September 9, 2012
INTRODUCTION – Today we continue our journey through the passion or suffering of Jesus Christ that started in ch. 26. I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to Matthew 27; and we are going to start with vs. 33 first looking at Jesus’s refusal to drink the spiked wine.
I. vs. 33,34 Jesus’s refusal of the spiked wine By this point, Jesus had experienced multiple interrogations/trials, beatings, and that unspeakable flesh tearing scourging, all without any meals or water breaks in between. He had lost lots of blood, especially after the 39 lashes; and had to be in terrible pain, extremely thirsty and hungry, though eating was probably the least of His concerns. This by the way is why they had to enlist Simon to carry His cross (vs. 32). So when Jesus arrived to the place called Golgotha, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. The question is why? And what was the purpose of mixing the gall with the wine?
Barclay informs us in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew that typically before the Roman soldiers began to nail a person’s hands and feet to the cross – in order to deaden the pain, the criminal was given a drink of drugged wine, prepared by a group of wealthy women from Jerusalem as an act of mercy. An ancient Jewish writing says, “When a man is going out to be killed, they allow him to drink a grain of frankincense in a cup of wine to deaden his senses..”
Jesus tasted it, but perhaps after sensing the wine was laced with drugs, He refused it – probably because He knew this suffering was His to bear, and He didn’t feel the Father’s pleasure in lessening the pain of it with drugs.
II. vs. 35-37 The clothes of the King Typically in Roman crucifixions, the criminals were crucified naked except for a small loin cloth wrapped around their mid section. Once the cross was in place, with Jesus hanging from it, the soldiers cast lots to see which of them would get which article of His clothing. Being lost in their sins and enslaved to the dominion of darkness, these soldiers had no idea of the significance of this history shaping event or who they were dealing with. To them it was just another execution.
John in his gospel informs us that the chief priests were upset that the inscription above the cross was stated more as a matter of fact than something that Jesus claimed. They knew that many would pass by and see it – because of its proximity to the city, and might ponder its significance – written the way it was written. But Pilate refused to change it.
III. vs. 38-44 Verbal abuse from passersby, chief priests, scribes, elders, robbers
Sandwiched between two men who actually deserved their punishment, Jesus began to receive a steady barrage of verbal abuse and scorn – both from those passing by as well as the chief priests, scribes and elders – – to the point where even the robbers on both side of Him joined in the madness. I find it interesting how at least two of the mockers – mocked Him for His claim that He was the Son of God – as you see in both vs. 40 & vs. 43.
You can reject Jesus’s claim as these fools did; but you cannot intelligently contend that He never claimed to be the Son of God. The historical accounts clearly show that He made this claim over and over.
IV. vs. 45-54 Jesus’s cries and the response of those in earshot From noon to 3:00 p.m. – a time when the sun typically was at is brightest – – darkness covered that region. This was not a fog incident like we have here in Los Osos, where the fog rolls in and it gets kind of gloomy. This was a God caused event wherein – in the middle of the day – people had to light candles to be able to see. It was as dark at noon as it was at midnight. The question is why? My sense is God wanted to illustrate what the apostle John had communicated in his gospel about the common response to Jesus’s ministry, when He said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (Jn. 3:19) All of these scorners and mockers had rejected the Light, so God gave them full on darkness in the middle of the day.
Its very likely that 3 solid hours of utter darkness in the middle of the day had a very chilling effect on the unrestrained scorning and mocking. And thus at about 3:00 – when Jesus cried out with a loud voice – not to the people around Him, but to His Father, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” everyone stopped and listened to the horror or grief in Jesus’s voice. I say horror because Jesus not only had never in eternity touched or experienced sin and its dark evil effects, He also had never once in eternity experienced a millisecond of relational distance between Him and His Father – – but now because the will of His father and the salvation of mankind was at stake – – He experienced both.
That grief stricken cry was soon followed by His last cry – the cry of death, which again was not man centered, but instead was directed again to His Father.
As soon as His heart quit beating, Matthew says “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Please note that this happened before the earthquake and thus was not caused by the earthquake as some commentators have stated. The veil was torn from top to bottom by none other than God Himself – – so that everyone knew God Himself had brought an end to the old covenant; and through the death of His Son had inaugurated the new. He now is our Great High Priest. He now is the mercy seat. No longer is there a need for blood to be sprinkled in the temple and incense to be burned and daily or weekly sacrifices to be made. Jesus’s blood was sufficient and was an acceptable once for all sacrifice and fragrance before our holy God – the righteous judge. God’s rending of the veil was followed by many other miraculous signs that caused even these hardened macho soldiers to declare that Jesus was indeed the Son of God that He claimed to be.
V. vs. 55-56 Female followers of Jesus nearby While it was sad that Jesus’s 11 disciples had fled the scene, Matthew notes that “many women” refused to flee, and were nearby to witness all of these amazing events unfolding before their eyes. No doubt God is reminding we men that women are often a step ahead of us; and are a huge part of His kingdom plan and agenda for the nations.
VI. vs. 57-61 Joseph of Arimathea buries Him Lest we go too far in writing off all rich people because of Jesus’s warnings of what the love of money does to people, Matthew shows us here that there are some rich people who truly love and follow Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea was one of them.
VII. vs. 62-66 Establishing of guard around the tomb I’ll probably comment more on this passage when we discuss Jesus’s resurrection next time, but I did want to note that while the soldiers, the women and Joseph of Arimathea all expressed their faith in and love for Jesus, the chief priests and Pharisees were as hardened as ever, maligning Jesus as “that deceiver” instead of crying out to Him as their much needed deliverer.
CONCLUSION – If you – like the soldiers, the women and Joseph of Arimathea are willing to accept and profess Jesus as the one and only Son of God – – then this table is for you. He Himself invites you to come and commune with Him – – eating the bread that represents His body; and the juice that represents His spilled blood for the forgiveness of your sins.