Gospel of Matthew

Matthew - Lesson 27A

Chapter 27:1-14

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  • Today, we move to Jesus’ second trial conducted by the Romans

    • Jesus has spent a sleepless night, first with His disciples at a Passover meal, then praying in the Garden and finally under arrest and at trial

      • The Jewish trial started with Annas, one of two high priests at that time, and then moved to Caiaphas, his replacement

      • These trials were shams, perversions of justice, that found an innocent man guilty of false charges 

      • But Jesus has submitted to this charade in keeping with the Father’s will to sacrifice His Son for the sins of the world

    • As the trial with Caiaphas ended, the Jewish authorities pronounced Jesus guilty of blasphemy, which was punishable by death

      • But the Romans did not allow the Jews to engage in capital punishment

      • So the Jewish authorities had to find a way to convince the Romans to put Jesus to death on their behalf  

      • The Jews had charged Jesus with blasphemy, but Romans couldn’t care less about a man blaspheming the Jewish God

      • So that necessitated the Jews accusing Jesus of a crime that was punishable by death under Roman law 

  • Therefore, our focus now shifts to the Romans and to the way the Jews manipulated the Roman authorities to bring Jesus to death 

    • And like the Jewish trial, the Roman trial took place in two different places under the authority of two different men

      • First, Jesus will stand before the Roman governor of the province of Judea, a man called Pilate

      • Pilate is the true power of the province, and ultimately he condemns Jesus to death and sends Jesus to the cross

    • But along the way, Pilate does his best to wash his hands of the whole affair, both figuratively and literally 

      • So at one point Pilate sends Jesus to another authority, Herod Antipas, the supposed king of the Jews at that time

      • Pilate hoped Herod would deal with Jesus in some way and leave Rome out of it, but in the end Herod just sends Jesus back

      • Jesus’ time before Herod is not recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, so we won’t cover it either in our study

      • You can study the details of Jesus’ movements between Pilate and Herod in Luke’s Gospel 

    • Throughout the back and forth, the Jewish leaders remain determined to see Jesus die

      • And eventually they succeed in prodding a weak and vacillating  Pilate into condemning Jesus against his better judgment 

      • Matthew gives us only a brief overview of Jesus’ time before Pilate, so we’ll expand on the details as we go through it

  • But before we get to the Roman trial, Matthew first returns to the subject of Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus in the Garden

Matt. 27:1 Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death;
Matt. 27:2 and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.
Matt. 27:3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Matt. 27:4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!”
Matt. 27:5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
  • Chapter 27 opens with morning dawning on the daytime of Passover, which was a Thursday morning in the year Jesus died, specifically April 10, 27 AD

    • Remember, Jewish days are counted sundown to sundown, so Passover began the night before at sundown on Wednesday 

      • On that evening, each family observed a Passover meal and ate their family lamb, which had been sacrificed earlier in the day 

      • Then the next morning on the daytime of Passover, a single, national sacrificial lamb would be offered in the temple at 9 AM

    • Only this year, there would be two national sacrifices taking place, one inside the temple and one outside the city 

      • According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus was placed on the cross on the “third hour,” using the Roman system for counting time or 9 AM

      • So as Jesus was nailed to the cross, at the same moment the national lamb died inside the temple

      • We’ll study more about that moment later

    • Meanwhile, the Jewish trial of Jesus before Annas and Caiaphas took place overnight during the pre-dawn hours of Thursday morning

      • And as that trial was ending and Jesus was being beaten in Caiaphas’ home, Peter stood outside denying he knew Jesus

      • But when Peter issued his third denial, Peter heard that rooster begin crowing nearby as Jesus promised

      • Roosters typically start crowing shortly before sunrise

      • So that tells us Jesus’ Jewish trial ended shortly before sunrise at about 6 AM or so

  • So it’s now roughly 6 AM on Thursday morning, the first hour of the Roman day, and in three hours Jesus will be on the cross

    • Jesus has spent the better part of five hours in the custody of the Jewish authorities before dawn, and now He’s beaten, bloodied and bound 

      • Jesus is marched from Caiaphas’ home in the upper district of Jerusalem to Pilate’s residence in the city

      • The Jews waited until daylight when Pilate was awake and in his office ready to receive visitors

    • Pilate normally lived in Caesarea, which was the seat of Roman government in Judea, located on the coast about 50 miles northwest

      • But during major feast days, Pilate would travel up to Jerusalem to be on hand in case of unrest in the city

      • Remember, Pilate’s primary responsibility was keeping the peace in Judea, and Romans had learned that ruling Jews wasn’t easy

      • As millions of Jews flooded the city and surrounding area for the major feasts each year, feelings of nationalism ran high 

      • And the Jewish tendency to riot at the drop of a hat greatly increased, so it didn’t take much to trigger unrest

  • To keep the peace, Pilate brought additional soldiers to the city for Passover, and set up his Praetorium, or headquarters, at the Antonian Fortress 

    • The Antonian Fortress was a Roman military fort that overlooked the Temple Mount in Jerusalem 

      • Herod the Great built it to house Roman military forces in the city as part of his overall expansion of the Jewish temple

      • Rome had installed Herod the Great as the king of the Jews, so Herod needed Roman military forces nearby to protect himself 

      • And on important feast days, like Passover, the fortress became the remote headquarters for the governor of the province

    • Therefore, on Passover each year, Pilate rose early and took his post in the fortress ready to deal with any rumor or charge of unrest quickly 

      • Pilate was determined to see Passover come and go uneventfully without any disruption to the peace

      • During the previous night, the religious leaders had gone to Pilate with Judas to accuse Jesus of insurrection

      • Based on Judas’ testimony, Pilate dispatched a cohort of solders to arrest Jesus that night

    • Now that morning has arrived, Pilate expects to see the prisoner presented to him so he can determine if the charges were true

      • That’s why the Jewish religious leaders conducted their trial of Jesus overnight, though Jewish law prohibited trials at night

      • They knew Pilate would demand to see Jesus early Thursday morning, so they only had the overnight hours to try Jesus

  • Now the Roman trial begins, and once again the Jewish authorities look to Judas expecting him to fulfill the second part of their bargain 

    • As I mentioned, the Jewish religious leaders would need more than a charge of blasphemy to persuade Pilate that Jesus should die

      • And that’s where Judas came in again…Judas was paid to testify against Jesus before Pilate saying He sought to be king of Israel, etc.

      • Judas wasn’t needed at the Jewish trial, of course, because the religious leaders could find any number of ways to trap Jesus 

      • But Judas’ testimony would be essential for the Roman trial…but at the last moment, their witness gets cold feet

  • In v.3 Matthew says that Judas observes the Jewish trials and when he hears the verdict, suddenly Judas realizes that he is being manipulated   

    • Judas recognizes that his testimony will be responsible for Jesus’ death sentence, and apparently that had not been Judas’ expectation

      • At this point, we wonder what did Judas think would happen to Jesus after Judas betrayed Him?

      • Perhaps Judas wasn’t really thinking at all, especially at the prospect of receiving more than a month’s wages 

    • But now the weight of Judas’ actions are coming to rest on his shoulders, so he feels remorse and decides he can’t go through with it

      • Some of our Bible translations use the word “repent” instead of remorse, but that is not the best translation of the Greek here

      • There are two different Greek words in the New Testament that can be translated as repent

      • One of those Greek words, metanoeo, is always used when describing godly repentance or a sincere change of heart 

    • But a second Greek word, metamelomai, describes worldly remorse in response to negative consequences

      • That’s the word used here to describe Judas’ reaction, so he’s feeling worldly remorse, not godly repentance 

      • Judas feels guilty for having sold out Jesus and he regrets the consequences that are now coming upon Jesus and himself 

      • So Judas goes to the religious leaders to return the money and back out of his agreement to testify against Jesus

  • In v.4 Judas recants his testimony before the religious leaders and says Jesus was innocent of the charges he made

    • Judas is expecting that by returning the money and recanting his testimony, he could put a halt to Jesus’ trial and reverse the damage 

      • But Judas is foolishly assuming that these religious authorities were motivated by truth and justice in the first place

      • Obviously, they had been manipulating Judas’ greedy heart from the beginning, and they aren’t about to let Judas off so quickly 

    • So much to Judas’ surprise, they respond by saying “What is that to us?

      • In effect they are saying the same thing that Pilate will say to Jesus in John’s Gospel: “What is truth?”

      • In other words, they will decide what is true and what is not true, not Judas

    • And then at the end of v.4 they say “See to that yourself” but a better translation would be  “you shall see,” meaning you will see this through

      • In other words, they tell Judas he will testify to Pilate just as he promised to do

      • And they are also implying a threat…because if Judas violated his word to them, they had the power to kill him also

  • So the religious leaders refuse to allow Judas to back out of his agreement and they warn him not to change his testimony 

    • But Judas will not back down, so in v.5 Judas throws his money into the temple sanctuary as a protest against their conspiracy and he leaves

      • But Judas faces a dilemma…if he testifies, he will assure the success of the religious leaders’ conspiracy against Jesus

      • On other hand, if he refuses to testify or recants his testimony on the stand, he knows he will likely be killed by the Jews 

      • So Judas takes the only escape he has – suicide – preferring to die by his own hand than to suffer crucifixion or stoning

    • Much has been written about Judas’ remorse and his choice to take his own life, and most of that conjecture ignores the context here

      • When we see Judas’ situation for what it was…an unbeliever caught in a conspiracy and outfoxed by evil men…

      • Then we can understand Judas’ response: he was trapped by his own bad choices and forced to choose the lessor of two evils

    • Judas was a devil, as Jesus says, who sought to make a quick buck but gave no thought to the consequences until it was too late

      • In that regard his story isn’t much different than any unbeliever’s life story…

      • Unbelievers live ignorant of the truth, manipulated by an unseen enemy, and unaware of the consequences until it’s too late

      • And then the only path remaining is death…eternal death

  • So what can we learn from Judas’ experience? Although he was an unbeliever, I think he offers a clear lesson for believers: you can’t compete with evil

    • If we allow ourselves to be drawn into the evil of the world, we will always come out the loser

      • Because there is always someone willing to be more evil than us

      • If we involve ourselves with the wrong people or allow ourselves to get tangled in sinful or illegal schemes, we will get burned

      • Eventually, we will be the one taken advantage of, we will be the one abused or manipulated, we will get hurt

    • You simply can’t compete with evil, because there is alway someone willing to be more evil than you and they will do so to your detriment

      • Judas thought he could swim with the sharks and make the system pay off 

      • But he was a fool and a stooge and in the end he lost the money and his life

      • Judas was certainly evil but he aligned himself with men who were far more evil and ruthless than he was prepared to be

    • And what of those religious leaders? They were certainly evil, but they too couldn’t compete with an even greater evil

      • The Jewish leaders aligned themselves with the Romans expecting to manipulate the Caesar and become rich

      • But in the end, the Romans were far more ruthless and evil than the religious leaders imagined

      • And in a few decades after Jesus died, the Romans burned Jerusalem to the ground and killed nearly 1 million Jews

      • And as a result, the Pharisees and Sadducees were wiped off the pages of history 

  • You cannot compete with evil, because there is always someone more evil than you, so the only way to avoid getting burned is to stay out of the competition

    • As Paul told us

2Tim. 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2Tim. 3:13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
  • Desire to live a godly life, but that doesn’t guarantee you will live a trouble-free life

    • On the contrary, we will all know persecution at some level because we seek to live for Jesus

    • But even those persecutions will have godly purpose in your life and the Lord will bring you through them 

  • But if we choose to play with evil and to live according to their standards and rule, we will find our lives moving from bad to worse

    • As we seek to deceive others for our purposes, then sooner or later we will be deceived as well

    • Just as Judas sought to deceive Rome but soon found himself deceived by his fellow Jews

    • Guard yourself from sinful desires, seek to live a godly life, and don’t try to compete with evil

  • Before we leave Judas’ story behind, Matthew gives us an interesting footnote concerning the 30 pieces of silver

Matt. 27:6 The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.”
Matt. 27:7 And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers.
Matt. 27:8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Matt. 27:9 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel;
  • The money Judas threw into the temple could not, by law, be kept by the priest since it was gained through a conspiracy 

    • As Matthew says in v.6, it was illegal for the Temple treasury to benefit from funds obtained through dishonest means

    • But since Judas was dead, the money couldn’t be returned to its owner either

  • So the priests decide to use the money to purchase a field near the city to be used to bury strangers, meaning travelers who died in the area

    • That field became known as Akeldama, a field of blood 

    • And Matthew tells us that this outcome fulfilled Scripture, quoting prophecies from both Jeremiah and Zechariah 

    • Once again, the evil of Judas’ heart was harnessed by God to fulfill Scripture and prove that the Lord is in control of this story

  • So now Jesus stands before Pilate in the Praetorium, and Pilate begins his interrogation of Jesus

Matt. 27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.”
Matt. 27:12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer.
Matt. 27:13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”
Matt. 27:14 And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.
  • Right away we can tell that Pilate isn’t very impressed with Jesus nor does he believe the charges of insurrection

    • Notice Pilate asks Jesus if indeed Jesus is king of the Jews?

    • Obviously, the religious leaders told Pilate of this charge, but without Judas to testify against Jesus, Pilate needs proof

    • So Pilate has no choice but to ask Jesus to confirm or deny the charges against Him

  • Now if Jesus had simply denied the charge, He would have been set free by Pilate, because there was no one to testify against Him

    • So just one denial from Jesus and this entire episode is over, which is why Scripture says Jesus remains silent

Is. 53:6  All of us like sheep have gone astray, 
Each of us has turned to his own way; 
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all 
To fall on Him.
Is. 53:7  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, 
Yet He did not open His mouth; 
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, 
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, 
So He did not open His mouth.
  • Isaiah says that Jesus did not open His mouth, but not in the literal sense of speaking no words at all

  • The Scripture means Jesus did nothing to defend Himself or to stop the process of going to the cross

  • And why not? Because as Isaiah said the Lord caused our iniquity to fall upon Jesus…Jesus was willingly going to His death for our sake

    • So when Pilate asks Jesus if He is the king of the Jews, Jesus says only “as you say”

    • Jesus remained silent in the sense of refusing to exonerate Himself though He was innocent 

    • Of course, Jesus IS the king of the Jews, and I might add, He is also the King of all people including Pilate and the Romans

    • But His kingdom won’t appear on earth until much later, so for now His claim looks ridiculous to men like Pilate

  • Meanwhile, the religious leaders who are standing nearby are concerned that Jesus could squirm out of the charges at any moment, so they double down

    • Imagine the scene…Jesus is standing bound and bloodied before Pilate, looking pitiful and altogether unimpressive

      • Standing outside the doorway are the religious leaders of Israel, decked out in their robes and adorned with precious things

      • They won’t enter the room, according to John’s Gospel, because they won’t be defiled by Gentiles on the Passover

      • Yet they act like a crazed mob, shouting out false charges against Jesus as Pilate looks on 

    • Probably no moment recorded in the Gospels reveals the wicked hearts of these men better than this one

      • On the one hand, these men appear pious and scrupulous, not even willing to enter the building for fear of being defiled

      • On the other hand, they stand outside lying and conspiring to pervert justice, two of the worst crimes under the Law

      • So while they are externally religious and clean, they are internally filled with deceit and violence, as Jesus said

Matt. 23:25  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
  • So Pilate turns back to Jesus in v.13 in wonder at the fact that Jesus is not responding or denying the charges 

    • Pilate must have suspected that the religious leaders were giving false testimony and he fully expected Jesus to say so

    • Yet Jesus says nothing, so Pilate asks Jesus “Do you not hear the many things they testify against you?”

    • Once more, Jesus remains silent against His accusers, not even refuting a single charge 

  • Matthew’s account skips over a lot at this point, but John explains the scene in detail, and the whole thing would be comical if it wasn’t so deadly serious 

    • Pilate vacillates back and forth between worrying about condemning an innocent man and worrying that the Jews will riot if he frees Jesus

      • Most of all, Pilate worries about losing control and losing his job which leaves him open to manipulation by everyone 

      • So according to John, Pilate shuttles back and forth between talking to Jesus and talking to the Jewish leaders outside 

      • He’s the governor of a Roman province, and yet he bounces around like a ping pong ball trying to find a way out of this mess

    • John tells us that as Jesus and Pilate talked, Jesus gets Pilate to acknowledge that he cares nothing of Jesus’ claims to be king

      • Pilate doesn’t believe in Jesus’ claims and would prefer to release Him since Pilate takes no pleasure in condemning innocent men

      • But Jesus won’t give Pilate the easy escape that Pilate seeks, and at one point Jesus tells Pilate he has no control over Jesus

    • Moreover, Jesus tells Pilate that though Jesus is a king, His kingdom was not in that world in that day

      • And in fact if Jesus was claiming a kingdom in that day, his followers would have been fighting to free Jesus

      • But they weren’t fighting against the Romans because their King’s kingdom hadn’t arrived yet

    • Meanwhile, they had a different mission…a mission to recruit citizens out of this world for a kingdom to come

      • Jesus’ mission was to die for our sins so that He could reconcile people to God without fear of condemnation 

      • And our mission is to witness that truth to others in the hope they will sign up for the Kingdom to come too