The Death of Christ for Us
1. The death of Christ is treated with dignity and respect by the Gospel writers. Details concerning the physical aspects of Christ’s death are often emphasized by Bible teachers; however, many of the gruesome details of Roman crucifixion are absent from the pages of Scripture.
2. It is always best to emphasize what the Bible emphasizes. This evening, as we remember the death of Christ, we will closely follow the account of Matthew.
The Suffering of the Savior (27.27-44)
Transition: As we remember the death of Christ for us, we remember His suffering outside the camp and upon the cross.
Outside the Camp (27.27-32)
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified. Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. ” (Matthew 27:27–32, NKJV)
Jesus suffered great abuse at the hands of unbelieving men. The members of the Sanhedrin, Herod’s soldiers, Pilate, and his soldiers all add to the incredible suffering of Christ. Our text states that the soldiers of Pilate, the governor, took Jesus into the Praetorium. This is where Pilate lived. More than likely, the soldiers took Jesus into an open courtyard within the residence.
The soldiers mocked the claims of Christ being a king. The scarlet robe, and the crown of thorns, and the reed scepter obviously point up this fact. They mockingly bow the knee before Him with empty words of homage: “Hail, King of the Jews!” The mockery gives way to physical abuse.
They took the reed and continuously beat Him on the head that held the crown. They tore off the robe and led Him away to be crucified. The text states that “they came out.” The writer of Hebrews notes:
“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. ” (Hebrews 13:10–16, NKJV)
Matthew notes that “they came out.” That is, outside the city of Jerusalem. Jesus suffered outside the gate! Even as Simon, we should go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. Since the beating of Christ was severe, Simon was compelled to carry the cross for the Lord Jesus. We identify with Christ by bearing the cross of suffering even today. Picture yourself as Simon of Cyrene. If men hated Christ, the perfect Son of God, then we can be sure that they will hate us as well. Only salvation will change hearts at enmity toward God, and we have this ministry of reconciliation.
Roman soldiers compelled Simon, but the love of Christ compels us…
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. ” (2 Corinthians 5:17–19, NKJV)
Upon the Cross (27.33-44)
“And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. ” (Matthew 27:33–37, NKJV)
Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, has a Latin equivalent: Calvary (meaning skull or cranium; see Luke 23.33). No one knows for certain why the place was called “the skull”. Jerome said that it was a common place of execution and many skulls were strewn around the site. Some hold that since it was a place of execution, skull was used figuratively as a symbol of death. Still others say that the place of crucifixion was a hill that had the natural shape of a skull. However, there is no evidence provided that helps the Bible reader determine dogmatically why the place was called Golgotha or Calvary. So, all we know is that it was outside the city.
The soldiers tried to give Jesus sour wine mingled with gall just before the crucifixion. Gall is myrrh (which makes the gift of the wise men a heartrending scene). The concoction was meant to provide relief from the pain the victim was about to experience. Matthew states that Jesus would not drink it.
“They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. ” (Psalm 69:21, NKJV)
The prophecy stated in the Psalm provides the reason for why Jesus refused to drink. He fulfilled the prophecy, but also Psalm 69 provides the context of suffering under cruelty and mockery. “When Jesus tasted the wine and discovered that it was bitter, he refused to drink it.”
Matthew states simply in v. 35, “They crucified Him.” The practice is well-known to most of our hearers this evening. Spikes were driven by a heavy mallet through the wrists and feet of Jesus. A board provided support for the feet. His feet were probably three or four feet above ground level. The soldiers remained to watch over Jesus according to v. 36. They passed the time by gambling for the clothing of Jesus. This fulfilled yet another prophecy in Psalm 22.
“They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. ” (Psalm 22:18, NKJV)
Finally, the soldiers put up over Jesus’ head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. The irony of this mockery is that it was absolutely true. Jesus, the true King of the Jews, was crucified by men He created. The world viewed and still views this as the death of another criminal, but it was the death of Christ for us!
For His suffering, Jesus did not seek vengeance; He loved and forgave those who put Him upon the cross of suffering and shame. There are times when we are callus toward evil just as the soldiers and detractors at the foot of the cross were. We need sensitivity to righteousness and sin, good and evil. Such spiritual sensitivity comes through feeding on the Word of God and praying for grace to see things the way they really are. We lack a sensitivity that is needed today. It is precisely the reason we fall to temptation and sin. Pray and feed upon the Word of God! It is the only hope we have to endure suffering.
“Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing. ” (Matthew 27:38–44, NKJV)
Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. He was in the midst of them, fulfilling yet a third prophecy:
“And they made His grave with the wicked— but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. ” (Isaiah 53:9, NKJV)
“… He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. ” (Isaiah 53:12, NKJV)
The robbers added to Jesus’ suffering by reviling Him with the very same things that those who passed by, the chief priests, scribes, and elders said. Again, there is more irony. The people completely misunderstood Jesus’ earlier words regarding the destroying of the temple and its rebuilding in three days. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Had He come down, He would not have been the Son of God.
All those assembled that day taunted and ridiculed Jesus. In so doing, they fulfilled prophecy and said things that were actually quite true. Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel. His detractors could not fathom why or how the Messiah could suffer and be crucified. Even His disciples were mystified and fearful. Yet, they failed to understand the will of God in the death of Christ upon the cross for us!
Transition: Christ suffered outside the camp and upon the cross for us. Now, Matthew turns to a moment in time that will remain elusive for us in this life. He turns his attention to the actual death of Christ….
The Death of the Savior (27.45-50)
“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. ” (Matthew 27:45–50, NKJV)
The sixth hour is noon because the Jewish day begins at 6:00 am (ours at 12:00 midnight). The ninth hour is 3 pm. The Bible says that darkness covered all the land – perhaps a reference to all of Palestine. The darkness was caused by God. It was supernatural and lasted for three hours.
Jesus spoke Aramaic as we see in the text here (Eli – Hebrew; Eloi – Aramaic). Many wonder at His statement. It has been pointed out that He said, “My God, My God…” because at that moment His relationship with the Father had been changed. He had become sin for us. God was pouring out His wrath upon His Son for us. During this rejection, Jesus would not be able to call upon the Father.
“Why have you forsaken Me?” Not a question evidencing a bewilderment on the part of Jesus, but rather one that evidences the loneliness he felt because the Father had indeed forsaken Him. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5.21). Jesus, separated from God, suffers sin’s eternal debt in a way that is impossible for us to understand.
Jesus cried in great agony with a loud voice. Matthew states that He yielded up His spirit; that is, He breathed His last or died. Jesus, a righteous Man, took the righteous wrath of God upon Himself because He became sin for us. As we remember the Lord’s death this evening, we must understand that we will never truly understand what happened on the cross. But what we can understand regarding our redemption is absolutely priceless!
Jesus did not come down from the cross. He did not call for Elijah or the angels to help Him. He came to do the Father’s will and at the same time be rejected by His Father. This is beyond us. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Transition: The suffering and death of the Savior were for us. The great and wondrous signs that accompany Jesus’ death point to the death of death itself.
The Death of Death (27.51.-56)
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. ” (Matthew 27:51–56, NKJV)
1. The tearing of the veil of the temple (separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies)
a. The end of temple worship and sacrifice – even though it continued until AD 70.
b. Why continue the shadow of OT ritual when Christ in His fullness is the substance and supreme sacrifice?
c. Torn in two from top to bottom points up the supernatural nature of this rending. God has done this. Now the only way to Him is through His Son!
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, ” (Hebrews 10:19–20, NKJV)
2. The earth quaking and the rocks splitting along with open graves and dead saints raised
a. The dead saints rise immediately after the death of Christ. They came out of their graves.
b. After Jesus’ resurrection, they went into the holy city, and appeared to many.
c. These OT saints experienced a resurrection similar to that of Lazarus. Why did this happen? Maybe Matthew is pointing up the fact that Jesus’ death formed the foundation for the resurrection of all believers, even those who died before the cross.
Gentiles acknowledge that Jesus was truly the Son of God; the Jews do not. The signs the soldiers witnessed led them to believe that Jesus was truly the Son God.
Women gather at the end. The other disciples are not there. The women faithfully and lovingly support the Master to the bitter end. Perhaps this is why Jesus will appear first to women after His resurrection.
Conclusion: Women, Gentiles, and risen OT saints become powerful proof of Christ’s authority to save. He died, was buried, and is risen! In so doing, they and we witness the death of death!
Hymn: Alas and Did My Savior Bleed! (110)
 Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33B: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 14-28. Word Biblical Commentary (835). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.