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The Strangeness Of Divine Justice

Matthew 27:24-26

Roman rule was famed for its 'Pax Romana' - keeping the peace (after territories had been conquered). Generally speaking, they were successful; but Israel had been a problem under Governor Pontius Pilate. He was proud, heavy handed and insensitive to Jewish customs. His arrogant and vicious behaviour had sparked at least two civil uprisings earning him a rebuke from the Emperor, after the religious leaders had complained to Rome.

Ridiculing God

Matthew 27:27-31

The prisoner was no ordinary man.

Another Substitute

Matthew 27:32

Substitution is the key to the Passion narrative. Jesus Christ died at the feast of Passover which remembered the sacrifice of a lamb whose death enabled God to spare the firstborn of each family. John the Baptist had declared Jesus to be 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'. The innocent Jesus was substituted for the guilty Barabbas, and the bystander Simon was the substitute to carry the crosspiece on which Jesus would be nailed.

Watching The Death Of The King

Matthew 27:33-37

These simple sentences are loaded with pain. The place was dreadful enough; its popular name was full of dramatic foreboding and the public executions were gruesome. Crucifixion was intended to be very painful, as a serious public deterrent to other criminals as well as a personal punishment for the crime which had been committed. Nailed to a cross, the prisoner could not breathe properly as the weight of his body prevented normal respiration and tissue oxygenation, and eventually death would come as the circulatory system failed.

Adding Insult To Injury

Matthew 27:38-44

Jesus was hanging on the cross in extreme pain, as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, but they all insulted Him. It was a strange collection of people who all agreed to add insult to His injury.

The Dark Loneliness Of Sin

Matthew 27:45-50

The execution commenced at 9 o'clock in the morning. By mid-day, when the sun should have been burning down, the sky went dark. An eerie silence settled over the cross as the light refused to shine. The ridicule had stopped and the onlookers had exhausted their arrogant insults. It was the lone voice of Jesus which pierced the gloom with the chilling question to His Father.

Earth Shaking Death

Matthew 27:51-53

'At that moment' refers to the cry of Jesus in which He surrendered His Spirit to Father God, and died. The atoning sacrifice was complete, sin had been punished and the weight of God's justice had fallen on Jesus. At that moment two dramatic events shook the city. Something most powerful had happened.

Crucial Witnesses

Matthew 27:54-56

Jesus had died. But it was not the end of the matter. The day's events left the official onlookers terrified. It was definitely not a normal crucifixion-day. The eerie darkness from noon until three in the afternoon was frightening enough. Then light burst through again after Jesus surrendered His Spirit to His Father. Then there was an earthquake and many graves burst open.

Buried In Another's Place

Matthew 27:57-61

Joseph of Arimathea was a respected member of the Jewish ruling council, but he believed in Jesus and wanted to follow Him. Although he was afraid of the reaction of the others on the Council (John 19:38) he did not agree with Jesus being put to death (Luke 23:50-51). However, after Jesus had died Joseph took the unusual step of associating himself with Jesus, as though he was a relative.

Trying To Stop Resurrection

Matthew 27:62-66

The chief priests and others from the Ruling Council had succeeded in persuading the Roman Governor to order the crucifixion of Jesus. Their deadly plan had worked, and His body was then locked into a rock-tomb. But a fresh fear seized them. What if His body should get out of the tomb? Then His influence and that of His disciples would continue and the authority of the religious leaders would continue to be undermined.