A Humiliating Death

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Matthew 27:27-56

In some ways the crucifixion in Matthew is the hardest to read. It doesn’t dwell on Jesus’s physical pain, but goes out if the way to show everyone mocking Him with cruel words and actions. And whatever the old rhymes may claim, words hurt the worst.

The soldiers mock Jesus by dressing Him like a King and pretending to hail Him. They put up a cruel sign calling Him a King, yet crucify Him next to two bandits and offer him wine mixed with puke. The bandits are even cruel to Him, shouting insults. Everyone, the soldiers, the Priests, and the passerby all laugh at Him, saying He can’t even save Himself. How could He destroy and rebuild the temple if He can’t even save Himself? God has abandoned Him, they said. We know, of course, that His death was the most important part of God’s plan, but knowing only makes their ignorant japes seem worse, 

Jesus’s death was hard. Crucifixion is an extremely painful way to die, and He had already been beaten repeatedly. Yet, the hardest part was that He endured separation from God so we wouldn’t have to. When He cries out for God, it is not in physical pain of death, or even humiliation, but in despair of God’s lost presence. It is what we all deserve to suffer, but we will never have to because of Jesus’s sacrifice. All of the weeping and gnashing of teeth Jesus predicted for the scribes, Pharisees, and unbelievers, He suffered first. It is, without a doubt, the greatest sacrifice of all time.

Now, when the curtain is torn, that is very important. The curtain in the Temple separated the presence of God in the Ark from all the people, save the Highest of Priests. A person could only communicate with God through the priests. But when the curtain is torn it signifies that communication directly to God is available to each and every one of us. Nothing can separate us from His Spirit. And the resurrection of the Saints represents of preview of what will happen when Jesus returns again and raises us all. If, in death, Jesus has the power to raise the most holy of the dead, imagine what power He will have alive!

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