THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
PART VII: THE PASSION AND THE RESURRECTION
Lesson 25, Chapters 26:36-27:26
Jesus’ Arrest and Trials
Your Son asked us to take up our individual crosses as we journey to salvation and to be willing to join our earthly sufferings to His. In accepting this call, we also drink from the cup of His cup of suffering in the hopes that we might one day also partake of His cup of glory. In the meantime, we gratefully accept the Cup of Blessing that is the Eucharist “the cup of His Precious Blood that sustains us on our earthly journey. Like the disciples who Jesus told to “stay awake” in the garden of Gethsemane, we know that we must also “stay awake,” being vigilant to guard our souls from the stain of sin and prayful in our spiritual journey because we have Your promise that the prayers of those who “watch and pray” will be heard. Send Your Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our study of Jesus’ submission to Your will and Your plan for man’s salvation through His Passion. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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We know that the Father had set the hour of his Passion. For he said to his mother at one point, “My hour is not yet come.” In another place, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour! No, this is why I came to this hour.” And else where, “Father, the hour has come! Glorify your Son, that you Son may glorify you.”… He was in fact delivered up “to be crucified” so that, “disarming the principalities and powers,” he might triumph over them on the cross.
Origen, Commentary on Matthew, 74 and 75
On the fourteenth day of the first month falls the Passover of the LORD, and the fifteenth day of this month is the pilgrim feast. For seven days unleavened bread is to be eaten. On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly, and do no sort of work. As an oblation you shall offer a holocaust to the LORD, which shall consist of two bullocks, one ram, and seven yearling lambs that you are sure are unblemished … These offerings you shall make in addition to the established morning holocaust [ olat ha-Tamid] … Numbers 28:16-23 (emphasis added)
|CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS ON NISAN 15TH|
|The sacred meal of the Passover on the first night of Unleavened Bread which Christians call the Last Supper.||Mt 26:26-35;
| Sundown =
sacred meal must end by midnight
|Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane; His “hour” has come.||Mt 26:36-46;
|Jesus is arrested.||Mt 26:47-56
|Jesus is questioned by Annas.||Jn 18:19-24|
|Jesus is taken to Caiaphas and the council of the Sanhedrin. While Jesus is in the High Priest’s palace, Peter denies Jesus a three times and hears the “cockcrow.”||Mt 26:69-75;
|Jesus is condemned to death by the Sanhedrin.||Mt 26:57-68;
|Part I of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate|
Jesus is condemned to death and carries the Cross to Golgotha.Mt 27:11-30;
Jn 19:16-17 The crucifixion of the Christ.
The Temple doors are opened to the people for the morning worship service & the Sacred Assembly of Unleavened Bread as first Tamid lamb is sacrificed.*Mt 27:31-34;
Num 28:17-18 9 AM
It was the third hour [9 AM] in the morning when they crucified him (Mk 15:25) His garments are divided. He has an exchange with the men crucified on either side of Him. Jesus is mocked by the religious leaders and the crowd. He commits His mother into the care of St. John.Mt 27:35-44
Jn 19:19-27 All the world turned dark and remained dark from noon (sixth hour Jewish time) to 3 PM (ninth hour Jewish time).
From the sixth hour [noon] onward, darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour [3 PM] Jesus asks for a drink; He drinks and says “It is finished.” It is the ninth hour = 3 PM.
*Josephus writing about the Tamid sacrifice at the Temple: …but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour, offer their sacrifices on the altar (Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3/65). Jewish-Christian scholar Alfred Edersheim: According to general agreement, the morning sacrifice was brought at the third hour, corresponding to our nine o’clock (The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 108).
Jesus’ Sacrifice and the Daily Liturgy of the Tamid Sacrifice in the Temple
The communal sacrifice of the Tamid was the most important ritual sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant. It was a single sacrifice of two yearling lambs, one offered in a morning liturgical worship service and the second in an afternoon liturgical worship service; each lamb offered together with unleavened bread and red wine (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-9).1) It was the compulsory communal daily sacrifice for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people. However, Jewish philosopher and theologian Philo of Alexandria (d. 50 AD) wrote that the daily Tamid sacrifice was not only offered for the covenant people but on behalf of all mankind (The Special Laws I, 35 ).
The olat ha-Tamid, “whole burnt offering of the standing” (“standing” as in continual/perpetual) was the only compulsory communal sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant before the failure of Israel in the making of the Golden Calf and remained the premier sacrifice when the ritual of animal sacrifice was expanded after the Golden Calf (Ex 29:38-42; 32:1-35). It was so important that no other sacrifice was to take precedence over it. All other sacrifices, including the Passover and Sabbath sacrifices, were offered in addition to the Tamid, a command repeated fifteen times in the Torah of Moses (Num 28:10, 15, 23, 24, 31; 29:6, 11, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 38).
When St. John identified Jesus in His perfect humanity and divinity as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” to the Jewish crowd on the banks of the Jordan River, he was not identifying Jesus with the annual Passover sacrifice of lambs and kids (Ex 12:5) but instead with the daily offering of the two unblemished male lambs of the Tamid sacrifice. According to rabbinic teaching, this single sacrifice of two lambs was to last so long as the Sinai Covenant endured and when it ended in the coming of the Messianic era only the “Thanksgiving” (Toda in Hebrew; Eucharistia in the Greek) communion sacrifice of peace would continue (Joseph Ratsinger [Pope Benedict XVI], Feast of Faith, page 58; Baruch Levine, JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus, page 43).
Notice in the chart above that the daily sacrifice of the Tamid corresponds with the Passion of the Christ: Jesus was condemned at about the time the first Tamid lamb was brought out to the altar and given a drink from a golden cup. Jesus was crucified at the third hour Jewish time, (9 AM) as the first Tamid lamb was sacrificed in the Temple. The second lamb was brought to the altar at noon, given a drink and sacrificed at about the ninth hour (3 PM). The “whole land” turned dark from an eclipse of the sun from noon to three in the afternoon (Mt 27:45; Mk 14:33; Lk 23:44), and Jesus gave up His life at the ninth hour/three in the afternoon just as the second Tamid lamb was sacrificed (Mt 27:46; Mk 14:34). The Tamid was one single sacrifice of two lambs and Jesus was one single sacrifice of He who is fully God and fully man.
Friday, Nisan the 15th (c. midnight)
Matthew 26:36-46 ~ Jesus’ Agony in the Garden
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” 39 He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? 41Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” 43 Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes opened. 44 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. 45Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. 46 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”
Under the light of the full moon, Jesus and the Apostles made their way out of the city of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley to the Mt. of Olives. Sts. Matthew and Mark (14:32) identify the site as Gethsemane which means “oil press,” suggesting the presence of olive trees, while Luke only writes that Jesus and the disciples withdrew to the Mt. of Olives. St. John includes the information that Jesus and the disciples crossed the Kidron Valley to a garden where Jesus often met with His disciples (Jn 18:1-2). There, Jesus began to pray to the Father concerning the covenant ordeal He was to face. St. Luke records that an angel was sent from heaven to comfort Jesus because He was in such agony and that He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground (Lk 22:43-44). A covenant ordeal is when a servant of God is faced with the choice between obedience to the will of God that involves some sort of sacrifice and one’s own very strong desires.
Question: What was the first time a man, also in a sense the “firstborn” son of God, faced a covenant ordeal in a garden?
Answer: Adam in the Garden of Eden was forbidden by God to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the fruit of which Adam and Eve greatly desired. Unlike Jesus, Adam failed his test of obedience and chose to be disobedient concerning God’s will for his life.
Matthew 26:37-38 ~ He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.”
Jesus’ statement “My soul is sorrowful …” may be an allusion to Psalms 42-43. Psalms 42-43 forms a single lament in thee sections, with each section ending in the identical refrain in verses 42:6, 12 and 43:5.
St. Mark tells us the sons of Zebedee are the Apostles James and John. These three men, Peter, James and John, are the same Apostles who witnessed the Transfiguration of the Christ (Mt 17). The selection of these three is not favoritism; it is hierarchy.
Question: How many times does Jesus ask the three Apostles (Peter, James and John) to keep watch with Him and how many times does Jesus withdraw to pray?
Answer: Three times each.
Matthew 26:39 ~ He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” The Jewish custom of prostrating oneself when praying (especially for penitential prayers) is derived from Moses’ statement concerning his posture in his prayers to God (The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 149). In the book of Deuteronomy Moses told the people: Then as before, I lay prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights without eating or drinking, because of all the sin you had committed in the sight of the LORD and the evil you had done to provoke him (Dt 9:18).
Question: There is a close connection between Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. What similarities do you notice?
Answer: Both prayers are addressed to God as “Father” and both express the desire to do God’s will.
Question: What petition does Jesus make to the Father in verse 39 and what is the significance of the petition? Why does He make the petition?
Answer: Jesus is fully man and fully God. It is human nature to turn away from physical suffering. The difficulty of the test makes Jesus’ decision that much more poignant. Jesus asks the Father, if it is within the Father’s will, to spare him from the suffering He must endure, asking “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me’ yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:42 ~ Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” The “cup” Jesus refers to in each prayer is one of the images of the Old Testament prophets and refers to, in this case, the cup of suffering (see the chart “Images of the Old Testament Prophets”). In the symbolic images of the prophets, drinking wine is both a symbol of covenant union with God as in the four cups of the Passover sacred meal (also see Ps 23:5; 116:13; Is 26:6), and the cup is also a symbol of divine retribution and the judgment of God. Judgment images are usually spoken of as “drinking the cup of God’s wrath” as in Isaiah 51:17-23 (also see references to the cup of judgment in Ps 75:9; Jer 25:15-29; 49:12; 51:6-7; Ez 23:31-34; Hab 2:16; Rev 14:10; 16:19 and 18:6). It is the same cup Jesus alluded to when He asked James and John Zebedee if they were able to drink from His cup (Mt 20:22).
Question: Why would it be God’s will for Jesus to drink from the cup of suffering/the cup of God’s wrath? See Is 53:5-12; 2 Cor 5:21;Rom 4:25; Gal 3:13; Heb 2:10; 9:28; 1 Pt 2:24-25. Also see CCC 607, 612-13.
Answer: Jesus came to liberate man from the curse of sin and death. To accomplish His mission, it was necessary for Him to take upon Himself the debt mankind owed for sin. He was the sinless, unblemished victim offered up on the altar of the Cross, drinking the cup of God’s wrath that each of us deserved so that we might be redeemed. As St. Peter wrote, … free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pt 2:24b). He drank the “cup of suffering” so we might drink the cup of His Precious Blood in the New Covenant banquet of the righteous.
Matthew 26:45-46 ~ Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. 46 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”
In these verses we are again reminded that Jesus is in control of His destiny as He announces His betrayal and approaching death.The exhausted Apostles are physically unable to stay awake, as Jesus told them “the spirit is willing but the flesh is week” (Mt 26:41). Jesus feels genuine sorrow and distress over the ordeal He is about to face in His “hour” (Mt 26:46; Jn 12:27), but He is willing to submit in obedience to God’s plan for man’s salvation and to embrace the prospect of suffering as He passes out of this world into the arms of His heavenly Father for the sake of those He loves (Jn 13:1-2). The Gospel of John refers to Jesus “hour” seventeen times and Jesus directly mentions His coming “hour” ten times (Jn 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25,28; 12:23, 27 (twice); 16:32; 17:1). The final countdown to His “hour” began on Wednesday of Passion Week (His last day teaching at the Temple), when Jesus declared that the “hour” of His glorification had arrived (Jn 12:23).
Question: What does His “hour” refer to?
Answer: Jesus is referring to the completion of His mission and the appointed time of His Passion which will result in His glorification.
In His appointed “hour” Jesus will submit to the agonies of betrayal and bodily suffering, the humiliation of an illegal trial by His kinsmen, and the excruciating pain of Roman crucifixion. But His humiliating death will be transformed into the “hour” of His exaltation in His bodily resurrection from the dead as He becomes the “firstfruits” of the Resurrection and the source of eternal life for the world (1 Cor 15:20-28).
Matthew 26:27-56 ~ The Betrayal and Arrest
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” 49 Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him. 50 Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” 51 Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
The Gospel of John includes the information that a cohort of Roman soldiers accompanied the guards of the chief priests, who are probably Levitical guards that serve in the Temple. A cohort is a detachment of several hundred Roman soldiers. The chief priests were fearful of attempting to arrest during the festivities with crowds of people surrounding Him. While arresting Jesus after midnight on the Mt. of Olives lessens the threat of interference, the chief priests are not taking any changes that His followers or that sympatric pilgrims might be present who could try to prevent His arrest. Perhaps Judas has also reported to the chief priests that some of Jesus’ men are armed (Lk 22:38).
48 His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” 49 Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him. To greet a kinsman with a kiss was customary behavior (Lk 7:45), but Judas’ sign to Jesus’ enemies in kissing Jesus makes his actions even more repugnant. Notice that he calls Jesus “rabbi,” which can be translated “sir” or “teacher.” Judas does not call Jesus “Messiah” or Kyrios, “Lord,” a title that speaks of more than respect “Kyrios it is a title of allegiance between Master and servant (Mt 10:24-25); it is an allegiance Judas is unwilling to give.
The Gospel of John records that when Jesus asked those in charge “Whome do you seek” and they answered “Jesus of Nazareth”that Jesus used the Divine Name in responding “I AM” (Jn 18:4-6). The power of unleashing the Divine Name “I AM” (see Ex 3:14) caused them to turn away and fall to the ground (Jn 18:4-6). Jesus’ claim to divinity inherent in “the Name” is substantiated by Jesus’ demonstration of power over the laws of nature in calming the storm, walking on the sea, in raising the dead and in knocking His enemies off their feet by the power of His utterance.
Question: What was the name of the High Priest’s servant and who cut off his ear? See Jn 18:10.
Answer: Malchus was Caiaphas’ servant/slave and St. Peter cut off his ear in his attempt to protect Jesus.
Question: How did Peter happen to have a sword and what was the purpose? See Lk 22:35-39; . What does Jesus say to Peter inJohn 18:11?
Answer: Jesus encouraged him to take it with him before they left for the Mt. of Olives. Jesus was going to offer one more miracle before His arrest to bring those coming to arrest Him to believed in Him, the healing of the severed ear of the High Priest’s servant “one last testimony of the power of the Messiah. Jesus says to Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”, referring to His cup of suffering.
Imagine Peter’s shock. Jesus refuses to protect Himself, and He will also not allow Peter to protect Him.
Matthew 26:53-53 ~ Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”
A “legion” is a Roman military designation for a unit of six thousand soldiers “Jesus has the power to call twelve times that number to assist Him, or 72,000 angel “that is 72,928 more than the 72 men of the Sanhedrin who are preparing to sit in judgment against Him. Jesus tells His disciples and the crowd that came to arrest Him that His enemies do not have power over Him. As the Son of God He can command the angels, but this is the way events must unfold in order to fulfill God’s plan that was foretold by the prophets. Jesus is especially referring to but also toZechariah 13:7, a passage which Jesus quoted in 26:31. He will repeat what He has said concerning the fulfillment of the writings of the prophets after His resurrection when He speaks to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and later to the Apostles in the Upper Room (Lk 24:25-27, 44).
Matthew 26:55 ~ At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. The Greek word lestes can be translated “robber” or “bandit,” but it can also mean “revolutionary” as Josephus uses the word (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.8.5 [160-172]). This may be the way Jesus is using the word since the chief-priests are fearful that the people believe Jesus is the Messiah who will free them from Roman domination. Ironically at Jesus’ trial before Pilate he will be accused of encouraging the Jews to revolt against Rome (Lk 23:5, 14), and the man the Jewish crowd chooses to free instead of Jesus is a lestes (Jn 18:40).
Jesus reassures His Apostles, saying “But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled” (verse 56), repeating what He states in verse 54.In their shock and confusion at the turn of events, all the disciples run away.
The Trial at the Palace of the High Priest
The Gospel of John records that the guards first took Jesus to the house of the former high priest, Annas (Jn 18:13); see the chart the Rules of Judea in the 1st century AD). A high priest was supposed to serve for life, but the Romans decided it was unwise to put so much power and influence into the hands of one man for a long period of time. The Roman governor of Syria, Sulpicius Quirinius, deposed the reigning high priest Joazar in 6 AD and installed Annas (Ananus), son of Seth.2) Annas ruled until 15 AD when he was deposed by Valerius Gratus. However, Annas may have managed to hold the reigns of power through his five sons and son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas, all who succeeded him in the high priestly office. St. Luke dates the beginning of St. John the Baptist’s ministry to “during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” in John 3:2.3)
Jesus was probably taken to Annas first because he was curious about Jesus and also to give Caiaphas more time to gather the members of the council to convene a clandestine Court of the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas also needed time to find witnesses to testify against Jesus. According to the Law, a man could only be sentenced to death on the testimony of two or more witnesses (Num 35:30; Dt 17:6; 19:15). The penalty for giving false evidence was death (Dt 19:16-21). Annas questioned Jesus before sending Him bound to Caiaphas (Jn 18:19-24).
Matthew 26:57-68 ~ Jesus’ Trial before the Sanhedrin (Law Court)
57 Those who had arrested Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome. 59 The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 who stated, “This man said, I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.'” 62 The high priest rose and addressed him, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?” 63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him in reply, You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and coming on the clouds of heaven.'” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what is your opinion?” They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?”
The Great Sanhedrin was the highest judiciary and administrative authority of the covenant people (there were also local councils). It was composed of the reigning high priest, senior chief priests, and the elders of the covenant people. St. Mark identifies Joseph of Arimathea as a member of the council (Mk 15:43). According to Acts of Apostles, both Pharisees and Sadducees sat on the council (Acts 23:6). The Sanhedrin’s function and composition is described in the Jewish Talmud in Mishnah: Sanhedrin. According to the Mishnah the council met in announced sessions within the Temple in the Chamber of Hewn Stones, one of the south-western chambers in the Court of the Priests (Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 11:2). There the seventy-one members were led by the reigning high priest who served as the court’s president.4) For this trial, the court did not meet in the Temple but at secrecy at night in the privacy of Caiaphas’ palace.
Matthew 26:58 ~ Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome. The Gospel of John includes the information that Peter and another disciple (probably St. John Zebedee) followed Jesus and entered the courtyard of the high priest (Jn 18:15).
Matthew 26:59 ~ The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, 60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 who stated, “This man said, I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.'” The false witnesses must have been promised immunity for their false testimony since they knew the penalty for giving false testimony was death (Dt 19:16-21). St. Mark writes that the false testimony of the witness did not agree (Mk 14:56). Finally two men testified that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple of God. St. Matthew does not record the first Temple cleansing that is recorded in John 2:19 when Jesus told the crowd, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Either these men were present at thatevent or they heard about Jesus’ claim from others.
High Priest Joseph Caiaphas challenges Jesus concerning the testimony against Him, but Jesus remains silent “a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7 ~ Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb let to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Exasperated, the High Priest commands Jesus to answer in the name of God: 63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Obedient to the command of the anointed high priest, 64Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and coming on the clouds of heaven'” (emphasis added).Jesus only answers when put under an oath before God.
Question: What two significant passages from Psalms and the book of Daniel does Jesus quote to the high priest? Hint: the Psalms passage is the same Jesus quoted to the chief priests in Matthew 22:44 from the Septuagint when He asked them “Whose son is the Messiah?” The second passage is where Jesus takes His favorite title for Himself and it is the Scripture passage that identifies the divine Messiah as one who looks like a man.
- Psalms 110:1 ~ The LORD says to you, my lord: “Take your throne at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool.”
- Daniel 7:13-14 ~ As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven. When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.
The two quotations seal His fate. He has clearly identified Himself as the Messiah in Daniel’s vision of the divine Messiah in Daniel 7:13-14, and He has already corrected the priests in their interpretation ofPsalms 110:1, telling them it is a reference not to David’s son but to the Messiah who is above David “David’s “Lord” (Mt 22:45).
Matthew 26:65-67 ~ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what is your opinion?” They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?”
According to the Law, He who blasphemes is liable only when he will have fully pronounced the divine Name; if the blasphemy was proved then the judges stand on their feet and tear their clothing, and never sew them back up (Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 7:5E). Jesus did not technically blaspheme, but claiming to be the Messiah and “making himself equal to God” (Jn 5:18) is enough for Caiaphas who immediately tore his robes (also see Mk 14:63). The tearing of the judges’ robes and the prohibition against repairing the garment symbolized that the offender had broken with the covenant in such a way that his membership in the covenant family could never be restored.5)
Knowing that the witnesses have failed to provide enough to condemn Jesus, Caiaphas says to the council, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion?” In other words, the members of the council are now the witnesses against Jesus. Addressing the court Caiaphas asks what is their opinion and the members of the council condemn Jesus to death. They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?”
Question: Everything about Jesus’ trial was illegal. How many irregularities can you site?
|Jesus’ Illegal Trial by the Jewish Sanhedrin|
|There was a clandestine meeting of the high court.||Mt 26:57;
|It was not an impartial court; the verdict against Jesus was already decided.||Mt 26:3-4, 59;
Mk 14:1, 55;
Jn 11:49-50; 18:13
|False witnesses were called to testify against Jesus, but their testimony did not agree. The council violated the commandment against bearing false witness in the Ten Commandments.||Mt 26:60-61;
Dt 5:20; 19:16-18
|No witnesses were called to support Jesus.|
|The charge of threatening the Temple was brought against Jesus and then the charge was changed to blasphemy.||Mt 26:61, 65;
|Jesus was charged with blasphemy, but technically He was not guilty of the charge of blaspheming God’s name under the prohibition and the case cited in the Torah.||Lev 24:11-16|
|Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012|
Matthew 26:69-27:2 ~ Peter Denies the Christ
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about!” 71 As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.” 72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man!” 73 A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away.” 74 At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. When it was morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
While Jesus is facing His ordeal inside the palace of the high priest, His Vicar is facing his ordeal in the courtyard.
Question: How many times does Peter deny his Lord in his refusal to acknowledge his connection to Jesus and where does each denial take place? Also see Mk 14:66-72 and Jn 18:26.
Answer: Three times Peter is questioned in three different locations: by a young woman servant in the courtyard, by the same girl at the gate, and a third time in the outer court by a man who probably recognized Peter’s Galilean accent.
In the Gospel of St. John, one of the people who accuse Peter of being one of Jesus’ disciples is a slave of the high priest who had been present when Jesus was arrested and was a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off (Jn 18:26).
Question: What betrayal took place in this same courtyard on Wednesday? See Mt 26:3 where the literal translation is “courtyard.”
Answer: The chief priests, scribes and elders gathered together in the courtyard of the high priest’s palace and agreed to arrest Jesus by treachery and to put Him to death.
Question: What occurs that reminds Peter of Jesus’ prophecy that he will deny the Lord three times?
Answer: Peter hears the “cockcrow.”
There is no article associated with the Greek word for cockcrow in verse 74. The word “cockcrow” is Greek is formed from the Greek word for “cock” alektor and the word for “sound” phoneo. In Greek alektorophonia was a trumpet signal that announced the end of the third watch and the beginning of the fourth and last nigh watch. The “cockcrow” Peter heard must be the trumpet blast signaling the end of the third watch that was given at the Temple (Mishnah: Sukkot, 5:4; M. Yoma, 1:8) and at the Roman fortress called the Antonia. Mark records that Jesus told Peter he would betray Him before the cockcrows twice (Mk 14:30), and in the high priest’s courtyard, as Peter denied Christ the third time Mark records Peter heard the second “cockcrow” (Mk 14:72).
In 1st century AD Jerusalem, as in all the cities of the Roman Empire, the nighttime hours were divided into 4 time periods called “Watches”:
|#1: Evening watch||Sundown to 9PM|
|#2: Midnight watch||9 PM to Midnight|
|#3: Cockcrow watch||Midnight to 3 AM|
|#4: Dawn watch||3 AM to Dawn|
The end of each watch, and the beginning of the next was signaled by a trumpet blast. The Third Watch was from Midnight to 3 AM. At the close of the Third Watch a signal was given by the Roman guards at the Antonia Fortress next to the Temple. A trumpet was blown to signal the end of the Watch and the change of the guard. The Romans called the trumpet blast at the end of the Third Watch the “gallicinium,” in Latin, “cockcrow.” If Jesus was identifying the time of Peter’s last denial at the time a rooster crow was heard, it could not be a specific time “roosters are notoriously unpredictable in their crowing. There was also a rabbinic ordinance against keeping chickens within the walls of the Holy City because it was feared that their scratching would produce “unclean things,” thereby violating the purity laws (J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 47, note 44). However, if Jesus was referring to the gallicinium in Latin or alektorophonia in Greek, His time reference was to the trumpet signal of the “cockcrow” that was a precise military signal, and Peter denied Christ at 3 in the morning (Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John, page 828).6) Jesus spoke of the four night watches in Mark 13:35: So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming: evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn … (NJB).
Question: Why was it necessary for Peter to face this ordeal? He was the first to profess Jesus as his Lord Messiah, the only Apostle brave enough to attempt to walk on the stormy sea to Jesus, and he was ready to defend Jesus with his life. This fisherman was physically and spiritually courageous.
Answer: Perhaps Peter needed to experience the despair of the sinner to have enough compassion to be the kind of leader Jesus needed to guide the ship of His Church. If Peter only saw sinners as the weak and despised, he would not have had the love for sinners he needed to properly shepherd the flock of the New Covenant Church. If Christ could forgive him for his thrice-time betrayal and still love him, how could Peter deny Christ’s forgiveness and the Church’s love to those sinners seeking forgiveness and reconciliation?
Matthew 27:1-2 ~ When it was morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. The chief priests and elders wanted to condemn Jesus to death, but they did not have the power to publically execute Jesus. As soon as dawn broke they officially condemned Jesus and took Him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who was visiting in the city from his headquarters in Caesarea Maritima.
Pontius Pilate was a member of the Roman equestrian class and had ruled Judea as the Roman Prefect since 26 AD. He was to become the second longest ruling governor of the province, being relieved of his duties in 36 AD.
Question: Why did they take Jesus to the Roman governor to be condemned to death? There are two reasons. See Jn 19:31 and Mt 26:4.
Answer: The Sanhedrin did not have the power to condemn Jesus to death. They also didn’t want to turn Him into a martyr. They needed the Roman Empire to condemn Him as a common criminal and execute Him to discredit Him with the people.
In the provinces over which the Roman state ruled directly, only the Romans had the power over life and death. Herod Antipas was able to execute St. John the Baptist because he directly ruled Perea, even though he was a vassal of the Romans.
In the Jerusalem Temple the chief priests were preparing for the morning liturgy of the Tamid sacrifice and the compulsory Sacred Assembly on the first day of Unleavened Bread and its associated sacrifices (Num 28:17-25). At the trumpet signal of the “cockcrow” a priest began to cleanse the altar of sacrifice while his brother priests rose, bathed and dressed in their liturgical garments (Mishnah: Tamid, 1:2). At dawn as Jesus was sentenced to death and taken to Pilate, the unblemished male lamb of the morning Tamid was being led from the Lamb Chamber to be tied near the altar for everyone to judge it’s perfection before the High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas (or his representative) pronounced it “without fault” and suitable for sacrifice, even though its perfection had been judged the night before (Mishnah: Tamid,3:3-3:4). In addition to the Tamid lamb and the communal sacrifices of the first day of Unleavened Bread, the people who were in a ritually “clean” state were expected to bring their individual festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) that they would eat together in groups of family and friends in the city that day. The hagigah peace offering could not be offered by a person who had become ritually defiled (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6.3), and it was because of this prohibition that the chief priests and elders had refused to enter Pilate’s Praetorium (Jn 18:28; Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 200).
Matthew 27:3-10 ~ Judas’ Suicide
3 Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,4 saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” 5 Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself. 6 The chief priests gathered up the money, but said, “It is not lawful to deposit this in the temple treasury, for it is the price of blood.” 7 After consultation, they used it to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man with a price on his head, a price set by some of the Israelites, 10 and they paid it out for the potter’s field just as the Lord had commanded me.”
Judas loved money more than he loved Jesus, but perhaps he didn’t consider that his betrayal of Jesus could lead to Jesus’ death. Suddenly he seems to regret his actions and is concerned about the consequences of what he has done in condemning an innocent man and how it might affect his own life. He tries to return the money, but he does not plead for Jesus’ life. How tragic that he does not understand that the remedy for his sin is confession and penance. Both Judas and Peter have betrayed Christ, but Peter will return to Jesus and will be strengthened by his experience. At the end of his life, Peter will die for Christ just as he promised Jesus he would the night of the Last Supper (Mk 14:31).7) Judas, however, hung himself in his despair (Mt 27:5) and later his rotting body fell and burst open (Acts 1:18-19).
Question: What do the chief priests do with the blood money?
Answer: These men who have Jesus blood on their hands are worried about putting the money into the Temple treasury and purchase some land from a potter as a grave yard for foreigners who die in Jerusalem.
The foreigners they refer to are probably Gentile God-fearers who have come to Jerusalem to worship God but are not fully member of the covenant. These people do not deserve to be buried in pagan gravesites and yet cannot be buried in Jewish gravesites.
Matthew 27:8 ~ That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood.
The burial ground was called “field of blood” because it was purchased with “blood money.” The “field of blood” refers to Judas’ blood and not to Jesus. Acts 1:19 gives the Aramaic equivalent “Akeldama/Hakeldama.”
Matthew 27:9-10 ~ Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man with a price on his head, a price set by some of the Israelites, 10 and they paid it out for the potter’s field just as the Lord had commanded me.”
This is the last of the ten “fulfillment statements” in St. Matthew’s Gospel:
- Jesus childhood: 1:23; 2:15, 17-18, 23
- Galilean ministry: 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:35
- Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem: 21:4-5; 27:9-10
Question: What purpose do the ten “fulfillment” statements serve in St. Matthew’s Gospel?
Answer: They show that everything God did in the Old Testament was part of His divine plan in preparation for the Advent and the Passion of the Messiah.
It is difficult to know which Old Testament passage St. Matthew is referring to in verses 9-10. It may be that his reference is to two Old Testament passages, Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 19:11:
- I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, let it go.” And they counted out my wages, thirty pieces of silver. But the LORD said to me, “Throw it in the treasury, the handsome price at which they valued me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the Lord (Zech 11:12-13).
- … and say to them: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Thus will I smash this people and this city, as one smashes a clay pot so that it cannot be repaired. And Topheth shall be a burial place, for lack of place to bury elsewhere (Jer 19:11).
In the book of Zechariah the prophet tells an allegory of a prophet who becomes the “good shepherd” and defender of God’s flock which is being slaughtered by the “sheep merchants” (failed shepherds/leaders of the people). The sheep merchants/failed shepherds contemptuously value the work of the prophet/good shepherd at thirty pieces of silver, the legal redemption price of a gored bloody slave in Exodus 21:32. The prophet/good shepherd in Zechariah’s allegory is a “type” of Christ whose mission as God’s prophet and his work of salvation for God’s people is devalued by the chief priests/Sanhedrin. God tells His prophet to throw the money into the Temple treasury. In the case of the money paid to Judas for a bloody Jesus, the thirty pieces of silver probably came from the Temple treasury. There may be a play on the Hebrew words for “potter” (yoser) and “treasury” (oser) in the reference to the two passages and their link to Matthew 27:6-7. In the case of Judas’ blood money, a grave yard is purchased from a potter instead of putting the money into the Temple treasury.
In the Jeremiah passage, a “topheth” was a cultic cemetery where the burnt ashes of human sacrifice were buried in clay pots. Such a cemetery was located in the Valley of Hinnon south of Jerusalem where children were offered in sacrifice to Baal and Molech in the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah (2 Chr 28:3; 33:6; 2 Kng 16:3; 21:6; Is 30:33 and Jer 7:31, 32; 19:6, 11-14; 32:35). According to tradition, the grave yard the chief priests purchased with the money paid to Judas was located in the same Valley of Hinnon. In the Jeremiah passage, divine judgment is promised against the Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s generation just as Jesus promised divine judgment on the Jerusalem of His generation for the death of every prophet since Adam’s son Abel (Mt 23:34-36).
Jesus’ Trial before the Roman Governor
Matthew 27:11-14 ~ Jesus is Taken to Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you? 14 But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Pilate was the Roman Prefect of Judea, but Matthew gives him the Greek title hegemon (governor). As in His questioning by the Sanhedrin, Jesus does not attempt to defend Himself, again a fulfillment ofIsaiah 53:7. Pilate asks Jesus “Are you the king of the Jews?” and Jesus responds “You say so” as He also responded in 26:25 to Judas and in verse 64 to Caiaphas.
Question: How is Jesus’ statement of affirmation different from how it was perceived by Caiaphas and perhaps at first by Pilate? See Jn 18:36.
Answer: It appears to be an affirmation, but His response is couched in irony because neither Judas nor Caiaphas nor Pilate really understand what the title “king of the Jews” means for Jesus, although He will tell Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36) and Pilate will believe Him.
Question: Why was Pilate amazed at Jesus’ refusal to defend himself?
Answer: He was probably used to common men dissolving in hysterics and pleading for their lives. He was amazed at Jesus’ composure.
The Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John record the various charges against Jesus that the Jewish leaders presented to Pilate:
|The Accusations Against Jesus in His Trial before Pilate
The chief priests accused him of many things. Mark 15:3
|He claims to be King of the Jews||Mt 27:11; Lk 23:2; Jn 18:33|
|He is misleading the people by opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar||Lk 23:2|
|He claims to be the Jewish Messiah||<Lk 23:2|
|He claims to be the Son of God and according to Jewish law he ought to die||Jn 19:7|
|He is inciting the people to revolt with his teaching||Lk 23:5, 14|
|He opposes Caesar||Jn 19:12|
|Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012|
Question: What are the political overtones to the charge that Jesus claims to be the “Son of God”?
Answer: The charge that Jesus claims to be the “Son of God” could be construed as a challenge to the Roman emperor since Tiberius claimed to be the son of the god Caesar Augustus.
The Jewish leaders also threatened Pilate when he tried to release Jesus, saying If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar, Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar (Jn 19:12b). “Friend of Caesar” is a Roman honorific title the emperor bestowed upon high-ranking Romans for meritorious service to the emperor and the empire.
Question: Are any of their charges against Jesus valid?
Answer: It is a lie that Jesus opposed paying the Roman tax. In Matthew 20:20-26 Jesus said Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar… Their accusation that Jesus claims to be the Messianic king is not an admission Jesus has made directly, but they have understood His biblical references. There is, however, no Mosaic law as they suggest forbidding someone to call himself a “son of God” since kings, prophets, and even the children of Israel are called “sons of God.” This charge is also invalid because they are suggesting Jesus is presenting Himself as a king of the Jews in opposition to Caesar.
The Gospel of John includes the information that when Jesus was first brought to Pilate that the chief priests and elders of the Sanhedrin refused to enter the Roman Praetorium (the Roman judicial law court where Pilate was in residence in Jerusalem) and instead insisted on remaining in the courtyard in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover (Jn 18:28). Religious Jews could become ritually defiled through contact with pagan Gentiles. During the feast of Unleavened Bread that began at sundown after the Passover sacrifice, Jews could have no contact with anything made with leaven (Ex 13:3, 6-7). If they became ritually impure, as in most cases of ritual defilement, it would be necessary to become purified by a ritual bath before sundown at which time ritual purity would be restored, as ritual purity was restored in most other cases of defilement by a person or defiled garment or object (i.e., Lev 15:17-19, 20-24, 27).
This verse has been misinterpreted to suggest that the Passover sacrifice had not yet taken place and those who had brought Jesus to the Gentile Romans were now worried about being ritually pure to take part in the Passover sacrifice and the sacred meal of the Passover victim. This cannot be the correct interpretation:
- The Gospels agree that the Passover sacrifice took place on Thursday: as the ancients counted six days after Jesus’ first dinner at Bethany (Jn 12:1); two after His second dinner at Bethany (Mt 26:2; Mk 14:1); the day He told His disciples to prepare for the Passover meal (Mt 26:17-19; Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:7-13); and when He and His disciples ate the meal in the evening after sundown (Mt 26:20-30; Mk 14:17-26; Lk 22:13-20; Jn 13:2-17:26).
- Since the Passover sacrifice was not a “pilgrim feast” it was not necessary for everyone planning to take part in the sacred meal to be present at the sacrifice. A family member or even a Jewish slave could present the sacrifice at the liturgical service (Mishnah: Pesahim, 8:2).
- They could not have been referring to the sacred meal of the Passover victim because that meal took place after sundown and their defilement would have been lifted by then. Therefore, they must have been referring to the compulsory Sacred Assembly on the first daytime liturgical service of the feast of Unleavened Bread that began that morning in the Temple (Lev 23:6-7; Num 28:17). Covenant members had to attend this worship service, bringing their festival communion/peace offerings (hagigah) to the altar after which the sacrificed animal was cooked and eaten with family and friends in the city of Jerusalem. If the members of the council became defiled, they could not attend the Sacred Assembly nor could they present their communion hagigah sacrifices (Mishnah: Hagigah, 1:1-1:6).
- The interpretation of this passage cannot be based on the use of the word “Passover” to mean the Passover sacrifice since St. John only uses the term “Passover” (seven times: John 11:55 (twice); 12:1; 13:1; 18:28; 39; 19:14) as do the authors of the Jewish Mishnah and Jews today. Since the Gospel of John never uses the term “Unleavened Bread” to refer to the eight-day feast, the reference to “the Passover” in John 18:28 should be understood as referring to the morning Sacred Assembly and the hagigah communion sacrifice.
Question: What is ironic about the Jewish leaders’ fear of ritual contamination by the Gentile Romans? What charge that Jesus made against them in chapter 23 is revealed in this false understanding/abuse of the Law?
Answer: It is ironic that those who had so unscrupulously defiled Jesus’ rights and the Law of God were now concerned about ritual purity. It is as Jesus said about them in 23:25-28. They are like the filthy cups that are clean on the outside and like whitewashed tombs that contain dead men’s bones. They care about appearances and not the internal condition of their corrupt souls.
Question: Why have the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate in the first place instead of stoning Him themselves? Pilate asks them this same question in John 18:29-32, since their charge against Jesus does not seem to Pilate to be a death penalty offense. What is meant by “fulfillment” in John 18:32? Also see Dt 21:22-23; Mt 20:19; 26:2 and Gal 3:13.
Answer: The Sanhedrin had the power to scourge Jesus and to imprison Him, but they did not have the power to legally execute Him. Only the Romans had the power over life and death in the Roman Provinces they ruled directly. The Jewish leaders want Jesus executed as a criminal and they want Him crucified as one “accursed” under the Law of Moses to discredit Him with the people.
Crucifixion was a Roman form of capital punishment that was abhorrent to the Jews. However, Jesus’ death in this manner is what He has foretold and in it He will take upon Himself the curse of sin that all mankind deserves.
Matthew 27:15-26 ~ The Jews Choose Barabbas and Pilate Condemns Jesus to Death by Crucifixion
15 Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called [Jesus] Barabbas. 17 So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, [Jesus] Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.” 20 The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. 21 The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” 24 When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” 25 And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” 26Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.
The bracket name “Jesus” associated with the name Bar Abbas (son of Abbas) indicates that this name does not occur in all MSS of Matthew’s Gospel. Some scholars have suggested that where the name is absence in manuscripts of Matthew it might be an omission made for reverential reasons because it is also the name of the Messiah. In John 18:40 we are told that Barabbas is a revolutionary and Mark says he was both a revolutionary and a murderer (Mk 15:7). As you may recall, when the guards came to arrest Jesus in the garden He asked them if they considered Him a bandit/revolutionary (Mt 26:55; also see Mk 14:48).
Question: What is ironic about the choice Pilate offers the people between freeing Jesus the Son of God and Jesus bar Abbas (son of the father/father’s son)?
Answer: Pilate is giving them the choice between Jesus the righteous Son of God and a murderer named Jesus who is the son of a human father “it is a clear choice is between what is good and holy and what is evil “the same choice all men and women face every day.
Question: What did Pilate astutely perceive concerning the Jewish leader’s reason for wanting Jesus executed? How is that same motive ironically connected to the first murder in salvation history?
Answer: Pilate realized that their envy Jesus is what motivated the Jewish leaders to desire the death of their kinsman, Jesus of Nazareth. It was the same ugly sin that led Cain to murder his bother Abel.
Matthew 27:19 ~ While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.” The “bench”/bema is the Roman governor’s seat of judgment. The word bema refers to the tribunal/judicial bench or raised area from which an official decision was handed down. In John 19:13 Pilate’s bema is located at a place called Gabbathain Hebrew, “the Pavement.” Some scholars suggest Pilate was residing at the Antonia Fortress next to the Temple on the Via Dolorosa (traditional site), but most scholars favor the theory that Pilate was staying at Herod’s palace.
The name of Pilate’s wife according to Christian tradition was Claudia Procula.8) In the Gospel of John we are told that Pilate proclaims Jesus’ innocence with the words “I find no fault” three times (see Jn 18:38; 19:4, 6). These are the same words that High Priest Joseph Caiaphas (or his representative) will speak when approving the perfection of the Tamid lamb selected that morning for sacrifice.
Question: What is ironic about what Pilate’s wife tells him and Pilate’s position on Jesus’ innocence?
Answer: It is ironic that in the whole unruly scene at the Praetorium that only a Gentile man and woman have the insight to recognize Jesus’ innocence.
The crowd calls for the release of Jesus bar Abbas, and 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” Under the influence of their religious leaders, the crowd calls for Jesus crucifixion.
Matthew 27:24-26 ~ When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” 25 And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
It was a Roman officials’ duty to keep order in the Provinces and bring in the taxes that kept the empire alive. As an act of self preservation, Pilate submits to the verdict of the crowd but in a symbolic act he washes his hands as a sign that he does not concede that Jesus deserves to die. The Jews clearly understood Pilate’s symbolic act in protesting Jesus’ innocence (see Dt 21:6-9; Ps 26:6-11; Is 1:15-17):
- Then all the elders of that city nearest the corpse shall wash their hands over the heifer whose throat was cut in the wadi, and shall declare, Our hands did not shed this blood, and our eyes did not see the deed. Absolve, O LORD, your people Israel, whom you have ransomed, and let not the guilt of shedding innocent blood remain in the midst of your people. Israel.’ Thus they shall be absolved from the guilt of bloodshed … (Dt 21:6-8).
- I will wash my hands in innocence and walk round your altar, LORD … (Ps 26:6).
- … Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourself clean! Put way your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil … (Is 1:15b-16).
Question: Ironically, what does he say to the crowd and what is the irony of their response? See Mt 23:35-36; 2 Sam 1:16; Jer 26:15; Rom 3:25-26; 5:9-11; 2 Cor 5:18-19; Eph 1:6-7; 1 Jn 2:2.
Answer: Pilate tells them that Jesus’ death is their responsibility and the crowd answers back with a self-cure on themselves and on the next generation, accepting the responsibility for Jesus’ death and, unknown to them, in killing “the Lord’s anointed.” Ironically Jesus prophesied that the judgment for the death of all God’s holy prophets would fall upon “this generation” (Mt 23:35-36), but Jesus did not come to inflict a curse upon His people, He came to save the “lost sheep” of Israel and to take the curses of their covenant failures upon Himself. His blood would indeed be upon them and upon their children for the sake of their salvation.
In the Gospel of John, Pilate appeals to the crowd one last time, presenting Jesus to them and ironically saying “Behold, your king!”to which the crowd cries out “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” And when Pilate asks them, “Shall I crucify your king?” They chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn 19:14b-15). The gathered crowd of Jews and their priestly representative have rejected the true Son of God, the King of Israel and voiced their allegiance to the son of a false god who is a pagan king.
Matthew 27:26 ~ Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.
Earlier in the trial Pilate had Jesus scourged in an unsuccessful the attempt to satisfy the Jewish leaders and to be able to release Jesus (Lk 23:22; Jn 19:1-4). Now Pilate sends Jesus to be scourged again according to custom. The scourging of a criminal before execution was the established practice. The idea was to make a deep impression on those who witnessed the execution to prevent the repetition of the kinds of crimes against the state that necessitated crucifixion. Crucifixion was reserved for only foreign criminals but never for a Roman citizen.
Despite the lack of evidence, in the end it was the charge of sedition for which Jesus was condemned. The placard listing Jesus’ crime that Pilate had put above Jesus’ head on His cross (a common practice) read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in Hebrew, Latin and Greek and was ironically the complete truth (Jn 19:19-20).
Perhaps the blood thirsty crowd at Jesus’ trial were men and woman recruited by the Jewish leaders. Jesus had many supporters “so many that the religious leaders were afraid to arrest Jesus during the day when so many people were listening to Jesus teach “Jesus Himself mentioned this when He was arrested (Mt 26:55). In these early morning hours, those who believed Jesus was the Messiah were probably still in bed after the long night celebrating the sacred feast of Unleavened Bread.
There is a problem concerning the account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate beginning just after dawn on Friday, Nisan the 15th, in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 27:1; also Mk 15:1) and what is recorded in John 19:13-14 ~ Then hearing this word, Pilate led Jesus out. And he sat down on the judgment seat at the place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour (literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 311). If it is the sixth hour Jewish time, then Pilate would be condemning Jesus at noon and their trial would have lasted six hours since dawn. There appears to be a discrepancy in Scripture since St. Mark’s Gospel records that Jesus was crucified at the third hour/9 AM and all the Synoptic Gospels record that the eclipse came at noon (the sixth hour Jewish time). However, if John’s Gospel is using Roman time, the sixth hour is the hour between Dawn and 7 AM and is in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels. St. John’s Gospel was the last Gospel written and according to Christian historians, it was written by St. John Zebedee in the Roman city of Ephesus for his mostly Gentile Roman community. Why would St. John use Jewish time? Most of the modern world, including the USA, keeps Roman time. The arguments can also be made that if the total eclipse of the sun came during Jesus’ trial with Pilate, the superstitious Romans would not have continued with the crucifixion.
Then too, the words “preparation of the Passover” in John 19:14 can be interpreted incorrectly. “Passover” in the Gospel of John always refers to the entire 8-days of Passover/Unleavened Bread, and in John 19:31 we are told that “preparation” refers to the day of preparation (Friday) before the coming of the Sabbath at sundown (the beginning of the Saturday Sabbath). John 19:31 identifies the day as Friday, Preparation Day, of the Holy Week of the Passover, and all the other Gospels identify the day of Jesus’ crucifixion as Friday, Nisan the 15th, of the holy week of Unleavened Bread.
|<The Ironies Associated with Jesus’ Trial before Pilate|
|The Jewish leaders are concerned with ritual purity and not spiritual purity.||Mt 27:6;
|The Jewish high priest, chief priests, elders and the Jewish crowds pronounce Jesus deserves to die while the pagan Roman and his wife believe in His innocence.||Mt 26:65-66; 27:19-24;
Mk 14:64; 15:11-14
Lk 23:4, 13-16;
Jn 18:38; 19:4, 6
|The Jewish leaders falsely condemn Jesus to death for violations that are not included in the Law when all their actions and false accusations are violations of the Law that should incur the death penalty.||Ex 20:16; 23:1, 7;
Dt 5:20; 17:6; 19:15-21
|The Roman governor offers the people Jesus the righteous Son of God the Father and they chose Jesus Barabbas (son of the father) the murderer.||Mt 27:21;
|Pilate announces he is innocent of shedding Jesus’ blood and Jesus’ Jewish kinsmen utter a self-curse taking responsibility for Jesus’ death.||Mt 27:22-25|
|Their self-curse concerning Jesus’ blood is fulfilled but not in the way they intended. Jesus died so that His precious blood would wash away their sins and the sins of their children.||Rom 3:25-26; 5:9-11;
2 Cor 5:18-19; Eph 1:6-7;
1 Jn 2:2.
|The people choose Tiberius, the son of the false god Caesar Augustus, to be their king instead of Jesus the son of David and the true Son of the only God and true King of Israel. Ironically it is the chief priests, God’s representatives to the people, who cry out “We have no king but Caesar!”||Jn 19:12, 14b-15;
Ps 10:16; 24:7-10; 44:4; 47:2, 6, 7; 89:18; 95:3;
Mt 21:5 etc.
|The plaque that was supposed to list Jesus’ crime was ironically a true statement of His identity.||Jn 19:19-20|
|Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012|
In the Eastern Rite churches both Pilate and his wife Claudia are recognized as Christian saints. It is a tradition in the East that Pilate was forced to commit suicide by the Roman Emperor because he was a professed Christian. There are more paintings of Pilate in the Roman catacombs than any other person other than Moses. Pilate’s wife Claudia may be the Roman Christian woman that St. Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 4:21.
Questions for group discussion:
Jesus’ “hour” has both an historical and liturgical dimension. These two dimensions of Jesus’ “hour” are two sides of the one coin that is the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The historical sense is His Passion and glorification. However, His “hour” reaches beyond the historical events of His self-sacrificial death and resurrection to the Christian “hour” of worship and fellowship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In what ways do Catholic Christians share in both the historical and the liturgical “hour” of Christ’s Passion and resurrection? See Jn 2:4 where Jesus tells Mary, after her request for wine at the wedding at Cana, “My hour has not yet come,” alluding to the gift of wine in a future sense. Also see Jn 4:21-23 where Jesus speaks to the Samaritan of a “coming hour” of worship; and see Jn 5:25-29 where Jesus says that in His “hour” those who are dead will hear his voice and live again. How does Christ continue to awaken souls who are dead to sin and how do we participate liturgically in Christ’s historical “hour”? See CCC 1085-1090, 1104.
2. According to Josephus, a Roman consul named Quirinius was the legate of Syria, beginning in 6 AD. He may be the same Quirinius mentioned in Lk 2:2 during which census enrollment took place (c. 3/2 BC) when Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. In 6 AD Quirinius took temporary control of Judea until a Roman prefect could be established to govern the province when the Romans deposed Herod the Great’s son Archelaus. In the chain of command, the Roman prefect of Judea reported to the Legate of Syria.
3. See Lk 3:2 and Acts 4:6 where Annas is called “high priest.” Annas was no longer the reigning high priest, but St. Luke may have applied the title to Annas because a high priest was intended to rule for life. Either all who served as high priest retained the title (if not the office) during their lifetimes, or Annas is still given the title because he continued to wield the power and influence of Israel’s anointed High Priest.
5. Caiaphas was not the high priest’s liturgical robes; priestly vestments were only worn in the Temple (Ez 42:14). The Law condemned a man to stoning for the capital offense of blaspheming God’s Divine Name (Lev 24:16; Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 7:1). Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 7:5 states: He who blasphemes is liable only when he will have fully pronounced the divine Name. If it is proved, then the judges stand on their feet and tear their clothing, and never sew them back up (Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 7:5E). It is interesting that they did not charge Jesus with breaking the Sabbath, a charge leveled against Jesus and the disciples several times (i.e. Mt 12:12; Lk 6:2; Jn 5:18) and which also carried the death penalty (Ex 31:15).
6. Fr. Raymond Brown noted that the Franciscans conducted their own survey of rooster crows in the city of Jerusalem during holy week one year and discovered that roosters crowed at all hours of the night and morning. However, they were able to determine that the largest number of “crowings” occurred at about 2:30 AM, which is probably the reason the third night watch and the trumpet signal announcing the end of the third watch and the beginning of the 4th watch at 3 AM was called “cockcrow” (Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John, Brown, page 828).
7. St. Peter is martyred c. 67 AD and asks the Romans to crucify him upside-down because he is not worthy to die in the same manner as Christ.It is for this reason that the Pope wears an upside-down cross on the lower back panel of his papal cloak. The upside-down cross is every current Pope’s reminder that he sits on the “chair of Peter” and like St. Peter, he is expected to remain faithful to the Lord unto his death.
8. Claudia may have been a “God-fearer,” a Gentile who believed in the God of the Jews, or she may have been a Jewish proselyte, or it is even possible that like Joanna, the wife of Herod Antipas’ steward, she may have been a follower of Jesus. She may also have been the Roman matron St. Paul mentions who sent greetings to Timothy along with Roman Christians Pudens and Linus in 2 Tim 4:21. There is information outside of the Bible which supports the biblical account about Pilate. There are accounts concerning Pilate in the writings of Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus, and the Roman historian Tacitus makes a brief reference to Pilate as the Roman ruler of Judea when the Christian God Jesus was crucified. There is also a dedication inscription carved into a stone column was discovered at Caesarea Maritima in 1961 that supports the title given to him in the Bible as “prefect” and not “procurator” as some detractors of the Bible had claimed was his correct title.
Primary resources used in this lesson:
- Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 38: Egeria: Diary of a Pilgrimage, translated and annotated by George E. Gingras, Catholic University of America, Newman Press, 1970.
- Christ in the Passover, Ceil and Moishe Rosen, Moody Press, Chicago, 1978.
- Feast of Faith, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1986.
- Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, Joachim Jeremias, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1968.
- Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, 2011.
- The Jewish Festivals from Their Beginnings to Our Own Day, Hayyim Schauss, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York, 1938.
- The Jewish Study Bible, editors Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Publication Society, Oxford University Press, 1999 edition.
- The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, Ronald L. Eisenberg, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 2004.
- The Mishnah, editor Jacob Neusner, Yale University Press, 1988.
- The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, Alfred Kolatch, Jonathan David Publishers, Inc. Middle Village, New York, 1995 edition.
- The JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus, Baruch A. Levine, Jewish Publication Society, 1998.
- The Temple Haggadah, Israel Ariel, The Temple Institute, Carta- Cana, Jerusalem, 1996.
- The Temple of Jerusalem, Simon Goldhill, Harvard University Press, 2005.
- The Temple and the Church’s Mission, G. K. Beale,InterVarsity Press, 2004.
- The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Alfred Edersheim, Hendrickson, 1994 edition.
- The Temple Haggadah, Israel Ariel, The Temple Institute, Carta- Cana, Jerusalem, 1996.
- The Temple of Jerusalem, Simon Goldhill, Harvard University Press, 2005.
- The Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston, Hendrickson Publishers, 1987.
- The Works of Philo of Alexandria, translated by C. D. Yonge, Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.