Summary: Matthew's account of Jesus' Passion, as viewed from its own Biblical, historical and theological context.
A REVERENT ACCOUNT OF A HORRIFIC EVENT
It is quite remarkable that two acts within Matthew’s account of our Lord’s judicial murder are passed over quite without the gory details which our modern culture seems to demand. Each is referred to by a single word in the Greek, each of which is a participle in a subordinate clause. Roughly translated they would be: “having scourged” Jesus (Matthew 27:26); and “having crucified” Him (Matthew 27:35).
Perhaps we should follow Matthew’s example of reverent reticence, and not attempt to describe something so horrific. Rather, let us look at his account within its own Biblical, historical and theological context. Let us seek to understand (if it be possible) the significance of this event for ourselves.
Although Matthew does not use his usual formula of ‘That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet…’, this passage is full of Biblical allusions. To name but a few: there is the cry of dereliction (Psalm 22:1); mockery (Psalm 22:7); parting His garments among them (Psalm 22:18); vinegar mingled with gall (Psalm 69:21); and darkness in daytime (Amos 8:9). Jesus’ silence before His accusers is reminiscent of the lamb brought to the slaughter in Isaiah 53:7; Jesus’ death between criminals is His ‘being numbered with the transgressors’ (Isaiah 53:12).
The religious leaders and the world government were in cahoots to destroy Jesus. The crowd who had cried ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD’ (Matthew 21:9), was now baying for His blood and crying, “Let Him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:22). In order that we are in no doubt, they repeated these same words a second time (Matthew 27:23) - and took full responsibility for their action (Matthew 27:25).
The Governor “marvelled greatly” at Jesus (Matthew 27:14). The Governor’s wife, troubled by a dream, sent a message to say “Let there be nothing between you and that righteous (man)” (Matthew 27:19). The Governor argued with the fickle crowd that Jesus was “free of evil” (Matthew 27:23). Washing his hands and pronouncing his judgment that Jesus was “righteous” (Matthew 27:24), the Governor “delivered (Jesus) up that He might be crucified” (Matthew 27:26)!
The soldiers mocked and bullied Jesus (Matthew 27:28-30). The passers-by railed at Him (Matthew 27:39-40). The chief priests, scribes and elders also mocked Him (Matthew 27:41-43). Those who were crucified with Him reproached Him (Matthew 27:44).
Were YOU there when they crucified my Lord? We are all just as guilty.
Yet that is not the end of the matter.
The “notable” criminal named Barabbas (Matthew 27:16) could be any one of us. The release of this prisoner, and the “delivering up” of Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:26) signals the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death. Christ died for OUR sins, the just for the unjust, to bring US to God (cf. 1 Peter 3:18).
The significance of the veil in the Temple being rent in two, from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51), is that, through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, God Himself has made a way whereby all people might now approach Him (cf. Hebrews 10:19-20).
The opening of the tombs and subsequent resurrections (Matthew 27:52-53) mark Jesus’ conquest over death, and our own resurrection in Him.
The centurion’s pronouncement of Jesus being the Son of God (Matthew 27:54) is the first-fruits of many similar statements of faith to follow, down through the ages - including our own.