Title: Scorned by Men
Text: Matthew 27:27-44
FCF: We often struggle depending on Christ enough. Our need of Him is greater than we often live
Prop: Because the King of Kings bore our shame from men, so we must depend on Him alone to bear our shame.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 27. For those of you that enjoy stats, milestones, and status bars, today will be the 100th sermon in this series on Matthew. After we complete the sermon today we will have covered almost 96% of the book of Matthew, and we are averaging a little over 10 verses a sermon. In case you are wondering – that is pretty much speeding through. You may think we are moving at a snail’s pace sometimes – but I honestly think that I could probably go back and preach through Matthew again focusing just on what we missed and have just as many sermons. In fact, better preachers than I have devoted twice as much time to this book. Still because of our fickle hearts, we won’t go back and do it again. We will move on to another context.
For today, we begin our study on the sufferings of our King. And although we will take a look at the physical anguish of our Lord today, I want to encourage you to search the scriptures. The gospel writers all recorded the crucifixion of Jesus. But every single one of them spent almost no words describing the physical pain He endured. In fact the gospel writers describe this event in almost exclusively spiritual terms.
So today, although we will look at the physical suffering of Christ – His physical suffering is only a byproduct, a means to achieve His REAL suffering. And Matthew will only begin to describe what the real suffering in today’s text. Next week, we will see His suffering’s culmination and completion.
For now then, let’s look in Matthew 27 starting in verse 27. I’ll be reading from the NET which you can follow along with the pew bible starting on page 1128 or in whatever version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible of your own, please take the one in the pew.
On display in Matthew’s text is a concept that we don’t quite understand through western eyes. It is shame. Scorn. Humiliation. To Jewish readers, such a fate would be worse than death. Such pain would be worse than scourging. ESPECIALLY when it is undeserved or wrongly given, and especially more so when that shame is given by Gentiles. Let’s look.
I.) The King of Kings took our shame by enduring shame from Gentiles, so we must depend on Him alone to bear our shame. (27-38)
a. [Slide 2] 27 – Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around Him.
i. Matthew shifts from focusing on the Jews and their leaders, to focusing on the Romans and their leaders.
ii. It is obvious that for the next several verses, the Gentiles too cannot be excused from the death of Christ. All mankind equally nailed Him there. And it pleased God the Father to crush Him there.
iii. There are a lot of moving pieces to this, but Matthew’s goal is to reveal Jesus being scorned or shamed by everyone.
iv. A cohort is one tenth of a legion. Probably around 500 soldiers. Could this many actually fit in Pilate’s residence? Perhaps. It was a palace after all. But there is also some indication that cohort could be another way to say a lot of troops.
v. In any case, you see a large group of soldiers gathering around him to beat Him.
b. [Slide 3] 28 – They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him
i. After they strip him and before they put on the robe is probably when they scourge Him.
ii. Matthew has already referenced his flogging or scourging. But chronologically this is when this would have taken place.
iii. Again, it is interesting to note the absence of description of the scourging – nevertheless we will look at what it was.
iv. The flagellum was the instrument used for this. It was a wooden handle on which long strips of leather were fastened. Tied into those leather strips were sharp pieces of bone and metal. It became a competition for Roman soldiers to see how much damage they could do with a single swing. The nature of the weapon would leave large lacerations on the prisoner – exposing bones and internal organs. Some died of the scourging itself without making it further. In a few verses we will see that Jesus was so spent from his flogging that he could not bear the cross beam as other criminals could.
v. After they were sufficiently exhausted from scourging Him, they adorned him with a scarlet robe.
vi. Other gospels say a purple robe. The difference between purple and scarlet is fairly small.
vii. This was no doubt a robe worn by a Roman soldier.
c. [Slide 4] 29 – and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on His head. They put a staff in His right hand, and kneeling down before Him, they mocked Him: “Hail, king of the Jews!”
i. It was not uncommon for Roman soldiers to dress up criminals prior to their execution. They would even use them as game pieces.
ii. Insurrection being the charge, the mocking proceed in that vein.
iii. But If this was common practice, we might assume that Matthew would omit it like he did the details of the physical anguish of Christ. Unless commonality had little or nothing to do with the details he is presenting. Instead, Matthew is getting to a grander spiritual point. The mockery and shame Christ bore.
d. [Slide 5] 30-31 – They spat on Him and took the staff and struck Him repeatedly on the head. When they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes back on Him. Then they led Him away to crucify Him.
i. Taking back the reed they used it to beat on that crown of thorns. Afterward they removed the robe and put his clothes back on him.
ii. A couple of things about this
1. Having had the scourging before this, no doubt his wounds and the robe had mingled. Stripping him of this robe would have reopened what the robe had sealed.
2. According to John, this happened before he was officially sentenced to be crucified, so seeing the soldiers putting his clothes back on him, you get the impression that they went too far. They had to try to cover up their overzealousness at beating him. No doubt they removed the robe, and the crown of thorns.
3. This fulfills Isaiah 50:6 where the suffering servant offers his back to be whipped and his face to be spit on and mocked.
e. [Slide 6] 32 – As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry His cross.
i. Simon of Cyrene is identified in Mark as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Although not clear, there is an Alexander mentioned in Acts 13 and a Rufus mentioned in Romans 16. Perhaps Simon and his sons converted after this event? It is possible.
ii. We should not read into this that Simon did this as an act of mercy to Jesus. He was conscripted or forced by the soldiers. So putting aside the obvious, that at least to Mark’s readers they would know this man at the time of Mark’s writing, why does Matthew include this?
iii. This is probably more a commentary on Jesus’ physical state than anything. It reveals the physical toll that had come upon Jesus. He was unable to bear the crossbeam because of the condition of his body. Added to this that he had not slept the night before, and had eaten nothing since the meal he shared with His disciples. Physically Jesus is pushed to his limits
f. [Slide 7] 33-34 – They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”) and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. But after tasting it, he would not drink it.
i. Whether this was called the skull because it was a place of death, a place where skulls were displayed, looked like a skull, or all three, we don’t know.
ii. What we do know is that it was probably next to a well-traveled road into Jerusalem. More on that in a moment.
iii. This wine mixed with gall and myrrh is most likely a narcotic. The Roman Soldiers became proficient at crucifixions. Their job was not to kill the criminal, but to keep them alive for as long as possible. There are some instances that crucifixions took so long that carrion birds would begin their feast early while the criminal yet lived.
iv. The soldiers offering this pain deadener would not be for mercy probably but rather to elongate his body’s ability to survive.
v. Jesus refuses the pain deadener. He wishes to keep all his faculties sharp.
vi. This happened to fulfill Psalm 69:21 – where bitter poison would be put in his food. They also bring him vinegar to drink – which will be fulfilled a little later.
g. [Slide 8] 35 – When they had crucified Him,
i. That’s it. 1 word in Greek and Matthew summarizes the entire crucifixion.
ii. After they had crucified him. But what does that mean?
iii. Let me describe the Roman Crucifixion in a clinical way so I can try to keep emotion out of it.
iv. First they would fasten the body to the crossbeam and then attaching the crossbeam to the vertical post – most likely a tree trunk. Wood was in short supply in the empire. To create a new cross for every crucifixion would have been expensive. Most likely they found a grove of relatively straight trees somewhere close to a road entering the city, cut the lower hanging branches, or perhaps all of the branches off, and used the same tree over and over again.
v. In Deuteronomy 21:23 it says that anyone who hangs from a tree is cursed. The interpretation is that anyone who is judicially executed and left to hang on a tree is cursed by God. Hence the reason that the Sanhedrin pushed for the crucifixion, because this would have been one application of that teaching in the law. This was to heighten the shame and further discredit Christ and His teachings.
vi. As we said, crucifixions would take days to complete. But there have been many misconceptions as to how the death would actually occur. While the cause of death in a crucifixion would vary, the most likely cause of death would be asphyxiation. They would suffocate. Perhaps that is odd when we understand the cross as we do. Pierced through the hands, held up with ropes with a pedestal to stand on. But this is not how a Roman crucifixion would take place.
vii. First of all, they would put the nail through the wrists. You have two bones in your forearm with flesh between them. They come together at the wrist with lots of cartilage. Placing the nail just in from the wrist would provide an eyehook for the nail to be secure. Assuming the proper placement of the nail on the cross beam, there would be no way to pull yourself down with your arms. You could however, pull yourself up with your very bones pressed against the nail – although it would be extremely painful.
viii. [Slide 9A] And they would not give a platform for the crucified to stand on. Recent archeological evidence suggests that instead, they would nail each foot to either side of the vertical post. They would either put the nail between the Talus and Calcaneus bones in the foot. An area called the Sinus Tarsi. An area full of nerve endings and connective tissues. [Slide 9B]
ix. [Slide 9C]Or they would put the nail through the soft tissue directly under the arch.
x. [Slide 10] So nailing the wrists in, then hoisting the crossbeam up and attaching it to the tree, the criminal would hang freely from his wrists. Once attached, they would bend their needs as far up as they could and then nail their feet in.
xi. That would mean that their entire torso was stretched from hanging by their wrists, yet their diaphragm was contracted by their knees being bent. This would make it almost impossible to draw in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. The prisoner would be forced to pull with his arms and push with his legs to get himself into a position where he could breathe properly. Of course, this would be absolutely excruciating. Meaning that every single breath would be agony.
xii. This is why in John, to hasten the crucifixion, they broke the legs of the two criminals that hung next to Jesus. Without being able to draw themselves up with their legs, they would not be able to breathe properly and would expire in minutes.
h. [Slide 11] they divided His clothes by throwing dice. -
i. Throughout this narrative section, Matthew will quote and refer to Psalm 22. Traditionally held as a Messianic psalm, even in 1st Century Judaism.
ii. This is only one aspect of that prophesy, where they would gamble over his clothing in Ps 22:19
iii. And although there is a possibility he was not naked for the sake of Jewish beliefs, most crucifixions would have the criminal unclothed completely. Another aspect of the shame of the cross.
i. [Slide 12] 36-38 – Then they sat down and kept guard over Him there. Above His head they put the charge against Him, which read: “This is Jesus, The King of the Jews.” Then two outlaws were crucified with Him, one on His right and one on His left.
i. Guards would be stationed at these crucifixions, for two reasons.
1. To keep the prisoner alive for as long as possible.
2. To keep people from attempting to free the criminal.
ii. The charge against all criminals would be put on the vertical post or tree above their head. Again, crucifixion was first and primarily a message to other citizens. There are far more efficient ways to kill someone. They were not aiming for efficiency, they were aiming for fear.
iii. The charge against Jesus is very interesting. Although claiming to be a King could have been the charge, more likely it would have been insurrection. However, Pilate chose to write his charge up as Jesus of Nazareth – King of the Jews. No doubt intended to be sarcastic. But this bothered the Sanhedrin. They complained to Pilate that he should have written, Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be the king of the Jews. Even they saw the potential for misunderstanding, knowing that Jews would pass by Him. Pilate answers coldly – I have written what I have written. It is the first century way of saying – it is what it is.
iv. Discussion abounds on what the crimes of the criminals hanging next to Jesus that day were. Although we have traditionally understood them as robbers and that is an appropriate term for what the Greek word means. It is fairly unlikely that Rome would have spent the resources necessary to deal with a common thief. In fact, a thief probably would not have been executed at all.
v. More likely these men were outlaws – or even better – Insurrectionists. In other words, the crimes Jesus died for, were the same as the crimes the two beside him died for. This too fulfilled prophesy that the Messiah would be counted among sinners. Is 53:12
j. [Slide 13] Passage Truth: I think it is fairly obvious and has been for a while that Matthew is laying out the lonely road our Savior walked to His cross. Only an unnamed woman and a unaffiliated bystander seem to express any connection to Him in the entire narrative. And although Matthew has taken pains to make sure that the Jews understand that they rejected their own King – he also wants to point out that in reality, all humanity rejected the King of Kings. Even the Romans had no qualms about disgracing and publically shaming this Son of God. And for a Jew, to be publically shamed by their own was one thing, but to be publically shamed by a gentile – that is a HUGE thing.
k. Passage Application: And so the call is still – Reject Rome, Reject Judaism, and embrace Christ alone.
l. [Slide 14] Broader Biblical Truth: For us, we could get bogged down in the details of the crucifixion of Christ, but the interesting thing is that Matthew doesn’t. He uses one word to describe the crucifixion. What is painfully obvious is that we ought not consider the physical sufferings of our savior to be anything compared to what He actually endured on that cross. And so, what we probably should see instead, is the shame and mockery our Savior bore. He became a curse to bear our curse. We are cursed. Genesis 3 explains the origin of it. We are cursed by sin. We are, every one of us shameful. But our shame, He bore. He was mocked in our place. Murderers and blasphemers WE were, yet He took our place.
m. Broader Biblical Application: Understanding this – understanding this in the deepest way. Coming to understand that all the shame being rendered to Him in this passage (and we aren’t done) should have been given to us… what could Matthew possibly want us to do with that information? We are out of hopes. We cannot trust in ourselves. We cannot trust in our lesser gods. Our only hope to be reconciled to God, is to depend on Christ to bear our shame – to become a curse so we in Him may come out from under the curse of our failure to keep God’s law.
[Slide 15 (blank)] So Jesus was Shamed by Gentiles. Mocked, beaten and scorned. But now through the words of Jewish Scorners and shamers, Matthew will ironically confirm Christological truth.
II.) The King of Kings took our shame by enduring shame from the Jews, so we must depend on Him alone to bear our shame. (39-44)
a. [Slide 16] 39 – 40 – Those who passed by defamed Him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!”
i. Common Jews, no doubt on their way into Jerusalem to receive their Passover lamb, which would be freshly executed in only a few hours, pass him by and offer comments meant to shame Him.
ii. There is Old Testament allusion here.
1. In Psalm 22:7 – people walk by the suffering Messiah and mock Him, wagging their heads in shame.
2. Also Ps 109:25 and possibly Lam 2:15
iii. The interesting thing about their comments is that they are absolutely, unequivocally, exactly wrong.
iv. First he never said he could destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days. He said that if someone would destroy the temple he could raise it up in 3 days. And he was referring to His body. Second, the only way to save himself would be to obey His Father and drink the cup, suffer unto death, and consequently be delivered from death by the Spirit.
v. Finally, It is because He IS God’s Son, that He STAYED on the cross.
b. [Slide 17] 41-43 – In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law and elders – were mocking Him: “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself! He is the King of Israel! If He comes down now form the cross, we will believe in Him! He trusts in God – Let God, if He wants to, deliver Him now because He said, ‘I am God’s Son’!”
i. Here we are again. Not only the commoner Jew is rejecting Him, but here the Jewish Religious Elite continue to mock and reject Him. It wasn’t enough that they plotted to kill Him, now they revel in their victory.
ii. He saved others but cannot save Himself – no guys, he is saving others AND himself right now by obeying His father and drinking the cup and enduring unto death.
iii. He is the King of Israel! Said in a mocking tone – but truer than they knew.
iv. If He comes down now from the cross we will believe in Him!
1. Two things – 1 if He comes down from the cross now, he is unworthy to be believed in.
2. 2 – May this be a caution to the skeptic who says, if God only would… then I would believe. Waiting for signs will leave you waiting and condemned. This is the sign you will receive – the Sign of Jonah. He will be in dead in heart of the earth until the third day. And will be raised. His death and resurrection is the only sign you will be given. Don’t miss it looking for another of your own choosing.
v. He trusts in God and claims to be His Son… so let God deliver Him now.
vi. This is a near quote from Psalm 22:8 – A Psalm about the Suffering Messiah. A psalm that indicates that proof of the Messiah would be if He trusts in God and the Lord delights in Him, the Lord will rescue Him.
vii. And God the Father would deliver Him from eternal death – but only after He completed His mission.
c. [Slide 18] 44 – The robbers who were crucified with Him also spoke abusively to Him.
i. Not only common Jews, and the religious elite, but even the zealots. Insurrectionists. Nationalists.
ii. As we know, Jesus who is called the Christ took the place of Jesus Barabbas. Although we cannot be sure, perhaps these two men were associates of Barabbas, and Jesus literally took the death of Barabbas. And like Isaiah 53: 12 says, he was counted among the transgressors.
iii. People walking by, seeing the sign that read the King of the Jews, and seeing the sign that read insurrection above the heads of the other two, would naturally assume that Jesus was a revolutionary and these two his advisors. Thus part of His shame is to be thought to be a part of something He went to great lengths to distance Himself from throughout His ministry.
iv. But even these zealots abused Him with their words, no doubt not wishing to be associated with Him.
v. And although we know from Luke that eventually, one of them repented and believed – it was only after he mocked His Lord.
d. [Slide 19] Passage Truth: Matthew again shows the mockery and rejection of Jews from all walks of life. No one wants to be affiliated with Jesus. Yet their words bear witness to the truth. That He is the suffering servant, the lamb who bears our stripes, by His wounds we are healed, Through His Shame we are brought to Honor. The mockery is garnished with blessed truth.
e. Passage Application: Again – to the Jews – these words are true! He took your shame! He is your Messiah and King! Follow Him!
f. [Slide 20] Broader Biblical Truth: And for us, the truth rings clear. So many mock what they do not understand. So many question what can be because of what they have always been taught to be true. The Messiah will be a military warrior won’t He? How could He die on a cross? And yet – God’s word proves true. The mocking and shame Christ bore is especially sorrowful because it was from the mouths of people who ought to have understood.
g. Broader Biblical Application: Perhaps your voice has echoed among the scoffers. Perhaps you also have doubted. How can the death of one person pay for the sins of the world? Don’t let your mocking prevent your understanding. He was shamed so His followers through Him would be given honor. Is that you?
[Slide 21(blank)] We often struggle to understand what it means that Christ bore our shame. We can understand that he took our guilt. But shame is somewhat of an enigma to us.
To help us understand I found an interesting video that I’d like to show you. It isn’t too long. I’ll have some closing comments after it.
[YOUTUBE VIDEO] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2XNoAFtqOw
His entire ministry, Jesus challenged their social norms, pushed them to understand that true honor was found when you became a servant of someone else. That to be first you must be last. And then he demonstrated that principle by enduring the most DISHONORABLE deaths as an act of the highest HONOR because He did it for His people.
He Honorably bore our shame, He righteously took our guilt, and He powerfully succumbed to the power of death. All three major worldviews echo the reality of the gospel. We were condemned to powerlessness over death and sin. We were guilty and worthy only of wrath. We were shameful and worthy only to be shunned and excluded from His Kingdom. Yet He became our substitute. Perpetual and enduring.
This is the good news. But you can’t understand it until you understand who you are without Jesus.
The Jews thought they were honorable because they were in Abraham’s line. The Gentiles thought they were powerful because they served all gods. And we in the west think we are innocent because we are not as bad as other criminals. But the truth of the matter is, that in God’s court all men, from all nations are equally guilty, shameful, and powerless to God.
But Jesus took your death, bore your shame, and was punished for your guilt.
My friends, if He is not your only hope – TRULY your only hope – then you have no hope. If he is not your perpetual hope – truly your perpetual hope – then you have never had hope. [Slide 22]