Matthew: Jesus’ Trial, Crucifixion and Burial

Read: Matthew 27

Not the end of the story.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. Matthew 27:1-2

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” Matthew 27:24

Pilate played his part, ignored his wife’s admonition, and  washed his hands. “All the chief priests and the elders of the people” got their way. All. Sad. Completely deceived.

Jesus, now in the hands of Pilate’s soldiers, was treated with the utmost disrespect. From their perspective, this was just another man to execute. Like the priests and elders, the soldiers were lost in their world, out of touch with humanity. I know it’s horrible to compare priests with brutal soldiers, but both are representatives of systems contrived by humans for their own purpose, their own selfish desires.

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Matthew 27:37

Priests, elders, soldiers — complete disrespect. Then the people, those wandering by to see the latest execution by crucifixion joined to add their voices, mocking Jesus.

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. Matthew 27:41

The torture of crucifixion is not something to dwell on, though many have explained the agonizing, painfully slow process that always ends in death, one way or another. The soldiers knew the process, but this time something was different. When Jesus breathed his last, a series of events took place that defied explanation.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54

Crucifixion complete, the centurion speaks in past tense. I wonder if this centurion was aware of the rest of the story. Surely he would have heard from the company of guards, but that’s the next chapter, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pilate released Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, probably one that Pilate was quick to appease.  Joseph provided burial clothes and a tomb for the body of Jesus.

The Jewish leaders were concerned that Jesus’ disciples, interestingly absent, would steal the body and assert he had risen as he predicted, so they pulled yet another puppet string on Pilate the governor:

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:65-66

As Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story” is yet to come. For today, I ponder the pitiful state of people at that time, lost in their selfishness. They couldn’t see the extent of their depravity–the deceiver had done his job well. Can we see ourselves? Are we like the elders?

It’s easy to say I’m not like the soldiers, but I’m reluctant to shout I’m not like the Jewish leaders. Raised in Christian tradition, I have been assimilated into the fold. So the challenge, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not be normal. We don’t walk in the footsteps of those who blindly follow protocol, but we’re not rebellious for the sake of rebelling.

The featured image on this post is truly strange. The photographer captured what appears to be a common site in Nepal, these Holy men of Pashupati. Grown men that are part of a ritualistic religious group we would be quick to disassociate ourselves with. I could have chosen a photo from the Vatican or NAMB, but this one was so extreme I thought it conveyed the point that men who appear wise in their own eyes look foolish to God.

Lord, my prayer is for clear vision this morning, to truly see what is before me. Help us to not be so caught up in our earthly systems that we miss the piece of heaven that is in front of us.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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