Jesus Led Away to Pilate (Mt 27:1, 2).
For the exposition of this portion, see on Joh 18:28, &c.
Remorse and Suicide of Judas (Mt 27:3-10).
3. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was
condemned--The condemnation, even though not unexpected, might well
fill him with horror. But perhaps this unhappy man expected, that, while
he got the bribe, the Lord would miraculously escape, as He had once and
again done before, out of His enemies power: and if so, his remorse
would come upon him with all the greater keenness.
repented himself--but, as the issue too sadly showed, it was "the sorrow of the world, which worketh death" (2Co 7:10).
and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders--A remarkable illustration of the power of an awakened conscience. A short time before, the promise of this sordid pelf was temptation enough to his covetous heart to outweigh the most overwhelming obligations of duty and love; now, the possession of it so lashes him that he cannot use it, cannot even keep it!
4. Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent
blood--What a testimony this to Jesus! Judas had been with Him in
all circumstances for three years; his post, as treasurer to Him and
gave him peculiar opportunity of watching the spirit, disposition, and
habits of his Master; while his covetous nature and thievish practices
would incline him to dark and suspicious, rather than frank and
generous, interpretations of all that He said and did. If, then, he
could have fastened on one questionable feature in all that he had so
long witnessed, we may be sure that no such speech as this would ever
have escaped his lips, nor would he have been so stung with remorse as
not to be able to keep the money and survive his crime.
And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that--"Guilty or innocent is nothing to us: We have Him now--begone!" Was ever speech more hellish uttered?
5. And he cast down the pieces of silver--The sarcastic, diabolical
reply which he had got, in place of the sympathy which perhaps he
expected, would deepen his remorse into an agony.
in the temple--the temple proper, commonly called "the sanctuary," or "the holy place," into which only the priests might enter. How is this to be explained? Perhaps he flung the money in after them. But thus were fulfilled the words of the prophet--"I cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord" (Zec 11:13).
and departed, and went and hanged himself--For the details, see on Ac 1:18.
6. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not
lawful for to put them into the treasury--"the Corban," or
chest containing the money dedicated to sacred purposes (see on
because it is the price of blood--How scrupulous now! But those punctilious scruples made them unconsciously fulfil the Scripture.
9. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying-- (Zec 11:12, 13). Never was a complicated prophecy, otherwise hopelessly dark, more marvellously fulfilled. Various conjectures have been formed to account for Matthew's ascribing to Jeremiah a prophecy found in the book of Zechariah. But since with this book he was plainly familiar, having quoted one of its most remarkable prophecies of Christ but a few chapters before (Mt 21:4, 5), the question is one more of critical interest than real importance. Perhaps the true explanation is the following, from LIGHTFOOT: "Jeremiah of old had the first place among the prophets, and hereby he comes to be mentioned above all the rest in Mt 16:14; because he stood first in the volume of the prophets [as he proves from the learned DAVID KIMCHI] therefore he is first named. When, therefore, Matthew produceth a text of Zechariah under the name of JEREMY, he only cites the words of the volume of the prophets under his name who stood first in the volume of the prophets. Of which sort is that also of our Saviour (Lu 24:41), "All things must be fulfilled which are written of Me in the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms," or the Book of Hagiographa, in which the Psalms were placed first."
For the exposition, see on Mr 15:16-22.
For the exposition, see on Joh 19:18-30.
The Veil Rent (Mt 27:51).
51. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom--This was the thick and gorgeously wrought veil which was hung between the "holy place" and the "holiest of all," shutting out all access to the presence of God as manifested "from above the mercy seat and from between the cherubim"--"the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest" (Heb 9:8). Into this holiest of all none might enter, not even the high priest, save once a year, on the great day of atonement, and then only with the blood of atonement in his hands, which he sprinkled "upon and before the mercy seat seven times" (Le 16:14) --to signify that access for sinners to a holy God is only through atoning blood. But as they had only the blood of bulls and of goats, which could not take away sins (Heb 10:4), during all the long ages that preceded the death of Christ the thick veil remained; the blood of bulls and of goats continued to be shed and sprinkled; and once a year access to God through an atoning sacrifice was vouchsafed--in a picture, or rather, was dramatically represented, in those symbolical actions--nothing more. But now, the one atoning Sacrifice being provided in the precious blood of Christ, access to this holy God could no longer be denied; and so the moment the Victim expired on the altar, that thick veil which for so many ages had been the dread symbol of separation between God and guilty men was, without a hand touching it, mysteriously "rent in twain from top to bottom"--"the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was NOW made manifest!" How emphatic the statement, from top to bottom; as if to say, Come boldly now to the Throne of Grace; the veil is clean gone; the mercy seat stands open to the gaze of sinners, and the way to it is sprinkled with the blood of Him--"who through the eternal Spirit hath offered Himself without spot to God!" Before, it was death to go in, now it is death to stay out. See more on this glorious subject on Heb 10:19-22.
An Earthquake--The Rocks Rent--The Graves Opened, that the Saints Which Slept in Them Might Come Forth after Their Lord's Resurrection (Mt 27:51-53).
51. and the earth did quake--From what follows it would seem that
this earthquake was local, having for its object the rending of the
rocks and the opening of the graves.
and the rocks rent--"were rent"--the physical creation thus sublimely proclaiming, at the bidding of its Maker, the concussion which at that moment was taking place in the moral world at the most critical moment of its history. Extraordinary rents and fissures have been observed in the rocks near this spot.
52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which
slept arose--These sleeping saints (see on
were Old Testament believers, who--according to the usual punctuation
in our version--were quickened into resurrection life at the moment of
their Lord's death, but lay in their graves till His resurrection, when
they came forth. But it is far more natural, as we think, and consonant
with other Scriptures, to understand that only the graves were opened,
probably by the earthquake, at our Lord's death, and this only in
preparation for the subsequent exit of those who slept in them, when
the Spirit of life should enter into them from their risen Lord, and
along with Him they should come forth, trophies of His victory over the
grave. Thus, in the opening of the graves at the moment of the
Redeemer's expiring, there was a glorious symbolical proclamation that
the death which had just taken place had "swallowed up death in
victory"; and whereas the saints that slept in them were awakened only
by their risen Lord, to accompany Him out of the tomb, it was fitting
that "the Prince of Life . . . should be the First
that should rise from the dead"
1Co 15:20, 23;
and went into the holy city--that city where He, in virtue of whose resurrection they were now alive, had been condemned.
and appeared unto many--that there might be undeniable evidence of their own resurrection first, and through it of their Lord's. Thus, while it was not deemed fitting that He Himself should appear again in Jerusalem, save to the disciples, provision was made that the fact of His resurrection should be left in no doubt. It must be observed, however, that the resurrection of these sleeping saints was not like those of the widow of Nain's son, of Jairus' daughter, of Lazarus, and of the man who "revived and stood upon his feet," on his dead body touching the bones of Elisha (2Ki 13:21) --which were mere temporary recallings of the departed spirit to the mortal body, to be followed by a final departure of it "till the trumpet shall sound." But this was a resurrection once for all, to life everlasting; and so there is no room to doubt that they went to glory with their Lord, as bright trophies of His victory over death.
The Centurion's Testimony (Mt 27:54).
54. Now when the centurion--the military superintendent of the
and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake--or felt it and witnessed its effects.
and those things that were done--reflecting upon the entire transaction.
they feared greatly--convinced of the presence of a Divine Hand.
saying, Truly this was the Son of God--There cannot be a reasonable doubt that this expression was used in the Jewish sense, and that it points to the claim which Jesus made to be the Son of God, and on which His condemnation expressly turned. The meaning, then, clearly is that He must have been what He professed to be; in other words, that He was no impostor. There was no medium between those two. See, the similar testimony of the penitent thief--"This man hath done nothing amiss"--on Lu 23:41.
The Galilean Women (Mt 27:55, 56).
55. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed
Jesus--The sense here would be better brought out by the use of the
pluperfect, "which had followed Jesus."
from Galilee, ministering unto him--As these dear women had ministered to Him during His glorious missionary tours in Galilee (see on Lu 8:1-3), so from this statement it should seem that they accompanied him and ministered to His wants from Galilee on His final journey to Jerusalem.
56. Among which was Mary Magdalene--(See on
and Mary the mother of James and Joses--the wife of Cleophas, or rather Clopas, and sister of the Virgin (Joh 19:25). See on Mt 13:55,56.
and the mother of Zebedee's children--that is, Salome: compare Mr 15:40. All this about the women is mentioned for the sake of what is afterwards to be related of their purchasing spices to anoint their Lord's body.
The Taking Down from the Cross and the Burial (Mt 27:57-60).
For the exposition of this portion, see on Joh 19:38-42.
The Women Mark the Sacred Spot that They Might Recognize It on Coming Thither to Anoint the Body (Mt 27:61).
The Sepulchre Guarded (Mt 27:62-66).
62. Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation--that is, after six o'clock of our Saturday evening. The crucifixion took place on the Friday and all was not over till shortly before sunset, when the Jewish sabbath commenced; and "that sabbath day was an high day" (Joh 19:31), being the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. That day being over at six on Saturday evening, they hastened to take their measures.
63. Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver--Never, remarks
will you find the heads of the people calling Jesus by His own name. And
yet here there is betrayed a certain uneasiness, which one almost
fancies they only tried to stifle in their own minds, as well as crush
in Pilate's, in case he should have any lurking suspicion that he had
done wrong in yielding to them.
said, while he was yet alive--Important testimony this, from the lips of His bitterest enemies, to the reality of Christ's death; the corner-stone of the whole Christian religion.
After three days--which, according to the customary Jewish way of reckoning, need signify no more than "after the commencement of the third day."
I will rise again--"I rise," in the present tense, thus reporting not only the fact that this prediction of His had reached their ears, but that they understood Him to look forward confidently to its occurring on the very day named.
64. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure--by a Roman
until the third day--after which, if He still lay in the grave, the imposture of His claims would be manifest to all.
and say unto the people, he is risen from the dead--Did they really fear this?
so the last error shall be worse than the first--the imposture of His pretended resurrection worse than that of His pretended Messiahship.
65. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch--The guards had already
acted under orders of the Sanhedrim, with Pilate's consent; but probably
they were not clear about employing them as a night watch without
Pilate's express authority.
go your way, make it as sure as ye can--as ye know how, or in the way ye deem securest. Though there may be no irony in this speech, it evidently insinuated that if the event should be contrary to their wish, it would not be for want of sufficient human appliances to prevent it.
66. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone--which
says was "very great."
and setting a watch--to guard it. What more could man do? But while they are trying to prevent the resurrection of the Prince of Life, God makes use of their precautions for His own ends. Their stone-covered, seal-secured sepulchre shall preserve the sleeping dust of the Son of God free from all indignities, in undisturbed, sublime repose; while their watch shall be His guard of honor until the angels shall come to take their place.