Category Archives: Matthew

Matthew 28:16-20 – The Great Commission

We come to the end of Matthew’s gospel with what’s come to be known as The Great Commission:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mountains play a big part in redemptive history. In fact the word mountain is used 304 times in the Bible, so it’s no surprise that Jesus commissions his remaining 11 disciples on a mountain. The fallen world below needs to be saved, and that salvation can only come from above.

Notice what happens when they see Jesus, worship and doubt. I can understand the worship part. The man not only did amazing miracles during his earthly ministry, but after being hung on a cross, and buried, he came back from the dead three days later. I’m sure they had no idea how to process all this information, how God could be one, yet here was Jesus standing before them as a divine being. It would take several hundred years for some of the greatest minds in the Church to sort of figure it out. And Jesus accepts their worship. He is God.

But doubt? Seriously? What could they be doubting? First, to me this is one of the greatest testimonies to the Bible’s authenticity. If you’re making up a story, and the hero of the story has done amazing things, even conquering death, you don’t include doubt. That would make it seem too human and real, which is exactly what it does. Why would Matthew include this little detail, “but some doubted”? We can only speculate, but one reason might be that some (more than one) actually doubted, and Matthew implies that thus they didn’t worship. We all have to make up our minds, who is this Jesus. And it isn’t necessarily easy to believe he is the Messiah, God in human flesh, risen Savior and Lord of the universe. Even for those who witnessed it all. He put the ultimate existential question to them earlier in his ministry: “Who do you say I am?” Every human being will eventually have to answer this question, and only those who worship get it right.

But Jesus, who surely knows some are doubting, doesn’t call them out on it. You idiots! All these years, and everything you’ve seen, and you still doubt? He just ignores it and gives them all the same charge, “go and make disciples of all nations.” But before that he tells them the reason they should and can do this is because, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That is a lot of authority! And what is authority? The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. But Jesus, we might think, it sure doesn’t look like you have all authority. I mean, the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. But that’s the point, that in the midst of a fallen, messed up world, Jesus is giving his disciples the power to go make disciples. He calls the shots. And he told them earlier that, “many are called, but few are chosen.” 

Why did Jesus need to be “given” this authority? You would think that as the second person of the Trinity and creator of the universe that he would naturally have authority, but that would not take into account the nature of redemption. Jesus came to earth as the “last Adam,” in Paul’s phrase. The first Adam was given charge to keep the garden and expand God’s kingdom over the entire earth, but he failed. Jesus came to do what he didn’t, to fulfill the law in perfect obedience to the Father, and pay the penalty Adam incurred by his disobedience. This authority he speaks of was given to him by the Father because he earned it, and he will use it to build his kingdom on earth, what Adam should have done, through the making of disciples.

Why make “disciples” instead of let’s say followers? Or some other designation. The word disciple in Greek means learner, so the life of the follower of Jesus is one of learning, and this learning is to go to “all nations.” As far back as God’s promise to Abram, that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through him, God’s plan went well beyond the physical land and nation state of Israel. And the Lord says through Isaiah, that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Christianity is fundamentally a thinking religion, not an experiencing one. The latter only flows from the former.

Jesus also ordains baptism in Triune format, clearly equating Father, Son, and Spirit. So not only does Jesus accept their worship, he tells them each person of the Trinity is equally God. That had to be a mind bender for ancient Jews. We also learn from his charge that baptism is no longer limited to males and Israel as a sign and seal of the covenant as circumcision was. It is now a universal indication that we are God’s covenant people. And as Peter tells the people in his first sermon in Acts 2 after he commands them to repent and be baptized, that “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” The faith in the New Covenant is still a familial faith, but now for the entire world.

And finally how could Jesus be with them, and us, to the end of the age if he was not God. I just finished reading Eusebius, The Church History, and the kind of persecution Christians endured in the first three hundred years was sobering. And we know similar persecution goes on today, especially in Muslim and communist lands. It’s hard to see Jesus “with us” in those times, but that is his promise, always. And our hope is on the other side of the grave, not this one.

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Matthew 28:1-15 -We Can Take it to the Grave: We Serve a Risen Savior!

In Chapter 28 we read about the most important event in all of history. One could say the crucifixion was that event because by it Jesus paid for the sins of the world, but by conquering death Jesus definitively proved it was all true, his life, ministry, and everything the Old Testament had pointed to for 2000 years. In every other religion or philosophy you can get rid of the founder and still have the teaching, but Christianity is unique because we follow a specific historic individual who addressed the central conundrum of existence: death. The thing everyone fears, and that more or less makes life a futile joke if this is all there is. And like everything God has done with his people for those several thousand years, he doesn’t make it easy to believe in this either.

You might think, if you’re making up a story about some guy raising from the dead, that guy would make it obvious that he in fact was alive again. Maybe he shows up in the center of Jerusalem, makes a big announcement, shows everyone his wounds, and demands fealty. There are so many ways you could go with the story if it was . . . . fiction. And since critics tell us it was made up decades after the events may have happened, the writer doesn’t have to worry about eyewitnesses proving it wrong. But it’s hard to see the way it plays out in the gospels as made up. It’s almost like Jesus plays hide and seek. He wants to let them know he’s alive, but not make it too obvious. In this he is perfectly consistent with the God of Israel and his relationship to his people the previous 2000 years. They could always take what happened as if it was actually from Yahweh or some other way. For those who didn’t want to follow him, some other explanation was always available.

Each gospel gives a little different account of what happened at the resurrection. Here there is a big earthquake and Matthew tells us an angel rolled back the stone, of course freaking out the guards. The angel tells the Mary’s who had come to the tomb that Jesus has risen, “just as he said.” And for emphasis so there can be no doubt, the angel says a second time, “He has risen from the dead.” So we know now the wages of sin, death, has been fully paid. As the women leave the tomb Jesus appears to them. At a time when women were second, third, or fourth class citizens, you don’t make them the first eyewitnesses to such an important event, if you’re making up the story. Their testimony wouldn’t even be accepted in a court of law! Yet here they are, the first ones to see the Lord Jesus risen from the dead. They are the ones to tell the men the good news.

Both the angels and Jesus tell them that when they share this amazing news with his diciples, that they are to go to Galilee, basically their home, and he’ll meet them there. In the meantime, the guards tell the religious leaders what happened, and they are paid “a large sum of money” to tell people that Jesus’ disciples came and stole the body while they were sleeping. You would think an empty tomb, an earthquake, and an angel might get them a bit curious as to what really happened to this Jesus fellow, but no. They would rather spread a lie than get at the truth. What Jesus said about them all along was accurate. So history speaks to us loudly: the empty tomb needs some explanation. Matthew says that this story, of the stolen body, “has been widely circulated among the Jews to this day.” If the tomb was not empty, or if the body had been found, you wouldn’t be reading this now. This event changed the entire course of Western history, and lies spread by a bunch of cowards don’t do that.

In his book, Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen declares that “Christianity depends, not upon a complex of ideas, but upon the narration of an event.” We know this event was not made up decades after the crucifixion, as critics assert, but belief in it goes to the earliest days after. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which every scholar, critical or conservative, believes Paul wrote, and is very early, say 50s, he says this:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared 

Paul says it is by this gospel we are saved. He received it when he went to Jerusalem maybe three or four years after the “event” (he tells us in Galatians). We know by that very early date that this was a well established saying because of the mnemonic device (which helps people memorize) of the three that’s. Since the mid-1800s German higher critics had been telling the world that all the miracles of Jesus, including this greatest one, were myths that developed over many decades based on the assumption that they were no different than how German myths and fairy tells developed in the middle ages. They only did this because they assumed naturalism, and thus that miracles can’t happen. The historical evidence says otherwise. From the very beginning everyone knew there was an empty tomb, and Jesus’ followers claimed they saw, ate with, talked, and touched the risen Jesus. They changed from cowards to courageous world changers, and many gave their lives for it. You don’t do that for a lie. We serve a risen Savior!

Matthew 27:57-66 – Jesus Buried, and the Tomb Guarded for Good Measure

Chapter 27 ends with the burial of Jesus, and a guard being placed at the tomb. There are so many fascinating details in just a few short verses. The Romans would normally leave the dead body on the cross to continue the shame, but religious Jews would never have allowed that to happen, especially over a Sabbath which began at sundown that same day. So a rich man named Joseph from a town called Arimathea asks Pilate for the body, and it’s given to him for burial. We’re told a bit more about him in the other gospels, but he’s one of the religious leaders and had become a follower of Jesus.

I want to make an apologetics point with Matthew’s telling of the story. If you read the following two verses “literally,” you would think that this Joseph guy is one strong dude! Notice everything “he” does:

59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

Seriously, would a “rich man” do any of this? You can bet that Joseph did none of this, but had it done for him. Then why does Matthew say he did it all? Likely, he made it all possible because of his riches and it wouldn’t have happened without him, and everyone reading knew that. I point this out because skeptics will take ancient idiomatic ways of expression and use them to try to discredit the Bible. I doubt any have used this passage (See, Joseph didn’t actually do these thing, so the Bible’s a lie and all made up!), but they take modern journalistic and historical assumptions and judge the Bible as unreliable. In the last number of decades biblical scholars and historians have done fantastic work analyzing the ancient world, including biography, and while authors had an agenda, they were just as concerned with truth and accuracy as any modern person.

We can trust that all these things happened, and Jesus is now in a new tomb. Why is new important? Because he would have been the first and only person in the tomb. If you’re rich and going to have a tomb cut out of rock, no easy task, you are going to put more than one person in it. More like a family or even extended family. In ancient Jewish burial for those who could afford it, the body was partially mummified with spices and such (like those we learn in another gospel that Mary was going to bring for Jesus on the first day of the week when she discovered the empty tomb), then after several years when the body had decayed and all that was left was bones, they were gathered and put in something called an ossuary, or container (like this one confirmed to belong to a relative of the high priest Caiaphas). But since Jesus doesn’t want to disturb anyone else when he’s raised from the dead, he gets a brand new tomb.

Then Matthew adds this interesting detail:

61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The other Mary was likely the Mary who had also witnessed the crucifixion. The telling of the stories in the gospels are so sparse you rarely get any idea of the internal state of the characters. What must these Marys have been thinking? What must they have been feeling? What must they have been saying among themselves? We may know one day, but all we can do now is speculate. They would surely have been devastated. They have just witnessed their Master brutally beaten, murdered, and buried. What had started out with such promise has come to an unfathomable end, they think.

Next the religious leaders, fearing Jesus’ disciples will come and try to steal the body and proclaim him raised from the dead, ask Pilate to guard the tomb. We can tell from this part of the story that the charge of the stolen body was already widely known, and that the tomb in which Jesus was laid was now empty. Think about it. Given the tomb belonged to a rich man, it was almost like a status symbol at the time. You don’t put a status symbol in some far out of the way place. No, you put it where everyone can see it. So if everyone knows where the tomb is, and if in a matter of days Jesus’ follows start proclaiming him risen from the dead, then all the religious leaders had to do was go to the tomb and produce the dead body. Jesus movement, over. But they can’t because he isn’t there! And those scaredy cat disciples would never have hatched a plot to steal the body, Implausible in the extreme!

In fact, pretty much all biblical scholars who study these texts agree, even the atheists and agnostics among them, that the empty tomb is a well-attested historical fact. The question is, how do we account for it? The only reason those who deny the resurrection take that position is because of an a priori commitment to naturalism. Miracles can’t happen, ergo no resurrection. The evidence, however, points to the resurrection as the only explanation that makes any sense of the facts. And to those facts the story next turns.

Matthew 27:51-53 – Bodies Raised at Jesus’ Death

I didn’t comment on a strange couple of verses in the middle of Matthew’s death narrative because on the surface they seem so strange! It’s hard to make sense of them, and some commentators said just that. But I came across an explanation by John Piper that very much makes sense, especially when Matthew’s words are read carefully. Here’s the passage:

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

There is not one throw away word or line of Scripture. Every “jot and tittle” is there for a reason, and here is the way Piper outlines what Matthew is doing in these verses:

When Jesus let his spirit go (ἀφῆκεν τὸ πνεῦμα) and died (Matthew 27:50), seven results were set in motion which Matthew mentions in seven clauses, introduced with seven “ands” (καί). Including the first main statement that Jesus yielded up his spirit, it seems to me they come in four pairs:

Jesus, having cried out again
     with a loud voice, yielded up his spirit; 
and (καί) behold, the curtain of the temple
     was torn in two, from top to bottom; 
    
and (καί) the earth shook, 
and (καί) the rocks were split;   

and (καί) the tombs were opened, 
and (καί) many bodies of the saints
     who had fallen asleep were raised, 

and (καί) having come out of the tombs
     after his resurrection they went
     into the holy city, 
and (καί) they appeared to many.

I don’t think it’s an accident that there are seven clauses, the number for biblical perfection. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law, and the penalty for our breaking it. You can read Piper’s explanation, but basically he argues that it was Jesus’ death that is the fundamental cause for our resurrection because by his death Jesus satisfied God’s wrath. The problem of sinful man alienated from a holy God was taken care of, and the relationship restored. At the moment Jesus died, the transaction was completed, and the earth gave up her dead.

Matthew writes of the “bodies of the saints” (note, not saints but their bodies, it’s a physical resurrection) that were raised and had come out of their tombs, but it was only after Jesus’ resurrection that they went into Jerusalem and “appeared to many.” Again, as he’s done throughout his gospel, Matthew writes this matter of factly, no embellishment, just that a bunch of people saw those who were raised. It would have made no sense for them to appear prior to Jesus’ resurrection because nobody would have understood what was happening, but after it made perfect sense. Now they understand why Jesus had to go through what he did, something that was inconceivable to all of them before it happened. What these raised saints did after their resurrection, if they just went right back to their old lives or what, we’re not told. That’s not the important part of the story for Matthew, or us. What is, is that Jesus’s death was the fulfillment of this prophecy we read in Isaiah 25:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

Matthew is telling his readers that it’s not just Jesus who was raised, but that all those who trust in him will be as well. These saints were evidence for all his followers that death will not have the final say, and that our hope is not in vain.

 

Matthew 27: 45-56 – The Death of Jesus: A Substitutionary Atonement

After he’s described Jesus’ humiliation and mockery, Matthew now recounts his death. As with everything else in his life, his death will be unusual as well. First, nature itself, his very creation, seems to understand the magnitude of what’s happening. For three hours, from about noon to 3, darkness descends “over all the land,” and when he dies there will be some kind of earthquake. Just prior to that Matthew says that he “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”’ It means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and is a direct quotation from Psalm 22, a Psalm that describes everything that is happening to Israel’s ultimate king. That Psalm from the pen of King David explains the experience of the Son of David a thousand years before it happened!

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

and

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

And this was written 250 years before Rome was founded! And probably 700 or 800 years before crucifixion was invented. No wonder Jesus says the Old Testament is about him!

Jesus asking God why he’d been forsaken is a rhetorical question because he knows exactly why God has forsaken him. He is enduring God’s wrath for the sins of his people and the world, paying the ultimate price of separation and alienation from his Father. Jesus in these moments is absorbing the punishment of the guilt of our sin. The penalty either has to be paid by us, or a perfect and infinite substitutionary atonement. Many people, especially those who do not like the idea of a God capable of wrath, insist that he act at the expense of his justice. For them, a God who would punish sin in anger is not worthy of a God of love. But God demonstrates his love by acting to satisfy his own justice in Christ. Or as Paul says in the latter verse, that he might be just and the justifier of those who trust in Jesus.

We also have a Savior who knows what it’s like to feel abandoned by God, and what Christian at times hasn’t felt what David felt and Christ actually endured. We are never abandoned by God in Christ, but life in a fallen world in a body of sin can be hard, or as I’ve called it, the crucible of existence. God understands what we’re going through because he himself endured suffering far worse than we ever will. Think about all the ugliness caused by sin in the world, the pain, the hatred, the misery. Now multiply that by all of history, and Jesus paid for all of it. The Trinity is a mystery (not an absurdity), but the Triune God being separated from himself for us? A mystery times a million. Good thing we are not required to understand it, but only accept it.

But while his people do accept it, skeptics think Jesus’ suffering and death on a cross for our sins is absurd. On the contrary, it was the only way for sinful man and a holy God to be reconciled. Only an infinite price could be paid for the offense against an infinite God, so he had to pay it himself! His wrath fully satisfied, we never have to doubt his love for us again. We know this is true because of what Matthew tells us happened when Jesus died:

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

The whole of the Old Testament economy, over. No more bulls and goats and priests and bloodshed. No more building with intricate design, rituals, and dress to allow only one man to enter behind the curtain only one day a year. That which was specifically designed to separate us from a holy God, to keep us out of his presence because by it we would have been destroyed, is gone. Now we can enter his presence anytime we want, in Jesus’ name, as holy and undefiled as he.

One last part of the scene Matthew shares with us is that, “55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.” Where were the men? Only a true story in that time would make the women look better than the men. We can confidently stake our lives, and eternity, on this narrative. It all actually happened the way we read it happened. 

Matthew 27:27-44 – Jesus Suffers for the Curse of His People

The first verses of the next section of the chapter when Roman soldiers mock and beat Jesus are hard to stomach. One commentator wondered how Matthew could have known everything that happened, and speculated that one of the soldiers involved must have become a Christian later and shared the gory details. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ probably captured it as well as any cinematic presentation could. That was hard to watch, but the real event would probably have made a normal person throw up. It seems to me that the soldiers were driven to a sadism beyond mere cruelty. Satan himself must have been given free reign to inflame a supernatural hatred in those men as they tortured the Lord of glory, and their very creator!

Normally a few soldiers prepared a prisoner for the journey to the cross, but Matthew says it was a “whole company of soldiers.” This was no normal prisoner. Jesus had just been flogged, which could kill a man in itself. They strip him, likely naked, as was a normal way to humiliate a prisoner. Then to increase the mockery they put a scarlet robe on him, the color of kings, and do something that has the most profound significance we could imagine; they put a crown of thorns on his head. This is so familiar to us that it’s easy to forget what’s going on. Through these soldiers mockery of Jesus as a fake king, the true king of all of reality it willingly taking upon himself the curse of the fall of man. We read these words in Genesis 3 when the Lord is telling Adam the consequences of their disobedience:

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat of it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.

The Lord who himself pronounced the curse is now wearing the very symbol of that curse on his own head! Let us remember this anytime we’re tempted to think that God doesn’t quite understand what we’re going through, and that he can’t relate to our suffering or problems or frustrations. And he can do more than relate because he’s actually solving the problem that created our suffering! This is called the ultimate in perspective and we ought never to forget it.

To add insult to injury the soldiers now spit on Jesus and mock him, putting a staff in his right hand they shout, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then taking the staff they strike him on the the head with it “again and again.” Once their lust is satisfied, they take off the robe, put his clothes such as they are back on, and he’s led off to his final ignominy.

Then we read of the crucifixion itself. Jesus was so weak he couldn’t even carry the cross beam as most prisoners did, so Matthew tell us “a man from Cyrene, named Simon” is forced to carry it for him. You wonder why Matthew tells us his name, and we learn in Mark why. Simon “was the father of Alexander and Rufas.” Mark’s readers probably would have known these men, which again means we’re reading real history. You don’t do that if you’re making up a story because you have actual eye witnesses living who can confirm it.

Once he is crucified at “The Place of the Skull” the mockery and insults continue from passers by, including the religious leaders he clashed with over the meaning of their ancient religion. A supreme irony is cemented in history when the soldiers put in writing above his head the written charge against him, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” That’s exactly what he is, but the Jews reject him because they don’t need to be saved, they think. Twice it is said by those watching that if he really is the Son of God that he should come down from the cross and save himself. If he does that then they “will believe in him.” First, no they wouldn’t. He’d already done many amazing miracles, including raising the dead, and they didn’t believe. But second, God’s creatures don’t get to demand the terms of their own belief.

And talk about missing the point! A Messiah who had to suffer to pay the penalty, death, for their sin was inconceivable to them. They kind of missed the message Yahweh was trying to give them for the last 1,500 years, and in hindsight it was an obvious message they all missed. Sin is so horrible that only God himself could rectify its consequences, and it would take him dying on a cross to do it.

Matthew 27:1-26 – Jesus Condemned to Die Because of Us

This penultimate chapter of Matthew is powerful in so many ways, much of which is likely lost on us because we’re too familiar with the story. The way Matthew tells it, with an unembellished simplicity, contributes to its emotional narrative force. But we can also miss the profound because of the simplicity, as when something is stated in a few words, and he moves on. All the gospels are like this more or less because of the space limitations of the writing technology available to the authors. Yet the condensed telling of Jesus’ last day on earth as he finally accomplishes his mission is emotionally wrenching, especially for those of us who know it was our sin that required Jesus’s suffering, and motivated him to endure it. As the writer to the Hebrews put it:

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

My Christian brother or sister, we are that joy! I know, it’s crazy, but true. Now on to chapter 27.

The first portion of the chapter shows us we might have been a bit harsh in our initial judgment of Judas and his betrayal. Matthew seemed to say that Judas was simply motivated by greed. But here when he learns that the Jewish leaders sentenced Jesus to death he was “seized with remorse.” We can only speculate about what he was thinking, but I’d guess as was typical of all Jews at the time, he likely thought Jesus was a political Messiah. Throwing off Roman oppression and restoring Israel to its Davidic glory was what the Messiah was supposed to do, not get sentenced to death by the Jewish religious leaders. He probably thought he would help move things along to get to the finale, which he did, but it was not the finale he, nor anyone else, expected.

After expressing his remorse and throwing back the 30 pieces of silver, he realizes he’s messed up: “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” But unlike Peter, who somehow saw a bigger picture and eventually received the forgiveness the cross made available to us all, Judas remorse didn’t lead to repentance, but self-pity. We can only conjecture about his mental and emotional state because Matthew simply says, “Then he went away and hanged himself,” and the money was used to buy a potter’s field (a burial place for strangers and the friendless poor) in yet another fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. 

Next we move to Jesus before Pilate. The Jews had no authority to kill Jesus, so they had to take him before their Roman rulers. He asks him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Why this question? The Jews wanted Jesus dead because of blasphemy, but Pilate had no interest in their internal religious squabbles. If Jesus, however, was a political threat to the Roman empire, that was a different story. He doesn’t answer Pilate’s questions, or any of the charges the religious leaders bring against him, and Pilate is surprised by that. He can see that the pathetic man standing before him is innocent, especially when his wife pleads with him because of a dream to let Jesus go. But that’s not to be. He tries to get him released by telling the crowd according to the custom he can free a prisoner during the Feast (Passover), but they choose Barabbas, whom Matthew calls “notorious.”

When Pilate asks the crowd what Crime Jesus has committed, they shout, “Crucify him.” When Pilate relents and “washed his hands” of the decision and declares himself “innocent of this man’s blood,” Matthew writes words that have contributed to antisemitism for most of the last 2000 years:

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

While those particular Jews, and Pilate, were not innocent in this process leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, it it our sin that put him there. We are every bit as guilty as these were, and because of that can our guilt be washed away by Jesus’ blood. Then Matthew simply tells us that Pilate “had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” As he told us at the beginning of his gospel, he came to save his people from their sins, and now he is going to accomplish it.