Matthew 27:11-44

Thursday Evening Bible Study

July 5, 2007


Jesus has been betrayed and arrested.  He’s stood trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin and was condemned to death for claiming to be the Son of God.  He is now being sent to Pontius Pilate.

:11-14 Jesus before Pilate

:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" So Jesus said to him, "It is as you say."

:12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

:13 Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against?"

:14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.

This was another of the prophecies fulfilled:

(Isa 53:7 NKJV)  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

For centuries the skeptics said that Pontius Pilate was not a real person.  This was because they had not found any archaeological evidence regarding him.  But when the archaeologists were excavating the theater in Caesarea, they turned over one of the stones in the benches and found the inscription “Tiberius Pius Pilatus Judea”, which meant that Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea in the time of Tiberius.

Luke tells us that at one point, Pilate will try and pass the buck to Herod by sending Jesus to Herod for sentencing, but Herod doesn’t know what to do with Jesus either and sends Jesus back to Pilate.

John gives us a few more details of what happened in the Praetorium between Jesus and Pilate:

(John 18:28-38 NKJV)  Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. {29} Pilate then went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this Man?" {30} They answered and said to him, "If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you." {31} Then Pilate said to them, "You take Him and judge Him according to your law." Therefore the Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death," {32} that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

If Jesus were put to death by the Jews, He would have been stoned.  Yet Jesus spoke of being crucified, not stoned.

{33} Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" {34} Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" {35} Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" {36} Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." {37} Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." {38} Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all.

Pilate couldn’t figure out why the Jews had a problem with Jesus.  He could find no fault with Him.

:15-26 Jesus takes Barabbas’ place

:15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished.

:16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

Barabbas – His name means “a son of a father”

We don't know too much about him.  Mark tells us:

(Mark 15:7 NKJV)  And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion.

John also tells us (John 18:40) that he was a robber as well.

:17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?"

It seems that Pilate is trying to make it easy for the people to let Jesus be released.  Who would you want released, a man condemned for murder, or a man who healed people?

:18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.

There may have been other reasons why the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead, but this was the one that Pilate was aware of.



envyphthonos – envy; one suggestion is that the word comes from – phtheiro – to corrupt, to destroy; it has been defined as: “a feeling of resentment and jealousy toward others because of their possessions or good qualities”
We’ve seen how Rachel’s envy of Leah brought tons of strife into Jacob’s family:

(Gen 30:1 NKJV)  Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die!"

Solomon writes,

(Prov 14:30 NKJV)  A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones.

James links envy with “self-seeking”

(James 3:14 NKJV)  But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.

(James 3:16 NKJV)  For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

There’s an old legend about a greedy man and an envious man who were walking along when they were overtaken by a stranger who got to know them. And after a bit he said, as he departed from them, that he would give each of them a gift. Whoever made a wish first would get what he wanted, and the other would get a double portion of what the first had asked for. The greedy man knew what he wanted, but he was afraid to make his wish because he wanted the double portion for himself and didn’t want the other to get it. And the envious man felt the same way, and he was also unwilling to wish first. After a while the stronger of the two grabbed the other by the throat and said he would choke him to death unless he made his wish. And at that the other man said, “Very well. I make my wish—I wish to be made blind in one eye.” Immediately he lost the sight of one eye, and his companion went blind in both.
Envy can creep into anyone’s heart, even some of the great men of God…

F. B. Meyer was pastor of Christ’s Church in London at the same time that G. Campbell Morgan was pastor of Westminister Chapel and Charles H. Spurgeon was pastor of the Metropolitan Chapel. Both Morgan and Spurgeon often had much larger audiences than did Meyer. Troubled by envy, Meyer confessed that not until he began praying for his colleagues did he have peace of heart. “When I prayed for their success,” said Meyer, “the result was that God filled their churches so full that the overflow filled mine, and it has been full since.”

Discouragement comes when you try to start with what you wish you had but don’t have. And it intensifies when you insist on trying to be in a position you are not in and probably never will be in.

-- Stuart Briscoe, Bound For Joy, Regal Books 1975, 1984, p. 95

Paul Eldridge writes,

What we have not poisons what we have--. Our urge to acquire things is due less to the passion to possess them than to the vanity of feeling superior to those who envy our possession of them--. Envy transmutes other people’s base metals into gold--. Our envy is the yeast that swells the fortune of others--. No form of hatred is as keen as envy. It magnifies the importance of our enemy—and belittles our own.

God’s desire is that we learn the secret of contentment:
(Phil 4:10-13 NASB) But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. {11} Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. {12} I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. {13} I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

:19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, "Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him."

his wife – There is a historical tradition that Pilate’s wife was named Claudia Procula.  She was the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus and the adopted daughter of Tiberius Caesar.  Tradition has it that she had converted to Judaism and after the death of Jesus she became a Christian.  The Eastern Orthodox church considers her a “saint”.

Some suggest that she is mentioned as being with Paul in Rome when he writes 2Tim. 4:21.

(2 Tim 4:21 NKJV)  Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren.

justdikaios – righteous, observing divine laws; innocent, faultless, guiltless

Pilate’s wife had an idea that Jesus was someone special.

:20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

It hasn’t even been a full week since the crowds had been cheering Jesus:

(Mat 21:9 NKJV) Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!"

Be careful about wanting people’s approval. The “multitude” can be fickle.

:21 The governor answered and said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" They said, "Barabbas!"

:22 Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!"

Great question.  It’s a question that we all need to ask.

:23 Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!"

:24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it."

Pilate seemed to have had a history of not doing too well with his Jewish subjects.

Luke records an incident regarding Pilate:

(Luke 13:1 NKJV)  There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
We don’t know much about the incident other than Pilate being a pretty harsh ruler.

Josephus reports that, when Pilate first brought Roman troops to Jerusalem from Caesarea, he committed an unprecedented violation of Jewish sensibilities by allowing the troops to bring into the city their military standards with the busts of the emperor, which were considered idolatrous images by the Jews; and this was done in an underhanded manner, the troops bringing in and setting up the images by night. A massive protest demonstration in Caesarea’s stadium forced the removal of the standards, but only after the Jews used tactics of nonviolent mass resistance, lying down and baring their necks when Pilate’s soldiers, swords in hand, surrounded and attempted to disperse them.

Word got back to Tiberius Caesar that Pilate had been defeated by a group of stubborn Jews.

Philo tells of an incident where Jewish letters of protest to Rome brought the intervention of the emperor himself, who commanded Pilate to remove golden shields with the emperor’s name on them that he had placed in his residence in Jerusalem.

Josephus again speaks of protests that broke out when Pilate appropriated Temple funds to build an aqueduct for Jerusalem. On this occasion, Pilate had Roman soldiers, dressed as Jewish civilians and armed with hidden clubs, mingle with the shouting crowd and attack the people at a prearranged signal. Many were killed or hurt.

Apparently Tiberius Caesar had warned Pilate that if he couldn’t keep control of the situation in Palestine, that he would lose his job.

And so at this point in Pilate’s career, he doesn’t seem to want to upset the Jews any more than he has to, so he decides to go along with their request, but “washes his hands” of the mess to indicate that he doesn’t agree with the decision.

washed his hands – It’s interesting that the Jews themselves had a law that talked about “washing hands” as a sign of being innocent in a matter.

(Deu 21:6-7 NKJV)  "And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. {7} "Then they shall answer and say, 'Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it.

And now Pilate, who has been at odds with the Jews, performs something that sounds like he’s following Jewish protocol.


Make a choice

Pilate thinks that by washing his hands, he will not face any repercussions from having Jesus crucified.
You can’t wash your hands of Jesus.  You are either for Him or you are against Him.

:25 And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children."

This was the controversial line that some people didn’t want in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. The concern was that it was too “anti-semitic”.

We should not allow people to take this and twist it as a reason to persecute the Jews.  They are still God’s chosen and much beloved people.

But these words would have a horrifying result as judgment would come on the Jews with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70.

:26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

scourgedphragelloo – to scourge; the word is related to the name of the Roman scourging device, the “flagellum”, also called the “cat-o-nine-tails”, which consisted of leather straps with bits and pieces of wood, stone, or metal embedded into the straps. It was designed to inflict pain and tear off your skin.

During a flogging, a victim was tied to a post, leaving his back entirely exposed.

The Jews were commanded not to ever whip a person more than 40 times, and so their practice was to have a person receive no more than 39 lashes, just to be sure they didn’t break God’s law. The Romans had no such law. They could go as long as they wanted. It was not uncommon for a person to die during a Roman scourging.

During the flogging, the skin was stripped from the back, exposing a bloody mass of muscle and bone. Extreme blood loss occurred from this beating, weakening the victim. perhaps to the point of being unconscious.

The victim often died from the beating.


Crucifixion originated with the Persians and was perfected by the Romans.

As you hung, you had trouble breathing, having to push up against the nails to catch your breath.

Death was usually by suffocation.

If a prisoner hung on too long, their legs were broken so they couldn't push themselves up and breath.

releasedapoluo – to set free; to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer); to let go free, release; a captive i.e. to loose his bonds and bid him depart, to give him liberty to depart; to acquit one accused of a crime and set him at liberty; to release a debtor, i.e. not to press one’s claim against him, to remit his debt

he released Barabbas – the man that was correctly condemned to death was released and an innocent man died in his place.

This is the picture of what the cross is all about.

We are that “son of a father”.  We were the ones deserving of death.  Yet the innocent Jesus died in our place.
He died so that we might be released.  He died so that we could be forgiven.

:27-31 Soldiers Mock Jesus

:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him.

Praetorium – This was the structure known as “Antonio’s Fortress”, built by Herod the Great and named after his friend Mark Antony. It was where the Roman troops were garrisoned in Jerusalem. It was built next to the Temple Mount and overlooked the Temple complex so the Roman troops could keep an eye on things without having to step on the Temple Mount.

the whole garrison – probably something between 300 to 600 men.

:28 And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.

robe – the idea is to mock Jesus as the “King of the Jews”. The scarlet robe is supposed to be something that a king would wear.

:29 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!"

crown of thorns – again, a way of mocking the “King of the Jews”. Some of the thorns in Israel can be an inch or two in length.

Thorns didn’t exist on the earth in God’s original creation. They first appeared as a result of God’s curse on Adam because of Adam’s sin.

(Gen 3:18 NKJV) Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…

How ironic that Jesus would be crowned with something that was a reminder of man’s sin.

(Isa 53:11 NKJV) …By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

reed in his right hand – a pretend “scepter” for the king.

:30 Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.

:31 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.

:32-44 Jesus on the cross

:32 Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.

Simon – this man was the father of two well-known Christians.

(Mark 15:21 NKJV) Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

Cyrene – a city in North Africa, and was the place where many Jews lived.

Some have suggested that Simon could have been a black man.

to bear His cross – not the entire cross, but just the cross beam.

It would seem that Simon became a believer at some point after this.

Simon would have a unique insight into Jesus’ own words:

(Luke 9:23 NKJV)  Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Simon was forced initially by the Romans to take up the cross, but eventually he learned to take up the cross on his own.

:33 And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull,

GolgothaGolgotha – “skull”. Golgotha is the Aramaic name of the place, the Latin name of the place is “Calvary”. We think the name comes from the place having features that look like a skull.

Around 300AD, Emperor Constantine’s mother went through the land of Israel on a pilgrimage and began having visions throughout the land about where Biblical events took place.  One of the places she determined was the place where Jesus died, and a church was built there, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The only problem is that the place doesn’t fit the Biblical description.

The Bible says that the place had to be outside the city (Heb. 13:12, the church of the Holy Sepulchre is inside the city) and near the gate of a city (Heb. 13:12; John 19:20).  It was common for crucifixion to be done on a busy road so that many could see the criminals.  Crucifixion was meant to be a deterrent to crime, not something done in a back lot.
The place we call “Gordon’s Calvary”, located above Jeremiah’s grotto fits the description much better.  The rocks in the area form the shape of a skull.  The area was located directly outside the Damascus gate, and the place was also a place of capital punishment, being the same place that Stephen was later stoned to death.

:34 they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.

It was a custom of the Jews to give a man being executed a drink to dull the pain, sort of an anesthesia.  This came from:

(Prov 31:6 NKJV)  Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart.

Today we have the blessing of hospice that helps loved ones suffering with things like cancer – they often will prescribe things like morphine to help with the intense pain.  There is nothing wrong with this.

But Jesus refused. His purpose was to bear our sins on the cross.  There was purpose in His suffering and He wasn’t going to take the easy way out.

:35 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."

This was one of the ways that the Roman soldiers could make a little money on the side.  There was a market for used clothing, sandals, and such.  There were apparently four soldiers who divided the garments, but there were five pieces of clothing (John 19:23).  The typical Jewish man of that day wore a headband, sandals, an inner cloak sort of like a nightshirt, a belt, and an outer tunic, or robe.

Because they did not want to divide the tunic, which some think might have been His Jewish prayer shawl, they tossed dice to see who got the fifth piece rather than tear it into pieces.

This was a fulfillment of:

(Psa 22:18 NKJV)  They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

:36 Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.

:37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

This was the practice of the Romans, to put up a sign declaring what the man was being crucified for.  The sign was called the “titulus”.  John tells us:

(John 19:20-22 NKJV)  Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. {21} Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews."' " {22} Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Paul uses some of this same imagery when he talks about the forgiveness that Jesus has given to us because of the cross.

(Col 2:13-14 NKJV)  And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, {14} having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Jesus’ “accusation” was simply the truth, that He was the King of the Jews.  The accusations against us are pretty serious, concerning all of our sins, the things that should put us on the cross.  Yet God has taken the accusations against us and nailed them to the cross of Jesus.

:38 Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.

:39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads

wagging their heads – a way of showing their scorn.

:40 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."

:41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said,

:42 "He saved others; Himself He cannot save.

Think about what they are saying.  There’s a lot of truth to it.  He did not save Himself because He was unable, but because He was unwilling.

Because He did not save Himself, He saved us.

:42 If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.

:43 "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

What they don’t understand is that because He is indeed the Son of God, He can’t come down from the cross and God will not deliver Him.

He is dying on the cross to pay for our sins.  This is the very thing He came to do.

:44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

One of the robbers will eventually put his faith in Jesus…

(Luke 23:42-43 NKJV)  Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." {43} And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."



Why would Jesus willingly go through such torture, shame, and death?
1.  This is how horrible our sin is.
(Rom 6:23 NKJV)  For the wages of sin is death
2.  This is how much God loves us.
(John 3:16 NKJV)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
(Rom 5:8 NKJV)  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(1 John 3:16 NKJV)  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.