Matthew 27:11-44 (ESV)
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
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. 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.
Matthew 27:11-44 documents Jesus’ trial before Pilate and his subsequent delivery up to crucifixion as part of Matthew’s powerful Passion narrative. Jesus is rejected by his own people; so much so that they condemn him to death. To so many first-time readers, this passage can serve to anger and confuse them. Why would a man who has healed people and preached the Good News of salvation be rejected by the very people he came into the world to save. Why would they crucify him like a common criminal? It all seems so terribly wrong! Yet, it is for this very reason that he must go to the cross. He must fulfill his mission of taking on the sins of the world and crucifying them to the cross with him so, on the third day he can rise to be the first fruits of new and unending life! In Isaiah, it is written “…he poured out his soul to death and was numbered among the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Is. 53:12). Isaiah foretold of the rejection of Jesus Christ by his people, but he also prophesied of his resurrection and exaltation “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Is. 52:13). Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He took on our sins, so that we could come into the presence of the Lord and have a loving relationship with him. His resurrection serves as the primary example for us all. We will be persecuted and rejected by others who refuse to believe – some, even to the point of death. But one day, we will rise and have eternal life with Him!
Heavenly Father, strengthen us in our times of suffering and persecution. Remind us daily, that death is not the end for us who believe in you, but only the beginning. Amen.