This morning, in this chapter we come to that which Matthew has been leading us to for some time.
- You see, back in Matthew 16:21, Jesus tells His disciples for the first time in the gospel of Matthew that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day.
- And today, we finally get to what Matthew has been leading us too.
This morning, as we go through this passage, we are not going to examine every detail.
- Instead, we are going to consider some of the words that were spoken…some of the statements made that I think sum up the story of Christ crucified.
- The first is found in verse 11.
When you get to verse 11 the Jews have brought Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate.
- But when they bring Him to Pilate, they don’t accuse him of blasphemy before Pilate.
- They know that Pilate could care less if someone had blasphemed the God of the Jews.
- So they don’t bring Him to Pilate accused of blasphemy….they bring Him accused of high treason….as being KING of the Jews.
And that is the irony here.
- They charge Him before Pilate with being exactly what they wanted Him to be.
- They wanted a Christ who would be their king…who would liberate them and drive the Romans from the land.
- But when Jesus wasn’t that kind of a Messiah they haul him before Pilate and accuse him of being that way.
- And these Jews, the chief priests, and the members of the council, and the scribes slowly push Pilate toward a verdict.
But notice what Pilate knows about this situation in verse 18.
- It says that he “knew that because of envy they had delivered Him up.”
- These chief priests, and scribes and leaders of the Jews were envious of Jesus.
- They were envious of his influence, and the following He had among the people.
- The way He taught…and spoke.
And Pilate knew that.
- He knew what motivated these people to bring Jesus to him.
- He knew that loyalty to Caesar was not what motivated them.
- He knew after questioning Jesus that Jesus was no threat to his job.
- Them bringing Jesus to him under the pretense of Jesus committing “high treason” was a hoax.
- And Pilate knew that.
- They brought Jesus because they were jealous of Him.
Pilate just didn’t realize HOW jealous they were!
- Their jealousy had gone so far that when they had the opportunity to see a real insurrectionist punished….I mean after all that is what they falsely accused Jesus of.
- When they had opportunity to see a notorious murderer by the name of Barabbas punished.
- When they had opportunity to choose between Jesus and a notorious criminal…their jealousy of Jesus had gone so far….that they chose Barabbas over Him.
You see, Pilate didn’t realize how much people desire power and influence.
- Some people want power and influence so bad that they will kill in order to get it.
Now look at vs. 23-24: And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” 24 And when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.”
- Pilate knows what the right thing to do is.
- But he also knows that Rome did not send him to Jerusalem to do justice.
- They sent him to keep order.
- And Rome is far more concerned about a riot than they are about some Jewish preacher.
- And so he makes his decision…and in vs. 26 he has Jesus scourged…and delivers Him to be crucified.
And so what Matthew has done is he has shown us that Jesus is led to his death, not just by the Jews…but also by the Romans.
- Not just by the Jews…but by the Gentiles.
- You see, all men are responsible for the cross of Jesus.
Why? What crimes was Jesus guilty of?
- Well, the answer is, Jesus was not crucified because He was guilty.
- He was crucified because we were.
Notice verses 27-32. What happens to Jesus in these verses is brutal.
- You see, for the Roman soldier, to be sent to Palestine was the worst of all possible assignments.
- If you were a Roman soldier you were absolutely despised in Palestine.
- You were hated.
- You were hated so much that some of the Jewish zealots and patriots would kill you given the chance.
- So if you were a Roman soldier you looked for any chance you could find to vent your hatred for these Jews.
- And when Pilate turned Jesus over to these soldiers to crucify Him, these hated Roman soldiers released all their pent up hatred and bigotry on Jesus in a beating that was so savage that Jesus was physically unable to carry the cross.
And they mock Him as King…and they keep beating Him with reeds…and spitting on him.
- And they take Him out to crucify Him.
- And they drive those nails into His hands.
- And set the cross in its place.
And you would think that by now they would have all had their fill of being so cruel and inhumane toward Jesus.
- You would think that there might be a faint spark of compassion in some of them for this man who has already suffered so much and that they wouldn’t put Him through any more.
- But there isn’t.
- Because in verse 40, those passing by were “hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Ha! You who were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself and come down from the cross.”
- And in verse 42 the chief priest and scribes were ridiculing Him saying, “You saved others but you can’t save yourself..”
- “Come down from the cross Jesus and we will believe!”
- Don’t underestimate for a minute how hard it was for Jesus to bear this kind of verbal abuse.
- What they said here hurt just as much as the blows He felt earlier from the fists of the Romans.
- It was in His power to call on God and thousands of angels would rescue Him from that cross.
- But He didn’t call on that power because He had already surrendered to the will of the Father.
- You see, the nails didn’t keep Jesus on that cross….Love did.
- His love for God….and His love for you and I.
- And oh what a love it is.
- It is a love so great that Jesus takes the absolute worst ugliness that this world can dish out…and He rises above it…and dies to save the very ones who mistreat Him.
And those men who mocked Him and said, “You saved others, but you can’t save yourself”, just didn’t realize that He could save others….and He could have saved Himself.
- He just couldn’t do both.
- If He would have come down from that cross He would have saved Himself…and we would all be lost.
And then what happens next is hard to imagine. Vs. 45 says that “about the 6th hour darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
- God comes in judgment.
- But not on the people! Oh they deserved it!
- Instead, He comes in judgment on this One who is on the cross.
Jesus cries out, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?”
- “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
- Jesus is finally made to drink the cup that He dreaded so much in the garden and that He pleaded with God to take away from Him.
It wasn’t so much the pain of the cross that made Him cry out.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God.”
- That is what made Him cry out!
- I don’t know how to explain it…but somehow in that dark moment fellowship between the Father and the Son was broken.
- The Trinity was dismantled.
- And God’s wrath was poured out on the Son all because of our sins.
God departed from Jesus so that He would never have to depart from you.
- And Jesus said those words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”, so that you would never have to say them.
And that is why we should lift up the cross.
- And that is why we should get upset when anyone ridicules the cross or suggests that any other god is just as good…
- I am going to tell you something….no other god ever loved man so much.
Notice now verse 51. Another strange thing happens. Just as Jesus breaths His last and dies, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
- What does that mean?
- Well, in the Hebrew tabernacle that veil made separation between God and man.
- In a sense it was symbolic of sin….and how sin separates us from God.
- And when Jesus died…His death on that cross was the atoning sacrifice that removed the barrier of sin…and gave man access back into the presence of God.
- And the fact that that veil was torn from top to bottom indicated that the sacrifice was acceptable to God.
Now notice verse 54. Here in this verse a Roman soldier, standing right in front of Jesus sees Jesus breath His last, and then he says what Matthew has been telling us all along.
- “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”
He calls Him the “Son of God.”
- Prior to this, in the gospel of Matthew, the disciples call Him the “Son of God” only one time. (When Peter walked on water)
- God calls Him this twice: Once at His baptism and once on the “Mount of Transfiguration.”
No one else calls Him that until this centurion does here in verse 54.
- But I guess that is because no one is sure who Jesus really is until He gets to the cross.
This centurion expresses what this gospel has been saying all alone.
- “Truly, this man is the Son of God.”
They thought when they killed Jesus that they would stop His message.
- Instead, they endorsed it.
- It is the cross that speaks to the heart of men.
- And when Matthew writes of the cross it is as if though he is saying, “Folks, I have written all I have written to get you to this point.
- And if what I have written here in this chapter doesn’t move you….
- If the cross doesn’t move you….then you are not going to be moved.
- If the cross doesn’t convict your heart…then there is nothing I can write from her to eternity that will make a difference.
So, have you heard the cross today?
There were three crosses that day.
- On the left was a cross and on that cross was a man who was angry at God.
- He was angry with his neighbor.
- He was filled with bitterness and hatred…and that man had sin in him and on him…
- And he will stand before God condemned.
On the right there was another man.
- That man was just as guilty as the man on the far left.
- But this man on the right looked to Jesus and threw himself toward Jesus…and his faith found grace that day.
- And that man died with sin in him…but he will not stand before God with sin on him…all because there is a cross in the middle.
Because on that cross in the middle was a man who had no sin in Him…but who had all sin ON Him.
- And every man who stands before God will be like the man on the left…or the man on the right.
- And it all depends on what you do with Jesus.
Jesus died on the cross, “forsaken by God” so that you would never have too.
- His cross is speaking to you today…will you respond to it?
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023