The Gospel of Matthew Lesson 26, Chapters 27:27-28:20

Lesson 26, Chapters 27:27-28:20
The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ

Through the death and resurrection of Your eternal Son, heaven has been opened to Your human children.  No longer are we bound in slavery to sin and death.  Your Son’s physical resurrection from death is a sign and a promise of the gift of eternal life that is now available for all who accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  As those of us here on earth continue to battle against the enemy of our salvation, continue to strengthen and unite us, Father, through the spiritual gifts of faith, the Sacraments, good works and our prayers.  Most Holy Spirit, come and guide us in our last lesson as we study the Passion and Resurrection of the Christ and His commission to all Christians to spread the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works “a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and  the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3

“When Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, he yielded up the spirit.”  This refers to what he had earlier said: “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again,” and “I lay it down of myself.”  So for this cause he cried with the voice, that it might be shown that the act is done by his own power.
St. John Chrysostom (344/354-407), The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 88.1

Friday, Nisan the 15th

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, reluctantly condemned Jesus to death on the charge of sedition/treason against the Roman state.  Jesus is not condemned or the Sanhedrin’s charge of blasphemy but for the political crime of posing a threat to Caesar’s sovereignty in claiming to be the “King of the Jews.”  Most of what we know about Pontius Pilate from the writings of the Jewish historians Josephus [37-100AD] and Philo of Alexandria [d.50AD] is not very favorable.  They portray him as autocratic, excessive and dishonest, but he must have been an able and effective governor because he held his post for ten years, the second longest ruling Roman governor.  Josephus confirms the slaughter of the Galileans during his rule that is mentioned in Luke 13:1, and the Roman historian Tacitus records Pilate’s action against Jesus in Annals XV, 44 where he reports: The Christ had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.  Of all the existing documentation on Pilate, the Bible gives the most favorable account of this man.  In fact, in the writings of the early Church Fathers, he is regarded as a man who cooperated in God plan of salvation.  After condemning Jesus to death, Pilate handed Jesus over to the Roman soldiers in charge of the crucifixion detail.


Matthew 27:27-31 ~ The Condemned Christ is Mocked by Roman Soldiers
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the Praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  28 They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.  29 Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  30 They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.  31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.

The Praetorium was a Latin term that originally designated the praetor’s (officer who administered justice) tent in a military camp but later came to designate the residence of a Roman official where he heard civil cases.  The term could also refer either to a select military unity of Roman soldiers that served as personal body guards for the emperor (Praetorian Guard), or other officials, or simply to the military personnel attached to a Praetorium of the official.  Verse 27 suggests that the soldiers attached to Pilate’s household took Jesus into the judgment hall associated with Pilate’s residence in Jerusalem.

… and gathered the whole cohort around him.  A cohort was composed of 600 men and formed a tenth part of a legion.  Matthew may not intend to suggest 600 men gathered around Jesus but rather that all those men of a particular cohort who were present in the hall gathered around Jesus to torment Him.

Question: What three objects did the soldiers place on Jesus?
Answer: A scarlet military cloak, a crown made of thorns, and a reed.

Matthew describes the cloak was the typical scarlet cloak of a soldier, but Mark records that they dressed Jesus in a purple cloak.  Purple was the most expensive die and was the color of royalty; however, the dye used for the Roman soldier’s cloak was a reddish-purple/scarlet color.  It is difficult to see where common soldiers would have come by expensive purple cloth, but the intension was to dress Jesus like a king since He was charged with sedition against the empire by claiming to be “King of the Jews” (Mt 27:29and 37).  The thorn spikes in the crown of thorns they made for Jesus was probably intended to represent the radiant crown of the emperor depicted on Roman coins, and the reed was probably intended to represent a king’s scepter, a sign of royal authority.

Question: What is ironic about the soldiers’ cruel treatment in dressing Jesus this way and greeting Him “Hail, King of the Jews,” the traditional greeting for the Roman Emperor?
Answer: Jesus really is the king of the Jews and in fact, the King of kings.

Matthew 27:31 ~ And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.

Question: The soldiers’ mistreatment of Jesus, including mocking Him, spitting in His face and striking him, recalls what parts of the prophecy of God’s suffering servant by the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah?  See Is 53:1-12.
Answer: The entire passage describes Christ’s Passion, but two verses that are especially close to the suffering Jesus endured at the hands of the Roman guards are verses 3 and 7-8: He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem (Is 53:3) and Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.  Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away … (Is 53:7-8a).

Question: What prophecy that Jesus made concerning His Passion is fulfilled in His trial by the Roman governor and His crucifixion? What is significant concerning the fulfillment of this prophecy?  See Mt 20:17-19.
Answer: In the third prophecy of His Passion, Jesus told the Apostles that the chief priests and scribes would condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified.  The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy once again demonstrates that He is fully in control of His destiny.

The Crucifixion
It was the third hour [9 AM] when they crucified him.
Mark 15:25

Matthew 27:32-44 ~ Jesus is Crucified
32 As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.  33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull), 34 they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.  But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.  35 After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; 36 then they sat down and kept watch over him there.  37 And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.  38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.  39 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!”  41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  So he is the king of Israel!  Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.  43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him.  For he said,  I am the Son of God.'”  The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way. 

Those condemned to crucifixion were usually tied to a wooden crossbeam and were forced to carry it to the site of the execution.  Perhaps Jesus had become too weak from His scourging to carry His crossbeam the entire distance.  The Roman soldiers impressed a man who was probably a Jewish pilgrim into public service, a man named Simon who was a native of the city of Cyrene.  The city of Cyrene was in North Africa and is located today in the modern state of Libya.  The Gospels of Mark and Luke include the information that Simon lived in the “countryside,” presumably of Judea (Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26).(1)  Luke relates that a large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented Him, and that two criminals who were also condemned to death were led away with Him.

Matthew 27:33-34And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull), they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.

In the Temple that morning, the unblemished, yearling male Tamid lamb was led from the chamber called the Lamb Office to the site of its execution near the altar: They gave the lamb which was to be the daily whole offering a drink from a golden cup (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:4B).

Golgotha is the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic name of the crucifixion site that was called gulgulta, meaning “skull.”  The identification of the crucifixion site as Golgotha is found in Mathew 27:33,Mark 15:22 and in John 19:17.  St. Luke gives the name of the site as Kranion(Lk 23:33), the Greek word for “skull.”  The name Calvary comes to us from the Rheims New Testament translation of the Latin Vulgate, calvariae locus, which is the Latin translation of the Greek kraniou topos, “place of the skull;” in Latin the word for skull is calvariaMatthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 explicitly state the site lies outside the city; the Gospel of John says it is near the city (19:20).   We know it was close enough to the city for the on-lookers to read the trilingual plaque that Pilate ordered to be place on Jesus’ cross, probably as they looked down upon scene of Jesus’ crucifixion from the top of the city wall.(2)Excavations beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulcher revealed burials that were centuries older than when Jesus was crucified and suggest that the name “skull” was given to the site because it was an ancient graveyard.(3)

… they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.  But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.  Wine mixed with myrrh was prepared to dull the prisoner’s pain (Mk 15:23).  The historicity of the Gospel account is confirmed by the 1st AD century historian Josephus who recorded that wealthy women of Jerusalem provided wine mixed with narcotics for those destined for crucifixion.  But according to Matthew, the Roman soldiers continued their abuse of Jesus by mixing gall into the treated wine.  Gall is a bitter discharge from the liver or the gall bladder, but it can also refer to any bitter substance or even poison.  That Matthew includes this information may be an allusion to the fulfillment of Psalms 69:22: Instead they put gall in my food; for my thirst they gave me vinegar.  “Vinegar” was cheap red wine.  Jesus will be given cheap wine/vinegar to drink just before He surrenders His life (Mt 27:48; Jn 19:28-30).

Question: Why does Jesus taste the wine when He has sworn at the Last Supper that He will not drink the fruit of the vine until He comes into His kingdom (Mt 26:29; Lk 22:18)?
Answer: He only tastes the wine but does not drink it.  This may be to further connect Jesus’ perfect sacrifice to the sacrifice of the morning Tamid at the Temple that was given a drink prior to sacrifice. The Tamid was a sacrifice that had for centuries prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus as the true Tamid “standing” (as in continual) Lamb of sacrifice.

St. Mark is the only Gospel writer who records the time Jesus was placed on the Cross: It was the third hour [9 AM] when they crucified him (Mk 15:25).  The “third hour” Jewish time was also when the first Tamid lamb was sacrificed in the Temple and its blood splashed against the sacrificial altar as the Levites blew the silver trumpets and the Temple doors were opened for the morning worship service (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 108).  That morning was a compulsory Sacred Assembly and all religious Jews would be in attendance at the Temple, this includes the majority of Jesus’ supporters who had no idea concerning the events unfolding at Golgotha.

As Jesus was suffering on the cross, the morning liturgy of the Tamid lamb continued in the Temple.  The sacrifices for the first Sacred Assembly of Unleavened Bread and the individual hagigah peace offerings could not be brought forward until after the offering of the Tamid lamb on the altar fire along with people’s offering of fine flour mixed with incense, the priestly wafer of unleavened bread and a libation of red wine.  The priestly unleavened bread wafer always accompanied the sacrifice of the Tamid lambs:  This is the offering that Aaron and his sons shall present to the LORD … one tenth of an ephah of fine flour for the established cereal offering, half in the morning and half in the evening [afternoon].  It shall be well kneaded and fried in oil on a griddle when your bring it in.  Having broken the offering into pieces, you shall present it as a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD (Lev 6:12-14).

Question: The offering of the Tamid lamb included a wafer of unleavened bread (Lev 6:12-14) and red wine (Ex 29:40-42; Sir 51:14-15).  The officiating priest elevated the wafer above the altar and broke it before laying it on the altar fire.  Is that Old Covenant ritual reminiscent of any New Covenant ritual you have witnessed?  What happens in the New Covenant ritual?
Answer: In the sacrifice of the Mass, unleavened bread and wine are offered on the altar, but instead of being destroyed with the victim of sacrifice on the altar fire, the bread, elevated and broken before the altar, and wine are transformed into the victim of sacrifice.  Jesus Christ becomes present on the altar.

Matthew 27:35-36 ~ After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.  It was the custom for the soldiers overseeing executions to divide the possession of the condemned.  The Roman soldiers “kept watch” over Jesus and the other two men in order to prevent any attempt to rescue them.

Psalms 22, written by King David in the 10thcentury BC, is a description of David’s sufferings but also a prediction of Jesus’ crucifixion long before the Persians ever invented crucifixion as a form of capital punishment.  Included in the psalms is the prediction that lots would be casted for Jesus garments, an event that was not part of David’s history.  Inverses 17-19 David wrote: Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me.  So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones.  They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.

Question: In the Gospel of John a detail is given about one of Jesus’ garments that was not included in the other Gospels.  What was unique about Jesus’ tunic and what is significant about the action of the Roman soldiers in regards to it?  This is the same tunic Jesus wore to the Last Supper.  See Jn 19:23-24.
Answer: Jesus’ tunic was seamlessly woven from one piece of cloth.  It was obviously expensive so the soldiers cast lots to see which one would possess it.  The Gospel of John says this was to fulfill what was written in Psalms 22:19.

Jesus’ seamless tunic recalls one of the vestments of the anointed High Priest of Israel (Ex 28:1-5; Lev 21:10) which, according to Josephus, was seamless (Antiquities of the Jews, 3.7.4 [161]; The Jewish Wars, 5.5.7 [231]) and which was only worn during a liturgical service in the Temple (Ez 42:14).

Question: Why is it significant that Jesus wore the seamless garment of a high priest at both the Last Supper and His crucifixion?
Answer: That Jesus wore this high priestly garment at the Last Supper implies that it was a liturgical worship service at which Jesus officiated as the New Covenant High Priest of the sacred meal.  That He wore this garment at His crucifixion implies that Jesus was acting as the New Covenant High Priest officiating at the offering of His sacrifice on the altar of the Cross for the atonement sanctification of all people.

You will recall that at the Last Supper the disciples washed their hands (part of the ritual of the meal) and feet (washed by Jesus in Jn 13:5).  Josephus records that before performing their ministerial duties, priests washed both their hands and feet (Antiquities of the Jews, 3.6.2 [114]), information that adds another liturgical element to the events of the Last Supper.

Matthew 27: 37 ~ And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.  It was a common Roman practice to post the crime for which a person was being executed and the name of the condemned man.  Such a plaque was called in Greek a titulus. Pilate himself ordered the wording of the sign, much to the displeasure of the chief priests.(4)

Question: What additional information is included in the Gospel of John concerning Jesus’ titulus?  See Jn 19:20.
Answer: The inscription was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek and could be easily read by the crowds.

Matthew 27:38 ~ Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.

All four Gospels agree that Jesus was crucified between two criminals (also see Mk 15:27; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:18).  As Jesus is situated between two men on an elevation with His arms outstretched on the Cross, commanding the climatic battle between good and evil, the scene is reminiscent of Moses standing on a hill with outstretched arms between Aaron and Hur in the Israelite’s battle with the wicked Amalekites (Ex 17:8-13; CCC 440).  However, unlike the temporal consequences of Moses’ battle, the outcome of Jesus’ battle has cosmic and eternal implications.

Matthew 27:39-43 ~ Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!”  41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  So he is the king of Israel!  Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.  43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him.  For he said,  I am the Son of God.'” 

These actions by Jesus’ tormentors are also described in Psalms 22.  In verses 8-9 David wrote: All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me.  “You relied on the LORD “let him deliver you if he loves you, let him rescue you.”

The scene in Matthew 27:39-42 and the enmity against Jesus by the chief priests, Pharisees and elders also recalls the condemnation of the righteous by the wicked described in Wisdom 2:12-24: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD … He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.  Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.  For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.  With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him” (Wis 2:12-13, 16a-20).

Question: What kinds of taunts or challenges do the people, the chief priests, scribes and elders make?


  1. “Save yourself if you are the Son of God and come down     from the cross.”
  2. “He saved others; he cannot save himself.”
  3. “Come down from the cross and we will believe …”
  4. “He trusted in God let him deliver him …”

St. Luke records that Jesus prayed for His persecutors from the Cross, saying Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).  This is the first of seven statements Jesus will make from the altar of the Cross.  Two of His statements are quotations from the Psalms of David.

Jesus Last Seven  Statements from the Cross
Statement   Scripture
  1. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Lk 23:34
  2. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Lk 23:42
  3. “Woman, behold, your son”… “Behold, your mother.” Jn 19:26-27
  4. “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani,” “My God, my God, why have  your forsaken me.” ~ Hebrew

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani,” “My God, My God, why have  your forsaken me.” ~ AramaicMt 27:46 (*Ps 22:1 a  quoted in Hebrew Bible)

Mk 15:34 (Jesus quoted from Ps 22:1/2ain Aramaic)  5. “I thirst.”Jn 19:28  6. “It is fulfilled.”Jn 19:30  7. “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”Lk 23:46 (Ps 31:5/6  quoted)Michal E. Hunt © copyright  2012

*Jesus has alluded to this Psalms in Mt 27:35, 39 and 43. Matthew records the Hebrew as it would have been written in the Hebrew scroll of Psalms 22, while Mark records Jesus’ actual Aramaic statement.

Question: The first statement is a petition on behalf of those who are persecuting Him.  What teaching that Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount does this petition recall?  See Mt 5:43-48.
Answer: He taught that His followers are to imitate the example of their heavenly Father in freely giving their love and forgiveness, even to enemies.

Matthew 27:43b ~ The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention the two men crucified on either side of Jesus (Mk 15:27, 32; Lk 23:33, 39-43), but Luke records the change of heart of the man to the right of Jesus (Lk 23:39-43).

Question: What is Jesus’ response to the man’s righteous deed in defending Jesus against the verbal abuse of the crucified man to Jesus’ left and his profession of faith in Jesus by asking to be remembered when Jesus comes into His kingdom?  See Lk 23:39-43.
Answer: His good work in defending Jesus and his profession of faith in Jesus by his petition “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” is rewarded by Jesus’ promise of eternal salvation when Jesus tells the man “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

This is Jesus’ second statement from the altar of the Cross.  The Gospel of John also records Jesus’ words to His mother and the beloved disciple (believed to be St. John Zebedee) in which He makes John responsible for the care of His mother.  This would have been unthinkable if Mary had other sons and daughters and supports 2,000 years of Church teaching and tradition that Jesus was Mary’s only child (CCC 499-500).  Jesus’ exchange with His mother and the beloved disciple is Jesus’ third statement from the Cross.

Matthew 27:45-56 ~ The Death of the Redeemer-Messiah
45 From noon [the sixth hour] onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon [the ninth hour].  46 And about three o’clock [the ninth hour] Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eli, eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken [abandoned] me?”  47 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”  48 Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.  49 But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”  50 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.  51 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth quaked, rocks were split, 52 tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  53And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.  54 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”  55 There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.56 Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

While the Gospels of Matthew and Mark mention the total darkness that began at noon, St. Luke identifies the darkness as a total eclipse of the sun: It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon [the third hour] because of an eclipse of the sun… (Lk 23:44-45)This is a miracle that cannot be explained away by some coincidence of nature.The liturgical calendar was a lunar calendar and the day of Jesus’ crucifixion on the 15th of Nisan was during a full moon cycle: And this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month in the middle of the month, on the day on which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be no darkness on that day [Philo, Special Laws II, 155]. Total or partial eclipses do not occur during full moon cycles, and they only last for minutes not for hours.  Both Christian and non-Christian writers recorded the phenomena.(5)

This cosmic event and its aftermath fulfill the prophecy of the 8th century BC prophet Amos: On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight.  I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentations.  I will cover the loins of all with sackcloth and make every head bald.  I will make them mourn as for an only son, and bring their day to bitter end (Am 8:9-10; emphasis added).  Wearing sackcloth and shaving one’s head is a sign of affliction and mourning in the ancient Middle East (Is 15:2; Jer 7:29Mic 1:16).

As Jesus suffered on the altar of the cross, the Temple was in darkness, but the liturgical ceremony and sacrifices for first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread continued by the light of the altar fire.  At noon the second lamb of the Tamid sacrifice was led out and tired near the altar before it was inspected one last time by the High Priest Joseph Caiaphas. Declared “without fault,” it was given a last drink (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:4B; 4:1); this may be the point at which Jesus was offered a second drink (Lk 23:35-36); the first offer was before He was crucified (Mt 27:34-35; Mk 15:23-24).  You may recall that Pilate declared Jesus “without fault” (Jn 18:38;19:4, 6).

Matthew 27:46 ~ And about three o’clock [the ninth hour] Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eli, eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken [abandoned] me?”

Jesus last four statements come very close together.  At is about three in the afternoon.  This is Jesus’ fourth statement from the Cross.  St. Matthew records Jesus’ statement in Hebrew either to draw His Jewish audience to the passage in the Hebrew Scriptures of Psalm 22:1a or because this is one element that has been retained from his Gospel that was originally written in Hebrew (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1).  St. Mark records Jesus’ statement in the Aramaic that Jesus’ would have spoken aloud (Mk 15:34).

Psalms 22:1a reads: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?  Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?  Jesus’ quote from this Psalms is not as some have wrongly interpreted a cry of utter despair and hopelessness; far from it.  If one reads the entire Psalms 22, David’s cry of distress ends in a shout of joy and his confidence that God has heard his prayer, will rescue him from his enemies, and future generations will be told of his deliverance.  Such psalms are called toda psalms (the Hebrew word toda means “thanks” or “thanksgiving”).   Again, it is also important to note that this psalms, attributed to David and therefore written sometime in the early 10th century BC, is a description of a crucifixion centuries before the Persians invented this form of capital punishment.

Matthew 27:47-49 ~ Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”  48 Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.  49 But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”

The crowd mistook the words “Eloi,” “my God,” for the name of the prophet Elijah who they evidently recall was prophesied to be a precursor to the coming of the Messiah (Mal 3:23/4:5) and whose mission they may have confused with the passage in Malachi 3:1 that speaks of God’s messenger who will “prepare the way” by suddenly coming to the Temple “which Jesus did in His Temple cleansings.

The Gospel of John records that it is at this time that Jesus utters the words “I thirst” (Jn 19:28); this is Jesus’ fifth statement from the Cross.John 19:29-30 ~ A jar full of sour wine stood there; so putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth.  After Jesus had taken the wine he said,  It is fulfilled [or finished = literally in the Greek text, “Teltelestai”]; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit (emphasis added)“It is fulfilled/finished” is Jesus sixth statement from the Cross.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John record that Jesus was given a final drink of wine.  However, only the Gospel of John mentions that Jesus requested the drink, saying “I thirst,” that the Roman soldier extended the drink of wine to Him on a hyssop branch, and that Jesus spoke the words “It is fulfilled” “the same last words as those of the host of the Passover meal when the 4th Cup, the Cup of Acceptance, has been consumed.

Question: Why does the Gospel of John draw our attention to the fact that it is a hyssop branch that the Roman guard used to give Jesus the drink of sour wine?  What was the symbolic importance of this detail?  Hint: see Ex 12:22; Ex 24:8; Lev 14:6, 49, 51-52; Num 19:11-21; Ps 51:7; Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; and Heb 9:18-22.  Use each of these passages in your answer.

  1. In the first Passover event, hyssop was used to smear the     blood of the sacrificial victim from the threshold (where the blood was     poured out) to the lintel and the door posts of the doorway of the     Israelite houses, making a cross-like sign under which those inside eating     the sacred meal were saved from death (Ex 12:22).
  2. In the ratification of the Sinai Covenant, Moses, the     mediator between God and the people, symbolically united them by using a     hyssop branch to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar (representing     Yahweh) and then on the people; it was a symbolic act that created one     family united in the “blood of the covenant” (Ex 24:8; Heb 9:18-20).     These are the same words Jesus used in the Last Supper when He offered     those assembled His Precious Blood (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20).
  3. Hyssop was used in the rituals of purification.  The passage     in Numbers 19 gave instruction in the use of hyssop for ritual     purification for those who were contaminated by a dead body.  Such ritual     contamination left the covenant member literally “dead” to their community     until they could be purified on the third and seventh days (a double     resurrection)* with hyssop and holy water.  The blood of Jesus has     purified us and saved us from spiritual death and has given physical death     no power over us.  Jesus’ Precious Blood is the cleansing agent, which the     hyssop and holy water of the Old Covenant symbolized.  It is His Precious     Blood that purifies us from all sins:  Purify me with hyssop till I am     clean, wash me whiter than snow (Ps 51:7).

*The Fathers of the Church spoke of the Christian’s double resurrection in baptism (spiritually raised to new life) and in the final bodily Resurrection at the time of Christ’s Second Advent.

In the climax of Jesus’ crucifixion, the hyssop branch was symbolically used in the ratification of the New Covenant in the blood sacrifice of Jesus the Christ.  It is His Precious Blood that transforms and unites the New Covenant people into God’s Holy Covenant family – the Universal Church!

John 19:30 ~ After Jesus had taken the wine he said,  It is fulfilled.’

In the prescribed ritual of the sacred meal of the Passover victim, there was a 4th ritual cup that closed the meal and sealed the covenant for another year.  This cup was called the Cup of Acceptance.  It was after consuming this final communal cup that the host of the Passover supper would cry out: “It is fulfilled” “Teltelestai” in Greek.  Since Jesus made an oath that He would not drink wine until He came into His kingdom (Mt 26:29; Mk 14:25; Lk 22:17), He could not have taken the 4th cup at the Last Supper.  Therefore, He could not have officially, according to custom, closed the Passover sacrificial meal in the Upper Room.  The Gospel of John records Jesus’ words in Greek and not in Aramaic, perhaps to draw our attention to the Greek which was also an accounting term that was written over the ledger recording a debt, meaning the debt was paid in full.

Question: Why did Jesus ask for a drink and why did He drink the wine offered to Him when He swore He would not drink wine again until He came into His kingdom?  What condition did Jesus make for drinking wine again?  See Mt 5:17-18; 26:28; Mk 14:25; Lk 22:17.
Answer: The condition for which He swore not to drink wine had passed.  He prepared to give up His life; He was coming into His Kingdom.  All “these things” that had to take place before the Sinai Covenant was fulfilled had now taken place (Mt 5:17-18).

Question: What was fulfilled and what is the connection to the “cup” Jesus spoke of in His prayer to the Father at Gethsemane (Mt 26:39, 42; Jn 18:11), the cup He asked John and James Zebedee if they could drink (Mt 20:22-23), and the cup in the symbolic images of the prophets (see the chart)?

  • The wine Jesus drank from the hyssop branch is both the     “cup of suffering” and the “cup of God’s wrath” that He accepted on behalf     of a sinful mankind in His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.  It was a     cup of suffering that He accepted in obedience to the Father, and as He     drank the last drop of that suffering, He was prepared to give up His     spirit.
  • Like the cup Jesus told James and John they were to drink,     it is the cup of suffering that all disciples of Jesus are asked to accept     as they take up their individual crosses to advance the Kingdom of Christ’s Church.
  • On the cross when Jesus drank the wine and said the last     words of the Passover meal, “It is fulfilled,” He took the 4th     Cup of Acceptance.  It was an act that symbolized the “cup” that sealed     the covenant with God through the new sacred meal of the Eucharist, and it     is the cup that symbolized full restoration of fellowship with God in the     images of the prophets, especially Zechariah 9:15-17.

Mathew 27:50 ~ But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. 

When Jesus willing gave up His life, He breathed out His life force upon the face of the earth.

St. Luke gives us the last words of Jesus from the Cross; it is His seventh statement: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit(Lk 23:46).  His statement is a quote from Psalms 31:5/6: Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, LORD, faithful God.  It is another toda psalm that begins as a prayer of distress in which the psalmist cries out: I am forgotten, out of mind like the dead; I am like a shattered dish.  I hear the whispers of the crowd; terrors are all around me. They conspire against me; they plot to take my life.  But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”  My times are in your hands; rescue me from my enemies, from the hands of my pursuers (Ps 31:13-16).  But the cry becomes a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for God’s mercy and loving care in the psalmist’s hour of need and a message of hope to the faithful: Yet you heard my plea, when I cried out to you.  Love the LORD, all you faithful.  The LORD protects the loyal, but repays the arrogant in full.  Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD” (Ps 31:23b-25).

Question: Why did Jesus shout out this quote from Psalms 31 in His last words from the Cross?
Answer: His shout demonstrates that by the force of His will He gave up His Spirit.  Jesus’ self-sacrificial death and willingness to give up His Spirit wasn’t a defeat – it was a victory that he will share with the faithful!

In the offering up of His perfect sacrifice, Jesus came into His Kingdom.  What He spoke of figuratively in His agony in the garden of Gethsemane was now symbolically fulfilled as He drank the wine of God’s wrath as well as the wine of the 4th Cup of the ritual meal that He did not pass at the Last Supper.  All was “fulfilled,” as He promised in Matthew 5:17-18 and announced in John 19:28.  Therefore, He accepted on behalf of all people the cup that sealed the covenant with God in a New and eternal covenant which offered mankind the purification of sins through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29).  Through His Passion the debt of sin is paid in full and the New Covenant is inaugurated in the sacrificial blood of the Christ which will become the Eucharistic cup of Acceptance for the restoration of fellowship with God in the New Covenant Church.  He willingly gave up His spirit for the sake all mankind and for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth that was to be the vehicle to lead all members of the human family to salvation.

The Synoptic Gospel accounts agree that it was the ninth hour Jewish time, or three in the afternoon Roman and modern time, that Jesus died (see the chart on the Tamid sacrifice and the Passion of Christ).  At the Temple it is the same hour that the second Tamid lamb was sacrificed (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3[65]).  Jesus’ death on the altar of the Cross, offering up to the Father in a single perfect sacrifice His humanity and His divinity, has been uniquely prefigured in the centuries old Tamid (“standing”) sacrifice “the single sacrifice of two unblemished male lambs.

More evidence to Jesus’ unique link to the Tamid is found in the Book of Revelation where St. John describes the glorified Messiah in His priestly role before the throne of God when the elders announced that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” the “root of David” has triumphed: Then I saw, in the middle of the throne with its four living creatures and the circle of elders, a Lamb standing that seemed to have been sacrificed (Rev 5:5-6, RSV St. Joseph’s edition; emphasis added).  The Greek words for Christ the Lamb in Revelation 5:6 are Arnion Hestekos(6), literally “Lamb Standing,” using an archaic Greek term for “lamb” (arnion).  The only place the archaic term arnion is found in the Gospels is in John 21:15 where it is used for the faithful New Covenant people of God when after the Resurrection Jesus commands St. Peter to “Feed my lambs [arnion],”and an amazing twenty-nine other times in the book of Revelation where arnionis used to identify Jesus in His glorified state as “the Lamb.”

John’s “standing” Lamb of sacrifice in Revelation 5:6 is an odd way to express Christ’s presence in the heavenly Sanctuary.  Slain lambs don’t stand.  But if John is using Greek to express a Hebrew concept, then what he is describing is a reference to Jesus as the Tamid, the “standing” Lamb of the Old Covenant perpetual daily sacrifice that prefigured the perpetual sacrifice of Jesus Christ.   While all the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant were prefigured in Jesus’ one sacrifice, in St. John’s description of Jesus offering His perfect sacrifice before the throne of God in the book of Revelation, Jesus is uniquely identified as the unblemished “Lamb Standing,” in Greek the Arnion Hestekos.

The connection between the unusual and archaic form of the Greek word arnion

for “lamb” in John 21:15, used for believers in Jesus Christ and its use twenty-nine times in the book of Revelation for Jesus Himself may be that in St. John’s interpretation of Jesus’ resurrected and glorified state that He is no longer the amnos (the typical word for lamb in the Gospel of John except for 21:15) but is now the glorified Arnion (Lamb) of God who is One with the arnion of His Church (Jn 21:15; 1 Cor 12:20-27). But there may also be a more profound connection to the Greek words inRevelation 5:6 which identify Jesus as the Arnion Hestekos, the “Lamb Standing as though it had been slain” since this “Lamb Standing” takes center stage in the divine Heavenly Liturgy.  The key to this profound mystery is the lamb who took center stage in the Old Covenant Temple liturgy, the “standing lamb” of the Tamid.

Unlike the Hebrew word for “standing,” which like our English word has the double meaning of “standing” as in “upright” and standing as in “continual” or “perpetual,” the Greek word hestekos only means “standing” in the literal sense.  Bible scholar Philip Carrington suggests that St. John is writing in Greek but is thinking in Hebrew, using hestekosas, he writes, “a rough Greek translation of the Hebrew word tamid that means standing’ as in  continual/perpetual,’ and refers to the daily whole burnt offering in the Temple.”   Carrington suggests since there was no Greek word to adequately convey the meaning of this unique sacrifice that Arnion Hestekos (the “Lamb Standing” in Rev 5:6) became the technical term of the Jewish Temple hierarchy for the Tamid lamb of the daily sacrifice.  It is likely that this was also the Greek term used in the catechesis of Greek speaking Gentiles who sought instruction in understanding the obligations of the Sinai Covenant.

According to rabbinic teaching, the Tamid was destined to end with the coming of the Messiah at which time the only sacrifice to continue in the Messianic era would be the Todah, , the peace offering of “thanksgiving,” the “Eucharistia” (Levine, JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus, page 43; Joseph Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1986, page 58).  This prediction has literally been fulfilled in the “Thanksgiving” sacrifice of the Eucharist.  However, in the heavenly liturgy, Jesus continues to offer Himself as the true Tamid, the “Lamb Standing.”

Like all previous Old Covenant high priests, in His role as the divine High Priest Jesus has a sacrifice that He must offer:  He has taken his seat at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true tent which the Lord, and not any man, set up.  Every high priest is constituted to offer gifts and sacrifices, and so this one too must have something to offer (Heb 8:1-3; emphasis added).  The sacrifice that Jesus offers is the sacrifice of Himself. Jesus Christ is the true Tamid of the heavenly Sanctuary which the earthly Tamid and the earthly Temple only prefigured (Col 2:16-17).

Christ’s Passion unfolded in the same time frame as the Tamid: at dawn when the Tamid was brought out to the altar He was condemned (Mt 26:66-75); at nine in the morning when the first Tamid lamb was sacrificed Jesus was sacrificed (Mk 5:25-6); at noon when the second Tamid lamb was led out to the altar the sun turned dark (Mt 27:45); and at three in the afternoon as the second Tamid lamb was sacrificed and the gates of the Temple opened for the afternoon worship service, Jesus died on the altar of the Cross (Mt 27:46-50) as the gates of heaven were opened to begin receive the righteous dead.  In the Old Covenant, the Tamid was the symbol of God’s presence with Israel (Ex 29:38-46; Dan 8:11-14).  In the New Covenant it is Jesus the Lamb who is the Emmanuel, the “God with us” perpetually to the end of time (Is 7:14; Mt 28:20).

Passion of the  Christ Tamid Sacrifice
  Peter denies Christ  a third time at the time of the “cockcrow” at 3 AM.   The chief priests  are awakened to begin their duties for the morning sacrifice at the signal of  the “cockcrow.”
  Jesus is condemned  by the Sanhedrin and taken to Pilate at dawn (sixth hour Roman time in Jn 19:14 and 6 AM our time).   The first Tamid  lamb is led to the altar at dawn.
  Pilate pronounces  Jesus “without fault.”   The chief priest or  his representative announces the morning Tamid “without fault.”
  Jesus is offered a  drink prior to crucifixion.   The Tamid lamb is  offered a drink.
  Jesus is crucified  at the third hour/9 AM (Mk 15:25).   The Tamid lamb is  sacrificed at the third hour/9 AM.
  The eclipse occurs  at noon (sixth hour Jewish time).   The second Tamid  lamb is taken out to the altar at noon.
  Jesus is given a  drink.   The second Tamid  lamb is offered a drink.
  Jesus gives up His  life at the ninth hour/3 PM.   The second Tamid  lamb is sacrificed at the ninth hour/3 PM.
Michal E. Hunt © copyright  2012

See the charts on the Tamid sacrifice and the division of day and night hours in the handouts.

Matthew 27:51 ~ And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth quaked, rocks were split…

There were two “veils” in the Temple.  One covered the entrance to the Temple’s Holy Place and the second inner veil was the covering across the entrance to the Holy of Holies.  The Holy of Holies was where God’s presence resided in the midst of His people and a sacred space in which the heavenly and earthly Sanctuaries were linked (Ex 25:8, 40; Ex 26:31-35; 35:12;39:34; Lev 24:3; 2 Chr 3:14).  Matthew is referring to the inner veil.  The word “veil” gives the wrong impression of this barrier.  It was a textile that hung from a height of about 30 feet and was the thickness of a man’s hand. Since the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 32) only the anointed High Priest had access to the Holy of Holies once a year on the feast of Atonement/Yom Kippur (Lev 16:1-18).  At the ninth hour (three in the afternoon), the assigned chief priests had entered the Holy Place as the afternoon Tamid lamb was slain to trim the wicks of the golden Menorah and to cleanse the ashes from the golden Altar of Incense that stood in front of the veil that shielded the Holy of Holies in preparation for the burning of incense at the conclusion of the afternoon liturgy.  Imagine the shock of the chief priests as the earth shook and the veil was torn as though by invisible hands from the top to the bottom.

Question: What does the supernatural act of the ripping of the covering that barred the way to the presence of God in the Holy of Holies symbolize?  See Gen 3:15; CCC 536 and 1026.
Answer: The ripping of the veil symbolized the fact that God had accepted His Son’s perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind and was giving everyone access to the most holy place of all “the heavenly Sanctuary that had been barred to man since the Fall of Adam.  Christ conquered the serpent and became the promised Mediator between man and God (Gen 3:15).

Question: What sign should all faithful Jews have read in the tearing of the veil and the earthquake?  See Ps 68:9; 77:19; Mt 24:7-8.
Answer: These were the signs the prophets predicted in the coming of the Final Age of Man.

Matthew 27:52-53 ~ 52 tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  53 And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Only Matthew records the appearance of saints in association with Jesus’ resurrection.  This event is the first expression of faith in the liberation of the dead by Christ’s descent into Sheol/Hades (see 1 Pt 3:19-20;4:16).  The Catechism teaches: Scripture calls the abode of the dead to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” “Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek … It was precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord deliver when he descended into hell.”  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him (CCC 633).

We do not know what became of these saints.  Jesus prohpesied this event in John 5:25-28.  We do not know if they continued to live out their lives on earth as a reminder of the Resurrection and as an encouragement to the fledgling New Covenant Church like the resurrected Lazarus (Jn 11:38-44; 12:1-2), or perhaps they ascend to the Father with Jesus forty days later.(7)

Question: What would the resurrection of holy Jewish saints have meant for the Jews who witnessed the event?  See Is 26:19; Ez chapter 37; Dan 12:2-3.
Answer: For the Jews, the “resurrection of the righteous ones” was a sign of the Last Age of Man and the coming of the Messianic Era.

Question: What does this event mean for Christians? See 1 Thes 4:16; Rev 21:1-4.
Answer: For Christians, this event prefigures our promise of a bodily resurrection when Christ returns.  It is also evidence that the effect of Jesus’ resurrection changed the whole balance of nature.  He came to redeem mankind from the effects of sin but also to redeem the natural world which had been wounded, like humanity, by the corrupting power of sin.  That is why, in His Second Advent, all of creation will be transformed into the new heaven and new earth.

Matthew 27:54 ~ 54 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” 

Question: What is significant about the declaration of the Roman officer and his men?
Answer: They are the first Gentiles to proclaim Jesus “the Son of God.”  They may not have completely understood what they were saying, but it will be a declaration that will be carried into the Gentile nations of the earth.

Matthew 27:55-56 ~ There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.  56 Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

According to the Gospels, the only male disciple at the Cross was the “beloved disciple” who the Church Fathers identify as St. John Zebedee.  Isn’t it ironic that it is the women who stayed with Christ to the end?  They will be rewarded for their faithfulness

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