucified.
(35-44) The Death of Christ. (45-50) Events at the Crucifixion.
(51-56) The Burial of Christ. (57-61) The Sepulchre secured.

1-10 Wicked men see little of the consequences of their crimes
when they commit them, but they must answer for them all. In the
fullest manner Judas acknowledged to the chief priests that he
had sinned, and betrayed an innocent person. This was full
Testimony to the character of Christ; but the rulers were
hardened. Casting down the Money, Judas departed, and went and
hanged himself, not being able to Bear the terror of Divine
wrath, and the anguish of despair. There is little doubt but
that the Death of Judas was before that of our blessed Lord. But
was it nothing to them that they had thirsted after this Blood,
and hired Judas to betray it, and had condemned it to be shed
unjustly? Thus do fools make a mock at Sin. Thus many make Light
of Christ crucified. And it is a common instance of the
deceitfulness of our hearts, to make Light of our own Sin By
dwelling upon other people's sins. But the Judgment of God is
according to Truth. Many apply this Passage of the buying the
piece of ground, with the Money Judas brought back, to signify
the favour intended By the Blood of Christ to strangers, and
sinners of the Gentiles. It fulfilled a Prophecy, Zec 11:12.
Judas went far toward Repentance, yet it was not to Salvation.
He confessed, but not to God; he did not go to him, and say, I
have sinned, Father, against Heaven. Let none be satisfied with
such partial convictions as a Man may have, and yet remain full
of pride, Enmity, and rebellion.

11-25 Having No malice against Jesus, Pilate urged him to clear
himself, and laboured to get him discharged. The message from
his Wife was a warning. God has many ways of giving checks to
sinners, in their sinful pursuits, and it is a great Mercy to
have such checks from Providence, from Faithful friends, and
from our own consciences. O do not this abominable thing which
the Lord hates! is what we may hear said to us, when we are
entering into Temptation, if we will but regard it. Being
overruled By the priests, the people made choice of Barabbas.
Multitudes who choose the world, rather than God, for their
ruler and portion, thus choose their own delusions. The Jews
were So bent upon the Death of Christ, that Pilate thought it
would be dangerous to refuse. And this struggle shows the power
of Conscience even On the worst men. Yet all was So ordered to
make it evident that Christ suffered for No fault of his own,
but for the sins of his people. How vain for Pilate to expect to
free himself from the guilt of the innocent Blood of a righteous
person, whom he was By his office bound to protect! The Jews'
Curse upon themselves has been awfully answered in the
sufferings of their nation. None could Bear the Sin of others,
except Him that had No Sin of his own to answer for. And are we
not all concerned? Is not Barabbas preferred to Jesus, when
sinners reject Salvation that they may retain their Darling
sins, which rob God of his Glory, and Murder their souls? The
Blood of Christ is now upon us for good, through Mercy, By the
Jews' rejection of it. O let us flee to it for Refuge!

26-30 Crucifixion was a Death used only among the Romans; it
was very terrible and miserable. A Cross was laid On the ground,
to which the hands and feet were nailed, it was then lifted up
and fixed upright, So that the weight of the body hung On the
nails, till the sufferer died in Agony. Christ thus answered the
Type of the brazen Serpent raised On a pole. Christ underwent
all the misery and shame here related, that he might purchase
for us Everlasting Life, and joy, and Glory.

31-34 Christ was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, as a Sacrifice
to the Altar. Even the mercies of the wicked are really cruel.
Taking the Cross from him, they compelled one Simon to Bear it.
Make us ready, O Lord, to Bear the Cross thou hast appointed us,
and daily to take it up with cheerfulness, following thee. Was
ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? And when we behold what manner
of Death he died, let us in that behold with what manner of Love
he loved us. As if Death, So painful a Death, were not enough,
they added to its bitterness and terror in several ways.

35-44 It was usual to Put shame upon malefactors, By a Writing
to notify the crime for which they suffered. So they set up one
over Christ's head. This they designed for his reproach, but God
So overruled it, that even his accusation was to his honour.
There were crucified with him at the same time, two robbers. He
was, at his Death, numbered among the transgressors, that we, at
our Death, might be numbered among the saints. The taunts and
jeers he received are here recorded. The enemies of Christ
labour to make others believe that of religion and of the people
of God, which they themselves know to be false. The chief
priests and Scribes, and the elders, upbraid Jesus with being
the King of Israel. Many people could like the King of Israel
Well enough, if he would but come down from the Cross; if they
could but have his kingdom without the Tribulation through which
they must enter into it. But if No Cross, then No Christ, No
Crown. Those that would reign with him, must be willing to
suffer with him. Thus our Lord Jesus, having undertaken to
satisfy the Justice of God, did it, By submitting to the
Punishment of the worst of men. And in every minute particular
recorded about the sufferings of Christ, we find some prediction
in the Prophets or the Psalms fulfilled.

45-50 During the three hours which the Darkness continued,
Jesus was in Agony, wrestling with the powers of Darkness, and
suffering his Father's displeasure against the Sin of Man, for
which he was now making his soul an Offering. Never were there
three such hours since the Day God created Man upon the Earth,
never such a dark and awful scene; it was the turning point of
that great affair, Man's Redemption and Salvation. Jesus uttered
a complaint from Ps 22:1. Hereby he teaches of what use the
Word of God is to direct us in Prayer, and recommends the use of
Scripture expressions in Prayer. The believer may have tasted
some drops of bitterness, but he can only form a very feeble
idea of the greatness of Christ's sufferings. Yet, hence he
learns something of the Saviour's Love to sinners; hence he gets
deeper conviction of the vileness and evil of Sin, and of what
he owes to Christ, who delivers him from the wrath to come. His
enemies wickedly ridiculed his complaint. Many of the reproaches
cast upon the Word of God and the people of God, arise, as here,
from gross mistakes. Christ, just before he expired, spake in
his full strength, to show that his Life was not forced from
him, but was freely delivered into his Father's hands. He had
strength to bid defiance to the powers of Death: and to show
that By the eternal Spirit he offered himself, being the Priest
as Well as the Sacrifice, he cried with a loud voice. Then he
yielded up the Ghost. The Son of God upon the Cross, did die By
the violence of the pain he was Put to. His soul was separated
from his body, and So his body was left really and truly dead.
It was certain that Christ did die, for it was needful that he
should die. He had undertaken to make himself an Offering for
Sin, and he did it when he willingly gave up his Life.

51-56 The rending of the Veil signified that Christ, By his
Death, opened a way to God. We have an open way through Christ
to the Throne of Grace, or Mercy-seat now, and to the Throne of
Glory hereafter. When we duly consider Christ's Death, our hard
and rocky hearts should be Rent; the Heart, and not the
garments. That Heart is harder than a Rock that will not yield,
that will not melt, where Jesus Christ is plainly set forth
crucified. The graves were opened, and many bodies of saints
which slept, arose. To whom they appeared, in what manner, and
how they disappeared, we are not told; and we must not desire to
be Wise above what is written. The dreadful appearances of God
in his Providence, sometimes work strangely for the conviction
and awakening of sinners. This was expressed in the terror that
fell upon the Centurion and the Roman soldiers. We may reflect
with comfort On the abundant testimonies given to the character
of Jesus; and, seeking to give No just cause of Offence, we may
leave it to the Lord to clear our characters, if we live to Him.
Let us, with an Eye of Faith, behold Christ and him crucified,
and be affected with that great Love wherewith he loved us. But
his friends could give No more than a look; they beheld him, but
could not help him. Never were the horrid nature and effects of
Sin So tremendously displayed, as On that Day when the beloved
Son of the Father hung upon the Cross, suffering for Sin, the
Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Let us yield
ourselves willingly to his service.

57-61 In the Burial of Christ was nothing of pomp or solemnity.
As Christ had not a House of his own, wherein to lay his head,
while he lived, So he had not a Grave of his own, wherein to lay
his body, when he was dead. Our Lord Jesus, who had No Sin of
his own, had No Grave of his own. The Jews designed that he
should have made his Grave with the wicked, should have been
buried with the Thieves with whom he was crucified, but God
overruled it, So that he should make it with the rich in his
Death, Isa 53:9. And although to the Eye of Man the beholding
a Funeral may cause terror, yet if we remember how Christ By his
Burial has changed the nature of the Grave to believers, it
should make us rejoice. And we are ever to imitate Christ's
Burial in being continually occupied in the spiritual Burial of
our sins.

62-66 On the Jewish Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees,
when they should have been at their devotions, were dealing with
Pilate about securing the Sepulchre. This was permitted that
there might be certain proof of our Lord's resurrection. Pilate
told them that they might secure the Sepulchre as carefully as
they could. They sealed the Stone, and set a Guard, and were
satisfied that all needful care was taken. But to Guard the
Sepulchre against the Poor weak disciples was folly, because
needless; while to think to Guard it against the power of God,
was folly, because fruitless, and to No purpose; yet they
thought they dealt wisely. But the Lord took the Wise in their
own craftiness. Thus shall all the rage and the plans of
Christ's enemies be made to promote his Glory.

The Sentencing of Jesus Viewed in a Wider Context

This passage has often been used to justify the persecution, oppression and murder of the Jewish people. It was quoted to justify acts that no-one who truly belives in Christian love could support (for more see here). It is important therefore that we consider this work in detail. The actions described in this chapter pose clear questions as to the motives of those involved and as to the significance of these actions to those in a modern context. We do not possess within the text of the Gospels sufficient background information as to the motives of Pilate or of the crowd. While we are presented with information suggesting that the 'chief priests and the elders'1 saw Jesus as a threat to their authority, this does not fully explain the context in which they operated or their relationship to the various parties involved in this scene. To answer these questions I will attempt to look at this passage in a wider context.

Matthew 2 is widely regarded as being composed in the second half of the first century CE. It has been argued that the reference to the destruction of a city in the parable of the banquet 3 is an allegorical reference to the destruction of Jerusalem 4 an argument that, if accepted would clearly place the construction of the work in it's present state at a date after the destruction in 70CE.

The writer(s) of Matthew clearly see themselves as a continuation of the line of the prophets. The phrase '"the same way they persecuted the prophets before you"' 5 has as a presupposition that the followers of Jesus are the continuation of the line of Jewish prophets dating back to Moses, Abraham, Noah and Adam. In this way would have seen themselves as the nucleus of the Jewish tradition, not as a breakaway group. It is clear from the preceding verse '"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."' 6 that many outside the group did not hold that point of view.

With these points in mind it can be seen that the writers considered themselves to be pious Jews, yet they were meeting some level of resistance or hostility from other Jews. We can therefore see that there would have been little motive for presenting Jews that were not followers of Jesus in a favourable light. The passage Matthew 27.20-26 should be considered while maintaining an awareness that it is written by individuals that may have some level of hostility to some or all of the protagonists excepting only Jesus.

One protagonist who presents an enigmatic figure is Pilate. Pilate, the only non-Jew involved in the scene; seems at once sympathetic to Jesus and yet unwilling to resist the demands of the 'chief priests and the elders' 7 to execute a man that he regards as having committed no crime 8 . A wider consideration of Pilate's situation reveals complex situation in which Pilate has less room for exercising power than may at first seem apparent.

Pilate had been appointed as Procurator of Judea by Tiberius. The period in which Matthew is viewed as being written and in which Pilate operated is called by modern historians 'The Principate' or 'Rule of the First Citizen'. This represents the complex balancing act that was the prevailing political system of the time. What was, in effect an autocracy; maintained it's support through a fa├žade of popular rule and through a respect for tradition. A clear illustration of this is that the head of state, referred to in modern times as the Emperor, used as his foremost title that of 'Tribune' meaning 'speaker for the people'. This post had traditionally been freely elected and had a strong tradition of resistance to oligarchic rule 9. The Emperor therefore could only maintain his position peacefully by maintaining the illusion of being favourable to the traditional elite while appearing to be the defender of the wider population. The Governors and Proconsuls of the provinces operated as mini-emperors, in theory representing the emperor's benevolent concern for those under the protection of Rome but also charged with the safe delivery of taxes and the ensuring of stability within their province. Rome's primary tactic for maintaining stability was through leaving all traditional structures in place and respecting local custom where such custom did not threaten Rome's interests.

The custom of not allowing images into the Temple in Jerusalem may well have seemed to Pilate to be a threat to Rome's interests. A refusal to revere the Emperor would indicate possible disloyalty. While Emperor worship was not mandatory at this time (though some worship of Caesar did exist) a refusal to allow the access of his images into the heart of the province must have seemed subversive. Pilate acted on this by moving the effigies of Caesar into Jerusalem 'by night and under cover' 10 . Pilate clearly underestimated the degree of religious zeal and resultant anger among the Jewish people, both in the city and 'the countryfolk, who flocked there in crowds' 11. Pilate was faced with a peaceful mass demonstration, a display that was clearly a challenge to his, and by inference; the Imperial rule. Pilate's handling of the affair , by a clear display of military force 12 only served to increase the severity of the problem by prompting the crowd to offer themselves up as martyrs 13.

The incident of the effigies serves to demonstrate two key issues. Firstly is Pilate's difficulty in grasping the complexities and extent of Jewish religious feeling. His resultant mishandling of the affair resulted in a humiliating capitulation which may well have lessened his authority within the province. In addition this event illustrates the loyalty of both urban and rural Jews through religious ties to the city of Jerusalem. Thjis is further demonstrated by the later incident in which Pilate appropriated money intended to purchase sacrificial animals in order to facilitate the building of an aqueduct 14 . The ensuing riot was put down by the military using clubs.

With the historical context in mind it is clear that there are various factors at work within this text. Firstly there is the nature of Pilate's position. Pilate is in the position of an autocrat, yet he is under immense pressure to minimise the exercising of overt power as it is imperial policy to appear to respect both local leaders and their customs. Pilate also faces the gravest of punishments if he fails to govern well. Secondly this scene take place against the backdrop of an ongoing struggle between the Temple, which demonstrates popular urban and rural support 15 ; and the Roman authorities in the person of Pilate. This struggle has in the past led to damaging scenes that Pilate will be keen to avoid. Matthew 27.15 states that 'Now it was the governor's custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd'. This would seen to be a pacifying gesture, showing respect for a local celebration while giving to the people an illusion of participation in government. Pilate, seemingly reluctant to avoid executing Jesus puts him forward in this selection process. It can be inferred that Pilate hoped that Jesus would be saved by popular support . 'But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas' 16 Jesus is at several points in Matthew presented as having wide public support, yet the crowd demand that he is executed. This could be an example of a rewriting of history by later anti-Jewish writers, yet there is an alternative explanation. Seen in the light of the wider struggle between the Temple and Rome it is clear that the people are on the side of the Temple, ready to lay down their lives when needed 17 . In this passage we can see the people presented with another chance to voice their opposition to Pilate and Roman rule. With Pilate siding with Jesus it would have been possible for the 'chief priests and the elders' 18 to have presented it as the crowd's duty to oppose Pilate's will. That an innocent man dies is hardly relevant when in the issue of the effigies all were willing to accept martyrdom.

Pilate's actions as depicted within Matthew (notably absent from the other Gospels) are clearly aimed at preventing any further unrest. Seeing that 'an uproar was starting' 19 Pilate removed any responsibility for the decision by the clearly visible action of hand-washing. By this tactic he avoided any hostility that may have been directed at him both by the followers of Jesus, for he was seen not to support the sentencing; and by those supporting his execution; for he allowed the execution to take place. In this manner the situation was defused. It is however notable that Pilate could not have handed Jesus to the Jewish authorities for crucifixion since such methods of execution were illegal for the Jewish population. An execution carried out under the auspices of the Jewish authorities would almost certainly have led to death by stoning 20. Pilate therefore, while removing himself from the responsibility of condemnation; personally ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.

We should keep in mind the above facts when considering this passage. The conflict was not seen by the crowd as one bettween Jew and Christian, but bettween piety and oppression. Jesus knew his fate when he handed himself over to the guards in the ultimate example of piety. When someone tried to use violence in the name of religion he gave a simple response "No more of this!" 21

Sources Used:

1 Matthew 27.20 (NIV)
2 I shall use the word 'Matthew' as a shorthand for 'The Gospel of Matthew'.
3 Matthew 22.7
4 Bernard Brandon Scott 'Gospel of Matthew' in Robert J. Miller (ed.), The Complete Gospels (Sonoma California, Harpercollins, 1992),p.56.
5 Matthew 5.12
6 Matthew 5.11
7 Matthew 27.20
8 Matthew 27.23
9 Plutarch 'Tiberius Gracchus' in Ian Scott-Kilvert (ed.) Makers of Rome (London; Penguin, 1965),pp.153-174.
10 Josephus, Jewish War 2.169
11 Ibid 2.170
12 Ibid 2.172
13 Ibid 2.174
14 Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 18.60
15 Josephus, Jewish War 2.170
16 Matthew 27.20
17 Josephus, Jewish War 2.174
18 Matthew 27.20
19 Matthew 27.24
20 Margaret Davies, Matthew (Sheffield: Sheffield Press, 1993),p.196.
21 Luke 22.51

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