Matthew chapter 27

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What does Matthew chapter 27 mean?

The events of Matthew 27 all take place in a single, exhausting day, during which the Son of God will die.

The council that condemned Jesus the night before had not followed official procedure. Part of their error was not passing a death sentence during the day. To meet the letter of the law, they meet once more after sunrise to make it official. Jesus is tied up and marched over to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. The Jewish religious leaders need him to sentence Jesus to death, since they do not have the authority to do so on their own (Matthew 27:1–2).

Meanwhile, Judas has changed his mind. When he hears that Jesus has been condemned, he takes the 30 pieces of silver back to the leaders who paid him to betray Jesus. He admits that Jesus is innocent, but they don't care. Jesus' enemies are certainly not going to admit that they've bribed anyone. Judas helplessly throws the money down and leaves to commit suicide. The chief priests and elders use the money to buy a field for burying foreigners in Israel (Matthew 27:3–10).

Pilate asks Jesus directly if He is the King of the Jews. Jesus affirms, "You have said so." Other than this, Jesus has little to say in His own defense. John's account adds details showing how Pilate investigates Jesus' claims to be a "King," and finds them harmless (John 18:33–38). Jewish religious leaders heap accusations on Christ, attempting to secure a death sentence. Pilate is amazed that Jesus won't answer. In part, he might hope Jesus will dispute the charges enough to convict the religious leaders of deceit. Jesus knows this would be pointless and says almost nothing (Matthew 27:11–14).

It was custom for Pilate to release a prisoner to the people at Passover every year. This is likely an attempt to outmaneuver the manipulating religious leaders. Part of Pilate's caution might be superstition, as his wife warns about a dream she has had. Pilate assumes the people would rather see a controversial teacher be set free, rather than a convicted murderer. He has not found anything to charge Jesus with, and he knows that the Jewish religious leaders want Jesus killed out of envy and not because of any legitimate crime against Rome. Offering a confirmed insurrectionist would strain their claims against Jesus. He does not realize the mob is being directed by Jesus' enemies (Matthew 27:15–20).

The Roman governor gives the crowds a choice: Jesus or Barabbas. Spurred on by Jerusalem's religious leaders, they shout for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate finally gives in to this pressure, though he does not believe Jesus is guilty. In a pointless attempt to avoid responsibility for Jesus' death, he symbolically washes his hands. The frenzied mob, coached by Jerusalem's leaders, carelessly brush off the seriousness of what is happening. Jesus is viciously humiliated by Roman soldiers, beaten again, and taken away to be crucified (Matthew 27:21–31).

Crucifixion victims were often made to carry their own cross, though usually this was just the horizontal beam. That, itself, could be anywhere from 35 pounds—or 16 kilograms—to the size of a railroad tie. Since Jesus was horribly mutilated beforehand, He can't keep pace with the other prisoners (John 19:1–4). Taking advantage of Roman law (Matthew 5:41), the soldiers force an innocent bystander to drag the cross the rest of the way (Matthew 27:32).

On the cross, at a place called Golgotha, Jesus refuses to drink a bitter wine. This was probably a sedative, and Jesus does not want His mind dulled. The soldiers split up His clothes and gamble over the last piece. A sign over Jesus' head carries the crime for which He is "officially" being executed: being "King" of the Jews. People passing by, including several Jewish religious leaders, mock Jesus for not being able to save Himself while claiming to be the Son of God. Even the criminals being crucified alongside Jesus make fun of Him (Matthew 27:33–44).

As this occurs, an unexplained darkness falls over Israel for about three hours. Jesus cries out in Aramaic, quoting the words of Psalm 22:1: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some misunderstand Jesus and think He is calling for the prophet Elijah to come and save Him. Finally, Jesus voluntarily gives up His spirit and dies. At that moment, the enormous curtain in the temple which symbolically separates men from the presence of God is ripped in two from top to bottom. A potent earthquake breaks open the graves of some of Israel's saints. Roman soldiers, filled with awe, fearfully declare that Jesus must have been divine (Matthew 27:45–54).

Joseph of Arimathea, a rich follower of Jesus, asks Pilate for Jesus' body. Pilate agrees, and Joseph buries the body in his own, never-used tomb. Pilate also agrees to the request of some Jewish religious leaders to post a guard at the tomb. Their intent is to keep the body from being stolen, preventing the disciples of Christ from faking a resurrection (Matthew 27:55–66).

In an ironic twist, the extra measures taken after Jesus' death succeed: they entirely rule out any possibility that someone may have stolen His corpse. When Jesus' tomb is found empty, it will be clear evidence of a miracle (Matthew 28:1–10).
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