The Forsaken King | Matthew 27:32-61
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 27:32–61
Christopher Rich – March 20, 2016
Passion of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 5
Wk8: The Forsaken King | 27:32-61
Good Morning! This week we are continuing the “Passion of the King” We are spending the weeks leading up to Easter, looking to Jesus on the cross taking our defeat for us including Good Friday, His victorious resurrection on Easter, and the commission He gives his disciples to make disciples and live for him. But none of what we see in the events of this gospel mater if the identity of Jesus isn’t clear through-out. Jesus is the savior-king, Christ, Messiah of God’s people. He is the king crucified for his people. As we read this account of Jesus crucifixion and death Matthew is careful to regularly remind the readers of how much of the Old Testament was fulfilled during these events. This reads like a tragedy, but despite the plotting of religious leaders, the decrees of the Roman government or the shouting of the mob, it is God’s purposes that are being worked out. This week is we are laser focused on the cross, this morning and again from a different perspective on Good Friday, so we will spend our time where Matthew does, mostly on the events around Jesus crucifixion and less on the implications, put another way there will be more “what” less “why”.
PART I | King Crucified
Matt 27:32-38|32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull) 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
A sleepless night including an arrest, two trials, scourging, mocking, Matthew wants us to know how weak Jesus is as the time of the cross is now here. Other accounts have Jesus beginning His march to Calvary carrying the cross beam as was the custom, but broken down it becomes a burden to great to bear and Romans soldiers “compel” a man from Cyrene Simon to carry the cross for Jesus. This man was in route to other activities when he is drawn into Jesus crucifixion. The way he’s talked about in other Gospels it is likely he became a Christian. It is on this death march we see Jesus experiencing progressive forsaking, beginning with social exclusion. Sin separates, and just as Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden and presence of God because of their sin as Jesus bears the sin of his people he is led away from the city of God’s people, Jerusalem. He’s led away from the festival where songs are sung and feast are had, community is enjoyed to a place well enough acquainted with death to be known as “Place of a Skull”. Right away the theme of Jesus growing isolation is pronounced. Condemned prisoners were regularly given a goblet with strong wine mixed with gall (Frankincense) to numb the senses before, Jesus tasted and he refused. He was there to drink the cup of God’s wrath not be comforted before a martyrs death.
They had crucified him, half a sentence to highlight the facts of Jesus crucifixion. This was one of the most dreadful ways of dying humanity has ever conceived, all weight tearing at nails in hands and feet, and it is only given a brief word. For the first audiences no more than a word would be necessary to understand the brutality Jesus endured; in fact all the gospels give it little more than a simple phrase. While we watch Passion of the Christ for two hours and focus on the physical pain Jesus endured on our behalf, and there is value to understanding the concept, the Holy Spirit inspired writers of the New Testament gospel seem most concerned with how Jesus death dealt with the sin of His people, there was great purpose in the pain.
Jesus crucified leads right in to His garments divided by casting lots. This was more than a job bonus for the crucifixion soldiers; it was a direct fulfilment of Psalm 22:18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. The soldiers are now keeping watch over Jesus, as it wasn’t unusual for friends or family to attempt to take people down from their crosses. The setting is clear; Jesus is utterly hopeless to be rescued. We’re reminded again why officially Jesus is there, “He is the King.” The religious leaders say “no, no, just put “He said he was king” Pilate stands firm, “I’ve written what I’ve written.” Gospel Truth, Jesus is the King of God’s people is declared at the cross for all who come to this cross. It is a truth universal enough it is translated into Hebrew (for religious), Greek (for intellectuals), and Latin (for pagans). Details continue to point to the purpose of God as Jesus is placed between two “bandits” fulfilling another prophecy. Isaiah 53:12 because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Bearing the sins of many requires experiencing the consequences of sin, sin separates and sin is painful, sin also warrants the wrath of God.
PART II | King Forsaken
Matt 27:39-44 |39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging 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, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Jesus has been taken from the city removed from the feast and celebration but he is not alone, in fact we see there was quite an assembly for Jesus at and around the cross. We know the soldiers are keeping watch. There are passing crowds hurling insults, religious leaders taunting him, and even for a time the other crucified men were reviling him. Theologian Randolph Tasker calls these groups ignorant sinners, religious sinners, and condemned sinners. While Matthew spends very little time talking about the physical pain Jesus endures, he gives great detail to how Jesus was treated by the people around him. Here we continue to see the depth of pain Jesus endures as his experience of being forsaken grows. He is more than socially abandoned he is actively socially attacked. There is universal rejection of Jesus from all of those around him. It was a rejection filled with irony. Matthew opens with Jesus identity and purpose, when Mary is told to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. They tell him you’ve saved others (healings, casting out demons, etc) but you cannot save yourself! In this Jesus cannot and will not come down from the cross specifically because he is saving others, this is what is meant by Jesus in our place. The reviling was comprehensive in its scope.
Charles Spurgeon - They mocked Him as Savior: ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! They mocked Him as King: He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. They mocked His faith: He trusts in God. They mocked Him as Son: Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God”.’
The religious leaders challenge him to come down from the cross if he is truly the king and the Son of God. They’re echoing the temptation from satan Jesus experienced in Matthew 4. They claim as people often do that if Jesus would simply act in a way they approved of they would believe in him. This of course is not true because if God were to respond to the demands of sinful men by obeying them he wouldn’t be a God worth worshiping or a king worth serving. He wouldn’t be king, they would be. But surely Jesus had the disciples, family, and friends supporters. Where are they? We read later in Matthew 27:55-56
Matt 27:55-56 55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Jesus forsaken includes a deep experience of social abandonment. We were made from community and here is Jesus enduring comprehensive societal rejection.
PART III | Hell on Earth
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
It is in these verses we see the pinnacle of Jesus as the forsaken king. In the middle of the day there is a darkness that hangs over the land. While Jesus knows what he is experiencing. He has been mocked for his trust in God the Father. Enemies are close at hand while God seems so far away. The emotional toll is mounting while Jesus strength is waning. Jesus stripped, beaten, weak, is hanging and he’s looking to the Father for strength as he’s always done. John 1:1 says Jesus was there at the beginning active in creation, in perfect relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit. All he had known constant communion with God the Father. Yet here he is in the midst of pain and humanity searching for “My God”. Jesus doesn’t reject God even as he is forsaken. This isn’t Jesus with self-pity like Nancy Kerrigan saying “why me?!” This is Jesus experiencing what it means to become sin and the emotional anguish was crushing. Don’t neglect that thought for a moment. Don’t let the cross become something so small and sterile that assumes Jesus just sorta winked back at God as if he wasn’t enduring the deep trauma of God withdrawing His presence. This was a loud painful voice crying out to God, but the Father has turned his face away.
We see one person was briefly moved to provide Jesus a moment of relief the crowd overwhelmingly held a “wait and see attitude.” Jesus being forsaken included social rejection eternally and emotion anguish internally but we cannot forget it absolutely included suffering spiritual wrath from God. This is a bit of a mystery of what this means and what happened specifically, but what is clear is there is a break in the relationship between Father and Son. The shining love of the Father was withdrawn. The sun in the sky failed to bring light to the darkness that comes from the dark face of pure judgement. If we can sometimes make the cross too small by assuming it “wasn’t that bad for Jesus” we can make our sin too small by thinking it doesn’t warrant God’s righteous wrath. A God who brings wrath is both difficult and offensive to our relativistic visions of God, so much so even churches try to write it out of their hymnals. In Christ Alone says “and on the cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied” PCUSA voted to have it removed. The cross is important not just an example of self-sacrifice or pain endured, but for what actually happened. Jesus taking on our sin experienced the full weight of God’s wrath. The full experience of God’s goodness withdrawn, total separation from the source of all life and joy. It was Hell on Earth.
In Jerusalem that day hung a picture of Hell as the Son of God was cut off socially from everyone, deserted emotionally on the cross, and separated spiritually from the eternal Father with whom He had always lived face-to-face. That’s hell. Sinner, that’s our place! That’s the horror that awaits everyone who dies in their sin not repenting from sin and trusting in Jesus alone to save them from the wrath of God and for the worship of God. It’s not pretty. It’s dark and horrifying and unimaginable. Even the God-man cried out and died! –Thabiti Anyabwile
Righteous Man, Righteous Prayer, to a Righteous God leads to a gross injustice. Jesus endures injustice so we don’t face the justice we deserve. Faithful Jesus is forsaking by God so the unfaithful do not have to be forsaken. His last words are “It is finished!!!” forsakenness, the atonement, Jesus paying for sin is complete.
PART IV | Torn and Restored
Matt 27:51-54 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Because of Jesus on the cross, separation is over. Jesus said “into your hands I commit my spirit” to God the Father. Relationship begins to be restored. We see this in the account of what happens next. Because of Jesus there is a forever shift in how God interacts with His people. No longer will the temple with its Holy of Holies be the place God meets his people through a detailed system of priests and sacrifices. Jesus is how God meets His people. The torn curtain means the barrier of sin that blocks our access to God has been removed. Jesus has given the perfect sacrifice. This means those who trust in Jesus go from wrath to worship. Because of what Jesus did on the cross in our place we don’t need to experience the same separation from God. God’s plan of redemption culminates in the cross. Guilty sinners are pardoned, stains of shame are removed. God’s power is demonstrated in the death of Christ. Rocks split, the ground shakes, and death has been defeated in such a way many of the dead were raised. We know earlier even one of the condemned robbers went from reviler to desperate pleading to salvation in Jesus alone and was given grace “today you will be with me in paradise.” We see there is great news in this Good Friday.
On one hand Jesus sacrificial death blots out our sin, defeats the powers of evil and death, and opens up access to God. On the other, Jesus’ victorious resurrection and vindication promise the final resurrection of those who die in him.” JW Wenham
The death of Jesus is as important and necessary as his resurrection. He would die but rise again; he would rise as one who died for sinners. Centurion saw the power of God displayed in Jesus on the cross and all the events and he saw Gospel Truth. Jesus is the Son of God. Colossians 2:15
PART IV | King Buried
Matt 27:57-61 | 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
We know from John this tomb was close at hand there was little distance from the cross to the grave. For the disciples they believe Rome and the religious has won and the revolution was over. We will see, Rome is exposed as an empire built on violence and force rather than the kingdom of God built on faith.
Jesus God’s Son was abandoned by God so we could be adopted into His family. Jesus perfect, was torn apart so we as broken sinners could be made whole. Jesus was rejected so we could be accepted by God. On the cross Jesus became our sin so we could have salvation when we Trust Jesus.