Now when morning was come ( πρωιας δε γενομενης ). Genitive absolute. After dawn came the Sanhedrin held a formal meeting to condemn Jesus and so ratify the illegal trial during the night (Mr 15:1; Lu 22:66-71). Luke gives the details of this second ratification consultation. The phrase used,
took counsel ( συμβουλιον ελαβον ) is a Latin idiom (consilium ceperunt) for συνεβουλευσαντο.
Delivered him up to Pilate the governor ( παρεδωκαν Πειλατω τω ηγεμον ). What they had done was all a form and a farce. Pilate had the power of death, but they had greatly enjoyed the condemnation and the buffeting of Jesus now in their power bound as a condemned criminal. He was no longer the master of assemblies in the temple, able to make the Sanhedrin cower before him. He had been bound in the garden and was bound before Annas (Joh 18:12,24), but may have been unbound before Caiaphas.
Repented himself ( μεταμεληθεις ). Probably Judas saw Jesus led away to Pilate and thus knew that the condemnation had taken place. This verb (first aorist passive participle of μεταμελομα ) really means to be sorry afterwards like the English word repent from the Latin repoenitet, to have pain again or afterwards. See the same verb μεταμεληθεις in Mt 21:30 of the boy who became sorry and changed to obedience. The word does not have an evil sense in itself. Paul uses it of his sorrow for his sharp letter to the Corinthians, a sorrow that ceased when good came of the letter (2Co 7:8). But mere sorrow avails nothing unless it leads to change of mind and life ( μετανοια ), the sorrow according to God (2Co 7:9). This sorrow Peter had when he wept bitterly. It led Peter back to Christ. But Judas had only remorse that led to suicide.
See thou to it ( συ οψη ). Judas made a belated confession of his sin in betraying innocent blood to the Sanhedrin, but not to God, nor to Jesus. The Sanhedrin ignore the innocent or righteous blood ( αιμα αθωιον or δικαιον ) and tell Judas to look after his own guilt himself. They ignore also their own guilt in the matter. The use of συ οψη as a volitive future, an equivalent of the imperative, is commoner in Latin (tu videris) than in Greek, though the Koine shows it also. The sentiment is that of Cain (Grotius, Bruce).
Hanged himself ( απηγξατο ). Direct middle. His act was sudden after he hurled the money into the sanctuary ( εις τον ναον ), the sacred enclosure where the priests were. The motives of Judas in the betrayal were mixed as is usually the case with criminals. The money cut a small figure with him save as an expression of contempt as the current price of a slave.
Into the treasury ( εις τον κορβαναν ). Josephus (War II. 9,4) uses this very word for the sacred treasury. Korban is Aramaic for gift ( δωρον ) as is plain in Mr 7:11. The price of blood (blood-money) was pollution to the treasury (De 23:18f.). So they took the money out and used it for a secular purpose. The rabbis knew how to split hairs about Korban (Mr 7:1-23; Mt 15:1-20), but they balk at this blood-money.
The potter's field ( του αγρου του κεραμεως ). Grotius suggests that it was a small field where potter's clay was obtained, like a brickyard (Broadus). Otherwise we do not know why the name exists. In Ac 1:18 we have another account of the death of Judas by bursting open (possibly falling after hanging himself) after he obtained the field by the wages of iniquity. But it is possible that εκτησατο there refers to the rabbinical use of Korban, that the money was still that of Judas though he was dead and so he really "acquired" the field by his blood-money.
The field of blood ( αγρος αιματος ). This name was attached to it because it was the price of blood and that is not inconsistent with Ac 1:18f. Today potter's field carries the idea here started of burial place for strangers who have no where else to lie ( εις ταφην τοις ξενοις ), probably at first Jews from elsewhere dying in Jerusalem. In Ac 1:19 it is called
place of blood ( χωριον αιματος ) for the reason that Judas' blood was shed there, here because it was purchased by blood money. Both reasons could be true.
By Jeremiah the prophet ( δια Ιερεμιου ). This quotation comes mainly from Zec 11:13 though not in exact language. In Jer 18:18 the prophet tells of a visit to a potter's house and in Jer 32:6ff. of the purchase of a field. It is in Zechariah that the thirty pieces of silver are mentioned. Many theories are offered for the combination of Zechariah and Jeremiah and attributing it all to Jeremiah as in Mr 1:2f. the quotation from Isaiah and Malachi is referred wholly to Isaiah as the more prominent of the two. Broadus and McNeile give a full discussion of the various theories from a mere mechanical slip to the one just given above. Matthew has here (27:10) "the field of the potter" ( εις τον αγρον του κεραμεως ) for "the potter the house of the Lord" in Zec 11:13. That makes it more parallel with the language of Mt 27:7.
Now Jesus stood before the governor ( ο δε Ιησους εσταθη εμπροσθεν του ηγεμονος ). Here is one of the dramatic episodes of history. Jesus stood face to face with the Roman governor. The verb εσταθη, not εστη (second aorist active), is first aorist passive and can mean "was placed" there, but he stood, not sat. The term ηγεμων (from ηγεομα, to lead) was technically a legatus Caesaris, an officer of the Emperor, more exactly procurator, ruler under the Emperor of a less important province than propraetor (as over Syria). The senatorial provinces like Achaia were governed by proconsuls. Pilate represented Roman law.
Art thou the King of the Jews? ( Συ ε ο βασιλευς των Ιουδαιων; ). This is what really mattered. Matthew does not give the charges made by the Sanhedrin (Lu 23:2) nor the private interview with Pilate (Joh 18:28-32). He could not ignore the accusation that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews. Else he could be himself accused to Caesar for disloyalty. Rivals and pretenders were common all over the empire. So here was one more. By his answer ( thou sayest ) Jesus confesses that he is. So Pilate has a problem on his hands. What sort of a king does this one claim to be?
Thou ( συ ) the King of the Jews?
And he gave him no answer, not even to one word ( κα ουκ απεκριθη αυτω προς ουδε εν ρημα ). Jesus refused to answer the charges of the Jews (verse 12). Now he continued silent under the direct question of Pilate. The Greek is very precise besides the double negative. "He did not reply to him up to not even one word." This silent dignity amazed Pilate and yet he was strangely impressed.
Barabbas or Jesus which is called Christ? ( Βαραββαν η Ιησουν τον λεγομενον Χριστον; ). Pilate was catching at straws or seeking any loophole to escape condemning a harmless lunatic or exponent of a superstitious cult such as he deemed Jesus to be, certainly in no political sense a rival of Caesar. The Jews interpreted "Christ" for Pilate to be a claim to be King of the Jews in opposition to Caesar, "a most unprincipled proceeding" (Bruce). So he bethought him of the time-honoured custom at the passover of releasing to the people "a prisoner whom they wished" ( δεσμιον ον ηθελον ). No parallel case has been found, but Josephus mentions the custom (Ant. xx. 9,3). Barabbas was for some reason a popular hero, a notable ( επισημον ), if not notorious, prisoner, leader of an insurrection or revolution (Mr 15:7) probably against Rome, and so guilty of the very crime that they tried to fasten on Jesus who only claimed to be king in the spiritual sense of the spiritual kingdom. So Pilate unwittingly pitted against each other two prisoners who represented the antagonistic forces of all time. It is an elliptical structure in the question, "whom do you wish that I release?" ( τινα θελετε απολυσω; ), either two questions in one (asyndeton) or the ellipse of ινα before απολυσω. See the same idiom in verse 21. But Pilate's question tested the Jews as well as himself. It tests all men today. Some manuscripts add the name Jesus to Barabbas and that makes it all the sharper. Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ?
For envy ( δια φθονον ). Pilate was dense about many things, but he knew that the Jewish leaders were jealous of the power of Jesus with the people. He may have heard of the events of the Triumphal Entry and the Temple Teaching. The envy, of course, came primarily from the leaders.
His wife ( η γυνη αυτου ). Poor Pilate was getting more entangled every moment as he hesitated to set Jesus free whom he knew to be free of any crime against Caesar. Just at the moment when he was trying to enlist the people in behalf of Jesus against the schemes of the Jewish leaders, his wife sent a message about her dream concerning Jesus. She calls Jesus "that righteous man" ( τω δικαιω εκεινω ) and her psychical sufferings increased Pilate's superstitious fears. Tradition names her Procla and even calls her a Christian which is not probable. But it was enough to unnerve the weak Pilate as he sat on the judgment-seat ( επ του βηματος ) up over the pavement.
Persuaded ( επεισαν ). The chief priests (Sadducees) and elders (Pharisees) saw the peril of the situation and took no chances. While Pilate wavered in pressing the question, they used all their arts to get the people to "ask for themselves" ( αιτησωντα, indirect middle ingressive aorist subjunctive) and to choose Barabbas and not Jesus.
What then shall I do unto Jesus which is called Christ? ( τ ουν ποιησω Ιησουν τον λεγομενον Χριστον; ). They had asked for Barabbas under the tutelage of the Sanhedrin, but Pilate pressed home the problem of Jesus with the dim hope that they might ask for Jesus also. But they had learned their lesson. Some of the very people who shouted "Hosannah" on the Sunday morning of the Triumphal Entry now shout
Let him be crucified ( σταυρωθητω ). The tide has now turned against Jesus, the hero of Sunday, now the condemned criminal of Friday. Such is popular favour. But all the while Pilate is shirking his own fearful responsibility and trying to hide his own weakness and injustice behind popular clamour and prejudice.
Why, what evil hath he done? ( τ γαρ κακον εποιησεν;). This was a feeble protest by a flickering conscience. Pilate descended to that level of arguing with the mob now inflamed with passion for the blood of Jesus, a veritable lynching fiasco. But this exhibition of weakness made the mob fear refusal by Pilate to proceed. So they "kept crying exceedingly" ( περισσως εκραζον, imperfect tense of repeated action and vehemently) their demand for the crucifixion of Jesus. It was like a gladiatorial show with all thumbs turned down.
Washed his hands ( απενιψατο τας χειρας ). As a last resort since the hubbub ( θορυβος ) increased because of his vacillation. The verb απονιπτω means to wash off and the middle voice means that he washed off his hands for himself as a common symbol of cleanliness and added his pious claim with a slap at them.
I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man (or
this blood );
see ye to it . ( Αθωιος ειμ απο του αιματος του δικαιου τουτου or του αιματος τουτου as some manuscripts have it, υμεις οψεσθε.) The Jews used this symbol (De 21:6; Ps 26:6; 73:13). Plummer doubts if Pilate said these words with a direct reference to his wife's message (26:19), but I fail to see the ground for that scepticism. The so-called Gospel of Peter says that Pilate washed his hands because the Jews refused to do so.
His blood be upon us and upon our children ( το αιμα αυτου κα επ τα τεκνα ημων ). These solemn words do show a consciousness that the Jewish people recognized their guilt and were even proud of it. But Pilate could not wash away his own guilt that easily. The water did not wash away the blood of Jesus from his hands any more than Lady Macbeth could wash away the blood-stains from her lily-white hands. One legend tells that in storms on Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland his ghost comes out and still washes his hands in the storm-clouds. There was guilt enough for Judas, for Caiaphas and for all the Sanhedrin both Sadducees and Pharisees, for the Jewish people as a whole ( πας ο λαος ), and for Pilate. At bottom the sins of all of us nailed Jesus to the Cross. This language is no excuse for race hatred today, but it helps explain the sensitiveness between Jew and Christians on this subject. And Jews today approach the subject of the Cross with a certain amount of prejudice.
Scourged ( φραγελλωσας ). The Latin verb flagellare. Pilate apparently lost interest in Jesus when he discovered that he had no friends in the crowd. The religious leaders had been eager to get Jesus condemned before many of the Galilean crowd friendly to Jesus came into the city. They had apparently succeeded. The scourging before the crucifixion was a brutal Roman custom. The scourging was part of the capital punishment. Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, p. 269) quotes a Florentine papyrus of the year 85 A.D. wherein G. Septimius Vegetus, governor of Egypt, says of a certain Phibion: "Thou hadst been worthy of scourging ... but I will give thee to the people."
Into the palace ( εις το πραιτωριον ). In Rome the praetorium was the camp of the praetorian (from praetor) guard of soldiers (Php 1:13), but in the provinces it was the palace in which the governor resided as in Ac 23:35 in Caesarea. So here in Jerusalem Pilate ordered Jesus and all the band or cohort ( ολην την σπειραν ) of soldiers to be led into the palace in front of which the judgment-seat had been placed. The Latin spira was anything rolled into a circle like a twisted ball of thread. These Latin words are natural here in the atmosphere of the court and the military environment. The soldiers were gathered together for the sport of seeing the scourging. These heathen soldiers would also enjoy showing their contempt for the Jews as well as for the condemned man.
A scarlet robe ( χλαμυδα κοκκινην ). A kind of short cloak worn by soldiers, military officers, magistrates, kings, emperors (2Macc. 12:35; Josephus, Ant. V. 1,10), a soldier's sagum or scarf. Carr (Cambridge Gk. Test.) suggests that it may have been a worn-out scarf of Pilate's. The scarlet colour ( κοκκινην ) was a dye derived from the female insect ( κερμες ) which gathered on the ιλεξ χοχχιφερα found in Palestine. These dried clusters of insects look like berries and form the famous dye. The word occurs in Plutarch, Epictetus, Herodas, and late papyri besides the Septuagint and New Testament. Mark (Mr 15:17) has "purple" ( πορφυραν ). There are various shades of purple and scarlet and it is not easy to distinguish these colours or tints. The manuscripts vary here between "stripped" ( εκδυσαντες ) and "clothed" ( ενδυσαντες ). He had been stripped for the scourging. If "clothed" is correct, the soldiers added the scarlet (purple) mantle. Herodotus (iii. 139) relates that Darius richly rewarded a Samian exile for a rare scarlet robe which he obtained from him. This scarlet mantle on Jesus was mock imitation of the royal purple.
A crown of thorns ( στεφανον εξ ακανθων ). They wove a crown out of thorns which would grow even in the palace grounds. It is immaterial whether they were young and tender thorn bushes, as probable in the spring, or hard bushes with sharp prongs. The soldiers would not care, for they were after ridicule and mockery even if it caused pain. It was more like a victor's garland ( στεφανον ) than a royal diadem ( διαδημα ), but it served the purpose. So with the reed ( καλαμον ), a stalk of common cane grass which served as sceptre. The soldiers were familiar with the Ave Caesar and copy it in their mockery of Jesus:
Hail, King of the Jews ( χαιρε, Βασιλευ των Ιουδαιων ). The soldiers added the insults used by the Sanhedrin (Mt 26:67), spitting on him and smiting him with the reed. Probably Jesus had been unbound already. At any rate the garments of mockery were removed before the via dolorosa to the cross (verse 31).
Compelled ( ηγγαρευσαν ). This word of Persian origin was used in Mt 5:41, which see. There are numerous papyri examples of Ptolemaic date and it survives in modern Greek vernacular. So the soldiers treat Simon of Cyrene (a town of Libya) as a Persian courier ( αγγαρος ) and impress him into service, probably because Jesus was showing signs of physical weakness in bearing his own Cross as the victims had to do, and not as a mere jest on Simon. "Gethsemane, betrayal, the ordeal of the past sleepless night, scourging, have made the flesh weak" (Bruce). Yes, and the burden of sin of the world that was breaking his heart.
His cross ( τον σταυρον αυτου ). Jesus had used the term cross about himself (16:24). It was a familiar enough picture under Roman rule. Jesus had long foreseen and foretold this horrible form of death for himself (Mt 20:19; 23:24; 26:2). He had heard the cry of the mob to Pilate that he be crucified (27:22) and Pilate's surrender (27:26) and he was on the way to the Cross (27:31). There were various kinds of crosses and we do not know precisely the shape of the Cross on which Jesus was crucified, though probably the one usually presented is correct. Usually the victim was nailed (hands and feet) to the cross before it was raised and it was not very high. The crucifixion was done by the soldiers (27:35) in charge and two robbers were crucified on each side of Jesus, three crosses standing in a row (27:38).
Golgotha ( Γολγοθα ). Chaldaic or Aramaic Gulgatha, Hebrew Gulgoleth, place of a skull-shaped mount, not place of skulls. Latin Vulgate Calvariae locus, hence our Calvary. Tyndale misunderstood it as a place of dead men's skulls. Calvary or Golgotha is not the traditional place of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, but a place outside of the city, probably what is now called Gordon's Calvary, a hill north of the city wall which from the Mount of Olives looks like a skull, the rock-hewn tombs resembling eyes in one of which Jesus may have been buried.
Wine mingled with gall ( οινον μετα χολης μεμιγμενον ). Late MSS. read
vinegar ( οξος ) instead of wine and Mark (Mr 15:23) has myrrh instead of gall. The myrrh gave the sour wine a better flavour and like the bitter gall had a narcotic and stupefying effect. Both elements may have been in the drink which Jesus tasted and refused to drink. Women provided the drink to deaden the sense of pain and the soldiers may have added the gall to make it disagreeable. Jesus desired to drink to the full the cup from his Father's hand (Joh 18:11).
Watched him there ( ετηρουν αυτον εκε ). Imperfect tense descriptive of the task to prevent the possibility of rescue or removal of the body. These rough Roman soldiers casting lots over the garments of Christ give a picture of comedy at the foot of the Cross, the tragedy of the ages.
His accusation ( την αιτιαν αυτου ). The title ( τιτλος, Joh 19:19) or placard of the crime (the inscription, ε επιγραφη ) which was carried before the victim or hung around his neck as he walked to execution was now placed above ( επ' ανω ) the head of Jesus on the projecting piece ( χρυξ ιμμυρυς ). This inscription gave the name and home,
Jesus of Nazareth , and the charge on which he was convicted,
the King of the Jews and the identification,
This is . The four reports all give the charge and vary in the others. The inscription in full was: This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. The three languages are mentioned only by John (Joh 19:20), Latin for law, Hebrew (Aramaic) for the Jews, Greek for everybody. The accusation (charge, cause, αιτια ) correctly told the facts of the condemnation.
Robbers ( ληιστα ). Not thieves ( κλεπτα ) as in Authorized Version. See Mt 26:55. These two robbers were probably members of the band of Barabbas on whose cross Jesus now hung.
Wagging their heads ( κινουντες τας κεφαλας αυτων ). Probably in mock commiseration. "Jews again appear on the scene, with a malice like that shewn in the trial before the Sanhedrin" (McNeile). "To us it may seem incredible that even his worst enemies could be guilty of anything so brutal as to hurl taunts at one suffering the agonies of crucifixion" (Bruce). These passers-by ( παρατηρουμενο ) look on Jesus as one now down and out. They jeer at the fallen foe.
If thou art the Son of God ( ε υιος ε του θεου ). More exactly, "If thou art a son of God," the very language of the devil to Jesus (Mt 4:3) in the early temptations, now hurled at Jesus under the devil's prompting as he hung upon the Cross. There is allusion, of course, to the claim of Jesus under oath before the Sanhedrin "the Son of God" ( ο υιος του θεου ) and a repetition of the misrepresentation of his words about the temple of his body. It is a pitiful picture of human depravity and failure in the presence of Christ dying for sinners.
The chief priests mocking ( ο αρχιερεις εμπαιζοντες ). The Sanhedrin in fact, for "the scribes and elders" are included. The word for mocking ( εμπαιζοντεσ, εν, and παιζω, from παις, child) means acting like silly children who love to guy one another. These grave and reverend seniors had already given vent to their glee at the condemnation of Jesus by themselves (Mt 26:67f.).
He saved others; himself he cannot save ( αλλους εσωσεν; εαυτον ου δυνατα σωσα ). The sarcasm is true, though they do not know its full significance. If he had saved himself now, he could not have saved any one. The paradox is precisely the philosophy of life proclaimed by Jesus himself (Mt 10:39).
Let him now come down ( καταβατω νυν ). Now that he is a condemned criminal nailed to the Cross with the claim of being "the King of Israel" (the Jews) over his head. Their spiteful assertion that they would then believe upon Jesus ( επ' αυτον ) is plainly untrue. They would have shifted their ground and invented some other excuse. When Jesus wrought his greatest miracles, they wanted "a sign from heaven." These "pious scoffers" (Bruce) are like many today who make factitious and arbitrary demands of Christ whose character and power and deity are plain to all whose eyes are not blinded by the god of this world. Christ will not give new proofs to the blind in heart.
Let him deliver him now ( ρυσασθω νυν ). They add the word "now" to Ps 21; 22:8. That is the point of the sneer at Christ's claim to be God's son thrown in his teeth again and at the willingness and power of God to help his "son." The verb θελω here may mean
love as in the Septuagint (Ps 18:20; 41:12) or "cares for" (Moffatt), "gin he cares ocht for him" (Braid Scots).
The robbers also ( κα ο ληιστα ). Probably "even the robbers" (Weymouth) who felt a momentary superiority to Jesus thus maligned by all. So the inchoative imperfect ωνειδιζον means "began to reproach him."
From the sixth hour ( απο εκτης ωρας ). Curiously enough McNeile takes this to mean the trial before Pilate (Joh 18:14). But clearly John uses Roman time, writing at the close of the century when Jewish time was no longer in vogue. It was six o'clock in the morning Roman time when the trial occurred before Pilate. The crucifixion began at the third hour (Mr 15:25) Jewish time or nine A.M. The darkness began at noon, the sixth hour Jewish time and lasted till 3 P.M. Roman time, the ninth hour Jewish time (Mr 15:33; Mt 27:45; Lu 23:44). The dense darkness for three hours could not be an eclipse of the sun and Luke (Lu 23:45) does not so say, only "the sun's light failing." Darkness sometimes precedes earthquakes and one came at this time or dense masses of clouds may have obscured the sun's light. One need not be disturbed if nature showed its sympathy with the tragedy of the dying of the Creator on the Cross (Ro 8:22), groaning and travailing until now.
My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? ( Θεε μου, θεε μου, ινα τ με εγκατελιπεσ; ). Matthew first transliterates the Aramaic, according to the Vatican manuscript (B), the words used by Jesus: Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthanei; Some of the MSS. give the transliteration of these words from Ps 22:1 in the Hebrew (Eli, Eli, lama Zaphthanei). This is the only one of the seven sayings of Christ on the Cross given by Mark and Matthew. The other six occur in Luke and John. This is the only sentence of any length in Aramaic preserved in Matthew, though he has Aramaic words like amen, corban, mammon, pascha, raca, Satan, Golgotha. The so-called Gospel of Peter preserves this saying in a Docetic (Cerinthian) form: "My power, my power, thou hast forsaken me!" The Cerinthian Gnostics held that the aeon Christ came on the man Jesus at his baptism and left him here on the Cross so that only the man Jesus died. Nothing from Jesus so well illustrates the depth of his suffering of soul as he felt himself regarded as sin though sinless (2Co 5:21). Joh 3:16 comes to our relief here as we see the Son of God bearing the sin of the world. This cry of desolation comes at the close of the three hours of darkness.
Gave him to drink ( εποτιζεν ). Imperfect of conative action,
offered him a drink of vinegar on the sponge on a reed. Others interrupted this kindly man, but Jesus did taste this mild stimulant (Joh 19:30) for he thirsted (Joh 19:28).
Whether Elijah cometh to save him ( ε ερχετα Ελειας σωσων αυτον ). The excuse had a pious sound as they misunderstood the words of Jesus in his outcry of soul anguish. We have here one of the rare instances ( σωσων ) of the future participle to express purpose in the N.T. though a common Greek idiom. Some ancient MSS. add here what is genuine in Joh 19:34, but what makes complete wreck of the context for in verse 50 Jesus cried with a loud voice and was not yet dead in verse 49. It was a crass mechanical copying by some scribe from Joh 19:34. See full discussion in my Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the N.T.
Yielded up his spirit ( αφηκεν το πνευμα ). The loud cry may have been Ps 31:5 as given in Lu 23:46: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." John (Joh 19:30) gives
It is finished ( τετελεστα ), though which was actually last is not clear. Jesus did not die from slow exhaustion, but with a loud cry.
He breathed out ( εξεπνευσεν, Mr 15:37),
sent back his spirit (Mt 27:50),
gave up his spirit ( παρεδωκεν το πνευμα, Joh 19:30). "He gave up his life because he willed it, when he willed it, and as he willed it" (Augustine). Stroud (Physical Cause of the Death of Christ) considers the loud cry one of the proofs that Jesus died of a ruptured heart as a result of bearing the sin of the world.
Was rent ( εσχισθη ). Both Mark (Mr 15:38) and Luke (Lu 23:45) mention also this fact. Matthew connects it with the earthquake, "the earth did quake" ( η γη εσεισθη ). Josephus (War VI. 299) tells of a quaking in the temple before the destruction and the Talmud tells of a quaking forty years before the destruction of the temple. Allen suggests that "a cleavage in the masonry of the porch, which rent the outer veil and left the Holy Place open to view, would account for the language of the Gospels, of Josephus, and of the Talmud." This veil was a most elaborately woven fabric of seventy-two twisted plaits of twenty-four threads each and the veil was sixty feet long and thirty wide. The rending of the veil signified the removal of the separation between God and the people (Gould).
The tombs were opened ( τα μνημεια ανεωιχθησαν ). First aorist passive indicative (double augment). The splitting of the rocks by the earthquake and the opening of tombs can be due to the earthquake. But the raising of the bodies of the dead after the resurrection of Jesus which appeared to many in the holy city puzzles many today who admit the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus. Some would brand all these portents as legends since they appear in Matthew alone. Others would say that "after his resurrection" should read "after their resurrection," but that would make it conflict with Paul's description of Christ as the first fruits of them that sleep (1Co 15:20). Some say that Jesus released these spirits after his descent into Hades. So it goes. We come back to miracles connected with the birth of Jesus, God's Son coming into the world. If we grant the possibility of such manifestations of God's power, there is little to disturb one here in the story of the death of God's Son.
Truly this was the Son of God ( αληθως θεου υιος ην ουτος ). There is no article with God or Son in the Greek so that it means "God's Son," either "the Son of God" or "a Son of God." There is no way to tell. Evidently the centurion ( εκατονταρχος here, ruler of a hundred, Latin word kenturion in Mr 15:39) was deeply moved by the portents which he had witnessed. He had heard the several flings at Jesus for claiming to be the Son of God and may even have heard of his claim before the Sanhedrin and Pilate. How much he meant by his words we do not know, but probably he meant more than merely "a righteous man" (Lu 23:47). Petronius is the name given this centurion by tradition. If he was won now to trust in Christ, he came as a pagan and, like the robber who believed, was saved as Jesus hung upon the Cross. All who are ever saved in truth are saved because of the death of Jesus on the Cross. So the Cross began to do its work at once.
Many women ( γυναικες πολλα ). We have come to expect the women from Galilee to be faithful, last at the Cross and first at the tomb. Luke (Lu 23:49) says that "all his acquaintance" ( παντες ο γνωστο αυτω ) stood at a distance and saw the end. One may hope that the apostles were in that sad group. But certainly many women were there. The Mother of Jesus had been taken away from the side of the Cross by the Beloved Disciple to his own home (Joh 19:27). Matthew names three of the group by name. Mary Magdalene is mentioned as a well-known person though not previously named in Matthew's Gospel. Certainly she is not the sinful woman of Lu 7 nor Mary of Bethany. There is another Mary, the mother of James and Joseph (Joses) not otherwise known to us. And then there is the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John), usually identified with Salome (Mr 15:40). These noble and faithful women were "beholding from afar" ( απο μακροθεν θεωρουσα ). These three women may have drawn nearer to the Cross for Mary the Mother of Jesus stood beside the Cross ( παρα τω σταυρω ) with Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene (Joh 19:25) before she left. They had once ministered unto Jesus ( διακονουσα αυτω ) and now he is dead. Matthew does not try to picture the anguish of heart of these noble women nor does he say as Luke (Lu 23:48) does that "they returned smiting their breasts." He drops the curtain on that saddest of all tragedies as the loyal band stood and looked at the dead Christ on Golgotha. What hope did life now hold for them?
And when even was come ( οψιας δε γενομενης ). It was the Preparation ( παρασκευη ), the day before the sabbath (Mr 15:42; Lu 23:54; Joh 31:42). Παρασκευη is the name in modern Greek today for Friday. The Jews were anxious that these bodies should be taken down before the sabbath began at 6 P.M. The request of Joseph of Arimathea for the body of Jesus was a relief to Pilate and to the Jews also. We know little about this member of the Sanhedrin save his name Joseph, his town Arimathea, that he was rich, a secret disciple, and had not agreed to the death of Jesus. Probably he now wished that he had made an open profession. But he has courage now when others are cowardly and asked for the personal privilege ( ηιτησατο, middle voice, asked for himself) of placing the body of Jesus in his new tomb. Some today identify this tomb with one of the rock tombs now visible under Gordon's Calvary. It was a mournful privilege and dignity that came to Joseph and Nicodemus (Joh 19:39-41) as they wrapped the body of Jesus in clean linen cloth and with proper spices placed it in this fresh ( καινω ) tomb in which no body had yet been placed. It was cut in the rock ( ελατομησεν ) for his own body, but now it was for Jesus. But now (verse 60) he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and departed. That was for safety. But two women had watched the sad and lonely ceremony, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (mother of James and Joseph). They were sitting opposite and looking in silence.
Sir, we remember ( κυριε, εμνεσθημεν ). This was the next day, on our Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, the day after the Preparation (Mt 27:62). Ingressive aorist indicative, we have just recalled. It is objected that the Jewish rulers would know nothing of such a prediction, but in Mt 12:40 he expressly made it to them. Meyer scouts as unhistorical legend the whole story that Christ definitely foretold his resurrection on the third day. But that is to make legendary much of the Gospels and to limit Jesus to a mere man. The problem remains why the disciples forgot and the Jewish leaders remembered. But that is probably due on the one hand to the overwhelming grief of the disciples coupled with the blighting of all their hopes of a political Messiah in Jesus, and on the other hand to the keen nervous fear of the leaders who dreaded the power of Jesus though dead. They wanted to make sure of their victory and prevent any possible revival of this pernicious heresy.
That deceiver ( εκεινος ο πλανος ) they call him, a vagabond wanderer ( πλανος ) with a slur in the use of
that ( εκεινος ), a picturesque sidelight on their intense hatred of and fear of Jesus.
The last error ( η εσχατη πλανη ). The last delusion, imposture (Weymouth), fraud (Moffatt). Latin error is used in both senses, from errare, to go astray. The first fraud was belief in the Messiahship of Jesus, the second belief in his resurrection.
Make it as sure as you can ( ασφαλισασθε ως οιδατε ). "Make it secure for yourselves (ingressive aorist middle) as you know how."
Have a guard ( εχετε κουστωδιαν ), present imperative, a guard of Roman soldiers, not mere temple police. The Latin term koustodia occurs in an Oxyrhynchus papyrus of A.D. 22. "The curt permission to the Jews whom he despised is suitable in the mouth of the Roman official" (McNeile).
Sealing the stone, the guard being with them ( σφραγισαντης τον λιθον μετα της κουστωδιας ). Probably by a cord stretched across the stone and sealed at each end as in Da 6:17. The sealing was done in the presence of the Roman guard who were left in charge to protect this stamp of Roman authority and power. They did their best to prevent theft and the resurrection (Bruce), but they overreached themselves and provided additional witness to the fact of the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus (Plummer).
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