Sunday 13 April 2014

Bible Book:

“Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.” (v. 50)

Matthew 27:11-54 Sunday 13 April 2014


At the start of Holy Week it is good to readthe story of the whole of the last week of Jesus'life in one of theGospels. It gives an overview. We can concentrate on detail as wedeal with the different days in the week.

Matthew's Gospel acknowledges the ambiguitiesof all people caught up in human processes that are bigger thanthey are (not to mention divine processes!). Jesus' disciples donot appear once in today's long passage. They have fallen asleepand run away (Matthew 26:40, 43, 45, 56); Peter has deniedJesus (Matthew 26:69-75); Judas has betrayed him (Matthew 26:47-50).Only after Jesus has died do we discover that some of the womenfollowing him were still there (Matthew 27:55-56).

Pilate, on the other hand, both believes thatJesus is innocent and also condemns him. He tells the crowd to dealwith Jesus themselves, but organises the execution himself.Pilate's job is to keep the area under his control quiet. Hisconcern is whether Jesus is claiming to be the King of the Jews inopposition to Caesar and his puppet kings. The people threateninsurrection, and are so keen to prove that Jesus is politicalthreat that they ask for a convicted insurrectionist and terrorist(ironically, called Jesus Barabbas - 'son of the father') to bepardoned instead.

Everyone therefore fails and bears someresponsibility for the death of Jesus. Matthew would be horrifiedif he discovered that verse 25 had been widely misinterpreted tomean that all Jewish people in every age were particularly guilty,and thereby to justify anti-semitism.

There are echoes in this passage of themes fromthe rest of Mathew's Gospel. Just like Gentile (non Jewish) magiwere guided by dreams and their own traditions to see what God wasdoing in the birth of Jesus, so Pilate's wife sees his innocence ina dream, and a Gentile centurion and soldiers watch what happensand see that he is "Son of God".

As for Jesus, he answers Pilate's questionambivalently, and is then silent until he cried from the cross(verse 46). He is allowing things to happen to him. 

To Ponder

  • If you imagine yourself present at these events, where wouldyou be and what would you be doing? 
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