Matthew 27:27-38 Jesus Crucified

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church Manhattan KS, 08 Dec 2013

Greyed-out text was edited out to keep the sermon delivery under 40 minutes.


27:27 Then, after taking Jesus along with them into the Praetorian,

the governor’s soldiers gathered together the whole battalion around Him,

27:28 and, after undressing Him, they put a scarlet cape around Him,

27:29 and, after twisting together a crown out of brambles,

they placed it upon His head and a reed in His right hand,

then kneeling before Him, they began mocking Him, saying, “Hey! It’s the King of the Jews!”

27:30 Then, after spitting on Him, they took the reed and began hitting Him on the head,

27:31 and when they had mocked Him, they undressed Him of the cape and dressed Him in His clothes,

then led Him away to crucify [Him].

27:32 Now, as they were going out, they found a Cyrenian man named Simon;

they compelled this man in order that he might carry His cross.

27:33 Then, after they came to a place called Golgotha ([by] which is meant “place of a skull”),

27:34 they gave Him wine which had been mixed with ­­­bitters to drink,

yet, after tasting it, He became unwilling to drink.

27:35 Then, after crucifying Him, they divvied up His clothes by throwing dice,

27:36 and then they sat down and began guarding Him there.

27:37 Up over His head they also placed the written charge against Him,

“This man is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

27:38 At the same time, two robbers were crucified together with Him,

one off to the left and one off to the right.


·         Perhaps you’ve read or heard O. Henry’s Christmas short story, “The Gift of the Magi,” which has become a classic. In the story, a husband and wife who are too poor to buy a Christmas gift for each other, decide independently to sell their most precious possession in order to buy a special gift for the other, and in typical O. Henry fashion there is a twist to the story as the husband and his wife realize at the end that the special gifts they bought for each other were no longer useful because of what they had lost in order to buy the gifts in the first place: He had sold his heirloom pocket watch to buy hairpins for his wife, and she had sold her hair to buy a chain for his pocket watch! Like the couple in O. Henry’s story, Jesus gave all He had in order to show His love for us, but the eternal life He purchased for us will never be useless. I want to explore with you the depth of the love of Christ by meditating on what He suffered in order to redeem us.

·         After being betrayed, abandoned, and denied by His disciples, and undergoing  unjust trials, both in the church and civil courts, Jesus was flogged and designated to be executed.

·         William Hendricksen, in his commentary on Matthew, described flogging thus: “The Roman scourge consisted of a short wooden handle to which several thongs were attached, the ends equipped with pieces of lead or brass and with sharply pointed bits of bone. The stripes were laid especially on the victim’s back, bared and bent. Generally two men were employed to administer this punishment, one lashing the victim from one side, one from the other side, with the result that the flesh was at times lacerated to such an extent that deep-seated veins and arteries, sometimes even entrails and inner organs were exposed.”


27:27 Then, after taking Jesus along with them into the Praetorian, the governor’s soldiers gathered together the whole battalion around Him,

Τοτε ‘οι στρατιωται του ‘ηγεμονος παραλαβοντες τον Ιησουν εις το πραιτωριον[1] συνηγαγον επ’ αυτον ‘ολην την σπειραν

·         Remember, Pilate conducted the public trial of Jesus at the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem (rather than inside the adjoining Fortress of Antonia) so that the Jews could stay ceremonially clean to participate in the Passover ceremonies that evening. Once Pilate has condemned Jesus to be crucified, his soldiers take Jesus back into the fortress – called the “Praetorium,” “hallKJV” or “headquarters.”

·         The governor’s soldiers want to get the entire bandKJV/garrisonNKJ/companyNIV in on it, perhaps because they had also been deployed in capturing Jesus on the mount of Olives the previous night (John 18:3&12).

·         The Greek word speiran or Latin “cohortNAS was used to denote a smaller part of a legion (or “division”) of soldiers, and might have included anywhere from 300 to a thousand troops, so it seems to correspond best with the word “battalionESV” which we use in the Army today. So this is no small squad of soldiers, this is hundreds of them.


27:28 and, after undressing Him, they put a scarlet cape around Him,

και εκδυσαντες[2] αυτον περιεθηκαν αυτῳ χλαμυδα κοκκινην[3]

·         Now, to be undressed was terribly shameful. Then to be dressed in the barest hint of a Roman king in order to make fun of His claim to be King of the Jews was even more humiliating.

·         This passage is the only place in the Greek Bible that this word chalamys is found, so I suspect it is a specialized robe, like the short, red[4] cape of a Roman officer (or perhaps the train of a king). It probably didn’t do a lot to cover Jesus. The soldiers were rubbing it in that Jesus looked nothing like a king.

·         Although not specifically mentioned as a prophecy, I believe that Job’s suffering prefigured Christ’s here. Note the similarities in Job 30:10-13 “…they stood aloof and abhorred me, and spared not to spit in my face… they have stripped off my raiment” (Brenton).


27:29 and, after twisting together a crown out of brambles, they placed it upon His head and a reed in His right hand, then kneeling before Him, they began mocking Him, saying, “Hey! It’s the King of the Jews!”

και πλεξαντες[5] στεφανον εξ ακανθων επεθηκαν επι την κεφαλην[6] αυτου και καλαμον επι6 την δεξιαν αυτου και γονυπετησαντες εμπροσθεν αυτου ενεπαιζον[7] αυτῷ λεγοντες χαιρε ‘ο βασιλευς[8] των Ιουδαιων

·         We should all be very careful about this kind of humor which intentionally perverts the proper meaning of things in order to get a laugh, especially when it heaps scorn upon another person made in the image of God and especially when someone might not realize that you mean the opposite of what you actually said.

·         Thorns would not be long enough to braid into a chaplet, but the stalks on which they grew would. I’ve seen that the brambles in Palestine[9] had longer thorns on them than the blackberry or rose stalks familiar to us. But this crown of thorns perverts the meaning of a crown, changing what should be a beautiful symbol of importance[10] into something ugly and painful.

·         A king’s scepter should be an ornate thing of beauty that symbolizes authority and power, but instead they gave Jesus a skinny, splintery, plain-looking reed like a cat-tail (Job 40:21, Isa. 19:26, 35:7, Mt. 11:7) – the opposite of beauty and power – just to laugh at the absurdity.

·         The feigned obeisance of the soldiers perverts the meaning of showing respect to a beneficent king. The other three times that this Greek verb for “kneel” occurs in the N.T. were also men kneeling before Jesus, sincerely asking Him to meet a desperate need (Matt. 17:14, Mark 1:40, 10:17). Here among the soldiers there is no belief that Jesus has anything to give them except a sick laugh.

·         And did they really think Jesus was “the King of the Jews” – the One with the authority to decree every law and punish all who broke the law, the cosmic Son of God who would judge the earth and command the hosts of heaven in triumph over evil? No, of course not; they meant the opposite of what they said. They did not wish Jesus good health or happiness (as the true meaning of their greeting “Hail” implied); no, they actually wished Him to be miserable and to die soon.

·         This is exactly what Jesus had prophecied to His disciples before they got to Jerusalem in Matthew 20:17-19 “…the high priests and scribes will sentence [the Son of Man] to death, then they will deliver Him up to the Gentiles in order to be mocked and whipped and crucified...”


27:30 Then, after spitting on Him, they took the reed and began hitting Him on the head,

και εμπτυσαντες εις αυτον ελαβον τον καλαμον και ετυπτον εις την κεφαλην αυτου

·         The soldiers now do what the priests had done earlier that morning (Mat. 26:67), cruelly humiliating Jesus.

·         They “smote/struck/beat/hit” Jesus – not just once, but repeatedly, as the Imperfect tense of this verb denotes[11]. These blows, of course, would have jabbed the thorns into Jesus’ scalp, opening wounds. Jesus wouldn’t have been able to stop the bleeding; His hands were tied, and the reed kept cracking down upon His head.

·         Why did He have to endure such spite? Why couldn’t He have just suffered the physical pain of crucifixion and the spiritual anguish of bearing the wrath of God against our sin? Let me suggest that Jesus was also bearing our shame.

o       Before Adam and Eve sinned, they knew no shame (Gen. 2:25)

o       Shame is how we feel when we have done wrong and we know we deserve to be hated for our sin. (Ezra 9:6 “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.” - NASB)

o       Today, there are people who feel that shame so intensely that they will cut themselves or starve themselves or abuse themselves in other ways. But here is good news: Jesus not only paid for our sin, He also took our shame. That’s what the book of Hebrews implies when it says, “…Jesus… endured the cross, despising the shame...” (Heb. 12:2, cf. 6:6b “…they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”)

o       He took on Himself the hateful mocking and spitting and beating of hundreds of leering antagonists so that we would not have to experience shame.

o       I believe that is the basis on which the Psalmist could pray, “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me.” (Psalm 31:1, NASB, cf. Psalm 25:2-3 & 20, 31:17, 71:1 119:31), and then could affirm that, “They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed” (Ps. 34:5, NASB), and, “They will not be ashamed in the time of evil…” (Ps. 37:19, NASB, cf. Isa. 29:22, 45:17, 50:7, 54:4, 61:7, Joel 2:27)

o       And the Apostle Paul could write of his “earnest expectation and hope that in nothing will I be ashamed but rather in all open speech, now as always, Christ will be made great through my body…” (Phil. 1:20, NAW)

o       The shame Jesus suffered enables us to live free of shame!


27:31 and when they had mocked Him, they undressed Him of the cape and dressed Him in His clothes, then led Him away to crucify [Him].

και ‘οτε ενεπαιξαν αυτῷ εξεδυσαν αυτον την χλαμυδα και ενεδυσαν αυτον τα ‘ιματια αυτου και απηγαγον αυτον εις το σταυρωσαι

·         Now, why did they bother to switch Jesus back into His clothes? Were they perhaps ashamed for the public to see that they had stooped to such juvenile sport? Or did the centurion just want his cape back? I don’t know.

·         At any rate, the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke 23:27ff tell us that as Jesus carried His cross toward the exit gate of the city, He encountered some women who were weeping over Him. Jesus’ response is interesting. He tells them to change their reason for weeping. Instead of weeping for Him, He said to weep for themselves and their children, because the judgment of God is coming upon Jerusalem so intensely that they’ll wish they had never been born. This teaches us a few things:

o       Jesus was not consumed with self-pity as He suffered. He did not take comfort in the fact that the women wept for Him. He was on a mission to save them and He didn’t need their pity. What an example for us to think of other’s griefs rather than sulk about our own.

o       We also see that Jesus had confidence that in due time God would punish everyone who had acted unjustly. He wasn’t fretting over the fact that evildoers currently had the upper hand. On this point, John Calvin wrote: “…He intimates, that He was not abandoned to the wickedness of man in such a manner as not to be the object of Divine care… This doctrine is even now of use to us, when we learn that Christ was not less dear to his Father, because for a moment he was deprived of his aid… we patiently look for the whole course of the judgment of God; for thus we shall perceive that the wicked gain nothing by a little delay; for when God shall have humbled his faithful servants by fatherly chastisements, he will rise with a drawn sword against those whose sins he appeared for a time not to observe.”

o       A third thing to notice about Jesus’ response to the women in Luke 23 is that once again, He is quoting Scripture – this time from Hosea 10:8. The word of God continues to percolate through His mind no matter where He is. Although He is in a unique way “The Word” of God, He nevertheless provides an example to us of meditating on God’s word no matter what we’re doing.


27:32 Now, as they were going out, they found a Cyrenian man named Simon; they compelled this man in order that he might carry His cross.

Εξερχομενοι δε ‘ευρον ανθρωπον Κυρηναιον ονοματι Σιμωνα τουτον ηγγαρευσαν[12] ‘ινα αρῃ τον σταυρον αυτου

·         “His cross,” as in, Jesus’ cross. Jesus appears to have made it from Pilate’s quarters to the gate of the city, but couldn’t carry it any further.

·         Simon, on the other hand, was just coming into the city from the countryside where he had found accommodations (like Jesus and the other disciples who weren’t from Jerusalem) and was probably setting up for his family’s Passover meal when he got nabbed to carry the cross.

·         Simon sounds like a Jewish name, but Cyrene was the capitol city of Libya in the middle of the North African coast. He was probably a devout worshipper of God who had travelled for weeks just to get in on this Passover celebration in Jerusalem.

·         Whether he was Black and this was an act of prejudice against Africans or whether he was an ethnic Jew conducting business in a far-flung outpost of Jews, I don’t know[13].

·         As we’ve seen in Matt. 5:11, Roman officers could legally forceNIV/compelKJV,ESV/press into serviceNAS someone to help them with a job, such as carrying a sack for a mile. In this case it was a cross.

·         Commentators are divided on whether it was the full cross or just the horizontal beam of the cross, so that’s not something I can be dogmatic about.[14]

·         I think we can infer a couple of significant things from this verse:

o       First: The physical abuse Jesus had suffered was formidable. The beatings and flogging combined with lack of sleep and probably lack of food had left Him so weak that He could not even carry a plank of wood. This reminds us that sin – rebellion against God – is never to be taken lightly. Sin is the source of all suffering, and we should treat sin as horrific.

o       Next: I think we can infer that it was worth it for Simon to miss the Passover. When Simon shouldered that cross, he got a criminal’s sweat and blood on him – maybe some spit too – and associated with a Gentile soldier and even walked on a plot of land defiled by dead bodies. Simon became ceremonially unclean by performing this duty, and no unclean person was allowed in the temple. He had come halfway across the world and then had to miss the Passover. What a let-down! Yet Simon got to see the real historical event that the Passover ceremonies all pointed to: the death of the sinless Lamb of God which would hold back the wrath of God from punishing every human being on the face of the earth. This act of justice – technically unjust as it was – would enable God to pass over those who depended upon Jesus’ blood and to save them from eternal death.

o       Finally: (And you don’t have to agree with me here, but) I infer that this is part of a remarkable story in the Bible of how one Christian family impacted the world. Let me explain: The Gospel of Mark (15:21) adds that this Simon was “the father of Alexander and Rufus”… Israeli Archeologists have found the tomb of a community of people from Cyrene with the bones of a man named Alexander son of Simon dating to the first Century AD, which probably corroborates Simon’s residence there[15]. Now, Acts 11:20 tells us that Cyrenian believers living in Jerusalem were among the first to be persecuted for their faith, so these Cyrenians went to Syrian Antioch and preached to the Gentiles there. Acts 13:1 even mentions a black man named Simon (“Simeon niger”) and his buddy from Cyrene who were teaching the church alongside Saul (the man who would later be known as the Apostle Paul). If this was the same Simon, then this would have put Paul in contact with Simon’s wife, Rufus’ mother. Now, notice what Paul wrote in Romans 16:13: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (NIV). I was deeply impressed by Roger Lewis’ commentary on this, “A son in Jerusalem, a father in Antioch, a son and a mother in Rome, and through one man and his immediate family members, the message of the cross was spread from Jerusalem to Rome, in marvellous fulfilment of the Lord’s words in Matthew 24, “the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world”, and this one family did all this just by themselves. They became champions of the cross; who could have known how that story would unfold at the day that Simon was chosen in Jerusalem?”[16]


27:33 Then, after they came to a place called Golgotha ([by] which is meant “place of a skull”),

Και ελθοντες εις τοπον λεγομενον Γολγοθα ‘ο[17] εστιν λεγομενος[18] κρανιου τοπος

·         The Bible doesn’t mention this place anywhere else[19], but it had to have been within a short walk of the wall of Jerusalem. Most people think it was called by the Aramaic word for a skull because it had some rock features that resembled a skull[20]. [Show photo of location from Victor Journey Through the Bible as well as the striking drawing by Jay Risner.] Others say it was the unclean place outside the city where bones and skulls were dumped (M. Henry, Tyndale). “Calvary” would be the Latin word for it.

·         The law of Moses commanded that criminals be killed “outside the camp” (Lev. 24:14ff, and Num. 15:35-36), so Jesus had to go outside the city to be executed.

·         But, in Jesus’ case, this execution outside the city corresponded, not with the criminal law, but with another ceremonial law which mandated that animal sacrifices to expiate sin be burned, not on the altar of burnt offering but outside the city limits. (Exodus 29:14, Lev. 4:12&21, 8:17, 9:11, 16:27, and especially Numbers 19:3 “You shall give [the red heifer] to Eleazar the priest, and it shall be brought outside the camp and be slaughtered in his presence.” NASB) The ashes of that red heifer slaughtered outside the gates were used to make soap to clean the people of Israel. Jesus would be the spiritual fulfillment of that symbol, the sinlessly-perfect sacrifice slaughtered outside the city limits in order to bring cleansing from sin to God’s people!

·         That’s what Hebrews 13:11-13 refers to: “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (NASB)


27:34 they gave Him wine which had been mixed with ­­­bitters to drink, yet, after tasting it, He became unwilling to drink.

εδωκαν αυτῷ πιειν οινον[21] μετα χολης μεμιγμενον και γευσαμενος ουκ ηθελησεν[22] πιειν

·         Parallel Gospels tell us that this may have been in response to Jesus’ remark that He was thirsty, or He may have had more than one drink offered Him. John Calvin commented on this, “A cup [was] offered to our Lord when he was about to be crucified, but after the cross was lifted up, a sponge was then dipped and given to him… it is not unreasonable to suppose that, after he had refused that bitter mixture, it was frequently in derision presented to his lips…”

·         There is some debate whether the solvent was actually wine or vinegar – the New King James Version tries to have it both ways by calling it “sour wine,” and I think they actually have the sense right, for wine turns into vinegar over time, and slightly-soured wine was apparently a common beverage among the Roman soldiers at that time[23].

·         The stuff mixed in with it is called chole in Greek (from which we get the word “colic”), but it does not seem to have a very specific meaning other than just “something that is bitter.”[24] Mark 15:23, however, tells us specifically that this bitter substance was myrrh.

·         What was the reason for offering Jesus this concoction?

o       John Chrysostom, a Greek preacher from the 4th Century said that it was to torment Jesus further and insult Him. Now, it is generally agreed that the stuff the soldiers offered Jesus would taste nasty, so there may be something to this[25].

o       But most Bible commentators[26] consider it to be a pain-killer mixed with a thirst-quencher. This corroborates with the Jewish Mischna which states that when “a man went out to be executed, to give him to drink a grain of frankincense in a cup of wine, that his understanding might be disturbed, as it is said in Prov. 31:6 ‘Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish, and wine to those that be of heavy hearts,’ and the tradition is, that the honourable women in Jerusalem gave this freely; but if they did not, it was provided at the charge of the congregation[27].”

·         Therefore, the reason Jesus refused to drink it was probably in order to experience the full conse­quen­ces of sin and fully pay for our sin, leaving nothing unsuffered that we might have to make up for ourselves to earn a right standing with God. Brothers and sisters, “Jesus paid it all!”

·         Once again, this is in fulfillment of Prophecy, for Psalm 69:19-21 says, “You know my reproach and my shame… all who afflict me... I waited for one to grieve with me, but there was none; and for one to comfort me, but I found none. They (ἔδωκαν) gave me also gall (χολὴν) for my food, and made me drink vinegar (ὄξος) for my thirst” (Brenton, edited by NAW).

·         Jesus suffered this lonely, maddening torment because He loves you, and for you He died!


27:35 Then, after crucifying Him, they divvied up His clothes by throwing dice,

σταυρωσαντες δε αυτον διεμερισαντο τα ‘ιματια αυτου βαλλοντες κληρον[28]


27:36 and then they sat down and began guarding Him there.

και καθημενοι ετηρουν αυτον εκει

·         This little statement in v.36 corrects the theories which depend upon an unobserved time when Jesus was supposedly taken down from the cross alive and resuscitated. False teachers who seek to explain away the actual death and resurrection of Jesus have to reckon with the fact that there was a group of four professional executioners who kept vigilant watch[29] over Jesus from the moment He was nailed to the cross to the moment He was taken down from it – and beyond.

·         Now, as you’ve probably seen in the pictures, “crucifixion” simply means nailing a person up on cross beams.

o       As I understand it, the nailing isn’t what kills them, rather, it’s the way that fluid accumulates in the lungs when a body is fixed in that position for a long time, so what happens is the criminal slowly suffocates as each breath achieves less and less oxygen for his body because the lungs are gradually filling up with fluid.

o       By pushing up with his feet, the criminal could lower his arms a little and expand his lungs to get more air, but that would, of course, be excruciatingly painful because it would require transferring the weight of his entire body alternately from being supported by the nail wounds in his wrists to being supported by the nail wounds in his feet, and it would also require sliding his shredded back (from the flogging) up and down against the tree bark or splintery wood.

o       I know this is macabre, but I also want you to know how intensely you are loved by your Savior that He would do this for you.

o       Why did Jesus do this? It was so he could say (as is recorded in the parallel passage in Luke 23:34), “Father, forgive them.”[30]

·         Now, while Jesus begins his agonizing “dance of death,” the soldiers dispose of His clothes.

o       This means they’ve stripped Him naked again. Now, I don’t know whether that means He had a loincloth or not, but I appreciate the little bit of propriety in the paintings of the crucifixion.

o       This also means He had no rights to what little He possessed. He couldn’t even pass off His clothes to a family member.  He was treated like “vile and abject criminals and such as have no one belonging to them and are in utter desolation.” ~Chrysostom

o       “God determined that his own Son should be stripped of his raiment, that we, clothed with His righteousness and with abundance of all good things, may appear with boldness in company with the angels, whereas formerly our loathsome and disgraceful aspect, in tattered garments, kept us back from approaching to heaven.” ~John Calvin

o       William Hendricksen, in his commentary explained, “In all probability, by means of the throwing of dice, the four [parts of His clothing] – headgear, sandals, belt, and outer garment – are divided among the four (John 19:23) soldiers [who hung Christ on the cross]. The seamless tunic, [however,] all of one piece, woven all the way from top to bottom, is also put into the lottery [whole, for the one soldier who was the most lucky with the dice roll].”

·          And this too was a fulfillment of prophecy, underscoring that this was God’s Messiah!

o       The Textus Receptus (and therefore the King James English Versions) state this explicitly by adding a couple of phrases found in a couple dozen Greek manuscripts dating back to about the 9th Century (Δ, Θ,0250, f1, f13, and 1424) as follows: “in order that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet: ‘My garment they tore apart for themselves, and they cast lots over my garment[31].’”

o       Now, there is no disputing that the Gospel of John 19:24 clearly ties together this prophecy from the Septuagint text of Psalm 22:18 with its fulfillment during Jesus’ crucifixion, but most of the thousands of Greek manuscripts of Matthew (both pre-dating and ante-dating the 9th Century) do not include these phrases,

o       so I’m going to treat it like a parallel passage from John and not go into the same depth of study as I am doing with the text of Matthew.

o       The point is that the prophecies of the O.T. do indeed identify this man Jesus as the Messiah!

·         Mark 15:25 says that Jesus was nailed onto the cross during the third hour of daylight (so that’s about 9am) and that He breathed His last during the 9th hour (which would be about 3pm), six[32] final hours of excruciating suffering in order to ensure that everyone He loves would be with Him forever in heaven. Do you see how dreadful your sin is and yet much you are loved?


27:37 Up over His head they also placed the written charge against Him, “This man is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

και επεθηκαν επανω της κεφαλης αυτου την αιτιαν[33] αυτου γεγραμμενην ‘ουτος εστιν Ιησους ‘ο βασιλευς των Ιουδαιων

·         The only matter upon which Pilate had found grounds to convict Jesus was His acceptance of the title “King of the Jews,” so this was the charge that stuck.

·         Nowadays, information about criminal trials is published in newspapers as a matter of public record, but in those days, it seems to have been customary for the conviction to be painted onto a wooden placard and hung around a convict’s neck for all to see.

·         So this “accusationKJV” or “charge” was probably printed up in Pilate’s judgment hall and worn by Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem and out to Golgotha, then affixed to the top of His cross.

·         John’s Gospel gives the full rendering of everything on the placard, adding the phrase “of Nazareth” to Jesus’ name, and informing us that it was written in Greek, in Latin, and in Hebrew.

·         Artists often abbreviate it by just printing the first letter of each word in Latin, “Jesus, Nazareth, Rex (or King) Jews (and, of course, the letter J did not exist in Latin, so they used the letter “I” for “Jesus” and “Jews”).

·         Pilate must have been feeling a bit whimsical as he dictated this charge, because it wasn’t wrong to be King of the Jews; what was wrong was to claim to be King when you actually weren’t. The real crime would be either perjury or treason. Maybe Pilate was just trying to be concise with limited space on the placard, or maybe he worded it this way to needle the Jews, but whatever the case, we read in John’s gospel that it got under the skin of the priests: “No,” they said, “Don’t say that He IS King but that He CLAIMED to be King.” And Pilate says, “What I have written, I have written.”

·         It’s an encouraging historical irony that in this way, even Jesus’ executioners admitted the truth about Him. By dying on the cross, Jesus bought from the bondage of sin a people over whom He could be king!


27:38 At the same time two robbers were crucified together with Him, one off to the left and one off to the right.

Τοτε σταυρουνται συν αυτῷ δυο λησται εις εκ δεξιων και εις εξ ευωνυμων

·         Jesus wasn’t the only convicted criminal executed that “Good” Friday. Barabbas got off scot free, but justice came down hard on these two thieves who had been convicted of armed robbery.

o       Now, these weren’t simple kleptomaniacs who merely stole things – that would be a different Greek word and wouldn’t be deserving of death but rather of restitution.

o       The Greek word lestai used here is in the parable of the Good Samaritan to describe the men who beat up and robbed their victim (Luke 10:30),

o        and it was used the night before by Jesus to say that, unlike Himself, such criminals could only be routed by soldiers armed with clubs and swords (Matt. 26:55).

o       These were gangsters involved in organized crime, and yet, there was Jesus the innocent man right in the middle of them being punished like one of them.

·         This, of course was another fulfillment of prophecy during this climax of history: Isaiah 53:12 says, “...He poured out His soul to the death and was numbered with rebels. And He Himself carried the sin of many, and will interpose Himself for the rebels” (NAW).


·         Now, the law of God says in Deuteronomy 21:22 that everyone who dies upon a tree is cursed[34], so we must consider that Jesus was cursed.

·         The apostle Paul explains, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE’ – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14, NASB)

·         How should we respond? This teaches us to abhor sin and to rest in Jesus’ love for us. Of all the authors I read on this passage, I think John Calvin put it best: “If we are desirous to profit aright by meditating on the death of Christ, we ought to begin with cherishing abhorrence of our sins, in proportion to the severity of the punishment which he endured… But as this is a display of the dreadful vengeance of God, so, on the other hand, it holds out to us the most abundant grounds of confidence; for we have no reason to fear that our sins, from which the Son of God acquits us by so valuable a ransom, will ever again be brought into judgment before God. For not only did he endure an ordinary kind of death, in order to obtain life for us, but along with the cross he took upon him our curse, that no uncleanness might any longer remain in us… [Furthermore,] as soon as our minds rise by faith to heaven, not only will the spiritual majesty of Christ be present­ed to us, so as to obliterate all the dishonor of the cross, but the spittings, scourgings, blows, and other indignities, will lead us to the contemplation of his glory… (Philippians 2:8-10.)”

[1] The Greek word for this location is transliterated “Praetorium” by the NKJ, NAS, and NIV; the KJV translates it the “common hall” (which Strong also centered on in his famous lexicon), and the ESV reads “headquarters,” following Thayer’s Lexicon. The word appears to generally describe that which is set apart for the use of the highest Roman official in an area, including the Fortress of Antonia where Governor Pilate had questioned Jesus (John 18:33), the compound of King Herod in Caesarea (Acts 23:35), and the soldiers of the Roman emperor in Rome (Phil. 1:13).

[2] Curiously, two of the oldest-known manuscripts (B & D) have endusantes (“dressing-up”) instead of ekdusantes (“un-dressing”). Even the Critical editions consider this probably a carryover from John 19:2 rather than original to Matthew.

[3] Apparently named after a worm used to make a red dye. Scarlet is associated in the Bible with luxurious clothing, but, for some reason Calvin believed that it was “probably not an expensive robe.”

[4] Parallel Gospels (Mark 15:17 and John 19:2)  record the color as purple, a color symbolic of royalty. This isn’t necessarily a discrepancy, for the two colors are similar, with purple including red, or there could have been two different pieces of cloth, one purple and one red.

[5] Besides the two parallel passages which use this verb (Mark 15:17 & John 19:2), there are only two other occurrences in the whole Greek Bible: Exodus 28:14 – referring to the metal chain on the priest’s vest, and Isaiah 28:5 – which speaks of the Lord being a beautiful “diadem” to His people.

[6] The Majority of Greek manuscripts (including A, D, W, 064, etc.) followed by the Patriarchal and Textus Receptus (T.R.) editions of the Greek New Testament (GNT) render “head” in the Accusative case, which is most commonly used in Greek with the preposition epi for the concept of “upon.” However, the Critical editions follow 4 Greek manuscripts (א, B. L, Θ + f13) which spell the word “head” in the Genitive case, the meaning of which (“on”) is not essentially different – as borne out in the uniformity of the standard English versions. The next prepositional phrase in this verse has similar variants: the Critical editions use the preposition en (“in”) – which requires the object to be Dative, whereas the majority of Greek manuscripts use the preposition epi (“upon”) – which usually requires its object to be spelled in the Accusative case. However, whether the reed was placed “in” or “on” Jesus’ hand is not important to the story, and, indeed, the phrase “upon the right hand” is idiomatic enough in Greek to remove much emphasis on that particular preposition – such that even the English versions which follow the T.R. render the preposition “in.” Neither the UBS nor the N-A Critical editions offered any manuscript support for their use of the preposition en, so I have stuck with the Patriarchal and T.R. text above.

[7] Several Greek manuscripts, including three of the oldest-known Uncials (א, B, D, L, 33, 892, 1230), render this verb in the Aorist tense rather than the Imperfect tense found in the majority of Greek manuscripts (numbering in the thousands and including some of the oldest-known as well – A, W, 064, etc.). Both render in the past tense in English, so there is little difference in meaning, but the Imperfect indicates continued action whereas the Aorist tends to be singular action. I am not following the Critical editions here; I would want to see more manuscript support before diverging from the traditional Patriarchal and T.R. text.

[8] On the basis of five Uncial manuscripts (B, D, Δ, Θ, 0250 + f1) the Critical editions render the word “king” in the Vocative case rather than in the Nominative case found in the majority of Greek manuscripts (including the majority of the ancient Uncials, such as א, A, L, W, 064). While the Vocative case makes good sense in a direct address, it is not necessary – it makes no difference in the standard English versions, but I would want more textual support before departing from the traditional Patristic and T.R. editions of the GNT.

[9] William Hendriksen’s commentary suggests that they were Spina Christi or  Palinrus Shrub. He also noted that  “Jesus is pictured as bearing the curse that lies upon nature [the thorns and thistles in Gen 3:18], in order to deliver nature and us from it.”

[10] The Greek language has a different word for a king’s crown. This kind of crown was generally for victors in some contest and was made of vegetation like pine or celery branches. I translated the same word “laurel” in 1 Cor. 9:25.

[11] Strong’s Lexicon also notes that this verb is usually used of repeated blows rather than a single blow. John 19:3 adds that they also slapped Jesus with their hands in addition to striking Him with the reed.

[12] See Adam Clark’s notes on the origin of this word – excerpted in my commentary on Matt 5:41.

[13] “The theory that Simon could not have been a Jews because he gave his sons Greek names is without merit since many Jews followed that practice.” ~William Hendriksen

[14] Roger Lewis ( wrote: “It wasn’t the full cross by the way... The main stake would already be lying on Golgotha’s height, the hole dug and the stakes ready. The condemned man bore simply the cross beam, and around his neck would hang a sign that said what his crime was.” On the other hand, William Hendriksen wrote, “Since there is nothing in text or context to suggests otherwise, it is here assumed that.. the entire cross is correct.”

[15]“In 1941, the Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukeni… and his assistant Nahman Avigad, discovered a rock tomb in the Kidron valley in eastern Jerusalem… Pottery inside the tomb enabled them to date it to the first century AD. Also in the tomb, there was a collection of eleven ossuaries, or bone boxes. The use of ossuaries was a common practice between about 20 BC and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. A body would be laid in a niche in the wall of a burial cave. A year or so later, when the flesh had decayed away, the bones would be placed into an ossuary…  The inscriptions on one of these ossuaries says: ‘Alexandros (son of) Simon.’ …On the lid… [is] the Hebrew [word] for 'Cyrenian'… ‘When we consider how uncommon the name Alexander was, and note that the ossuary inscription lists him in the same relationship to Simon as the New Testament does and recall that the burial cave contains the remains of people from Cyrenaica, the chance that the Simon on the ossuary refers to the Simon of Cyrene mentioned in the Gospels seems very likely.’”

[16] cf.

[17] The Textus Receptus follows a minority of Greek manuscripts which add the letter “s” to the end of this relative pronoun, making it masculine (‘ος) to match the masculine word “place” rather than being neuter and not having a definite antecedent. It is a small enough variant that it makes no difference in an English translation.

[18] Although omitted from several Greek manuscripts (incl. D, Γ, Θ and several minuscules) and from translations into Latin and Ethiopian languages, it is considered part of the original text of Matthew by the editors of the Patristic, T.R., and Critical editions. Nevertheless, even without the word the meaning is the same.

[19] The Hebrew word for “skull” (גלגלת) also occurs in Judges 9:53 and 2Kings 9:35 as the word behind the Greek word for skull (kranios). Although the Greek word is more specific and limits the meaning of this instance, the Hebrew word golgoth includes not only the bone skull but the whole of  the physical head (Exodus 16:16; 38:26; Numbers 1:2,18,20,22; 3:47; 1 Chronicles 10:10; 23:3,24).

[20] “There is of late a rapidly growing agreement that it was the northern end of the Temple hill, whose rounded summit (without the city wall) and southern face with holes in the rock, looks at a little distance much like a skull.” ~A.T. Robertson, Harmony of the Gospels, ₰163.

[21] This is a hard call for me, but I’m tentatively siding with the Critical editions over the Patristic and T.R. editions which read οξος. Oxos (“vinegar”) is the reading of the Septuagint of Psalm 69 and would thus naturally be preferred by those who knew their Greek Bible, but is supported by only three ancient manuscripts (A, W, 0250) and then by the majority of later manuscripts, whereas oinos (“wine”) is supported by a strong majority of the earliest-known manuscripts (including א, B, D, K, L, Θ, f1, and f13), and by the Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic translations. Seeing as wine readily turns into vinegar without any special processing, it’s possible that the words could be practically interchangeable.

[22] I’m tentatively siding with the Critical editions over the Patristic and T.R. editions which read ηθελεν (Imperfect instead of Aorist tense). The latter is supported by only two ancient manuscripts (A, W) and then by the majority of later manuscripts, whereas ethelesen is supported by a stronger majority of the earliest-known manuscripts (א, B, D, L, Θ, 0250) plus many later manuscripts (including f1 and f13). The distinction between these two tenses in whether it was a repeated refusal (Imperfect – as the NASB renders it “was unwilling”) or a one-time refusal (Aorist – as the NIV renders it “refused”) is a fine one which hardly comes through in English translations (“would not drink” in the KJV and ESV could be interpreted either way); it is not of great importance.

[23] Adam Clarke’s commentary quotes a commentary by Michaelis translated by a Dr. Marsh which goes into a very detailed, yet plausible explanation as to how the Aramic words may have been interpreted wine vs. vinegar and myrr vs. gall to give us the variants we have in our Greek manuscripts today.

[24] In the 12 times it occurs in the Greek Bible, half of the time it is used as a synonym with the word pikria (meaning “bitter”- Deut. 29:18; 32:32; Prov. 5:4 Lam. 3:15,19; Acts 8:23) . The book of Job also uses this word to designate bile from the liver (Job 16:13), as well as venom from poisonous snakes (Job 20:14). In the Psalms it is something that is the opposite of food (Ps. 69:21), and in Jeremiah, it is something that makes water bad to drink (Jer. 8:14 & 9:14).

[25] John Calvin, however, argued to the contrary, “They are mistaken, in my opinion, who look upon the vinegar as one of the torments which were cruelly inflicted on the Son of God. There is greater probability in the conjecture of those who think that this kind of beverage had a tendency to promote the evacuation of blood, and that on this account it was usually given to malefactors, for the purpose of accelerating their death…” ~John Calvin (John Gill, however, asserted just as confidently that vinegar was used to prolong life…)

[26] Including Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, John Wesley, A.T. Robertson, Marvin Vincent, Matthew Henry and John Gill.

[27] T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 12. 2 – as quoted by John Gill.

[28] Several Greek manuscripts (incl. א, A, D, Θ, and f1) omit this word (“lots”), but it really helps solidify the meaning of the verb “cast” and is considered to be in Matthew’s original manuscript by the Patristic, T.R., and Critical editions.

[29] Compare other uses of terew in Matthew, which include “doing what you were commanded to do” (19:17, 23:3, 28:20) and “performing military guard duty to prevent any unauthorized person from entering or leaving an area” (27:54, 28:4).

[30] “In this manner ought believers also to restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under the burden of the cross.” ~John Calvin

[31] “[W]hat David complained of, as having been done to himself metaphorically and figuratively, was literally… exhibit­ed in Christ. For by the word ‘garments’ David means his wealth and honors; as if he had said that… he was prey to enemies who had robbed his house and were so far from sparing the rest of his property that they even carried off his wife.” ~John Calvin

[32] “the day was divided into four parts, and that each of the parts took its name from the first hour of its commencement, the solution will not be difficult. The whole time, from sunrise to the second part of the day, they called the first hour. The second part, which lasted till noon, was called by them the third hour. The sixth hour commenced at noon, and lasted till three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Thus, when the Jews saw that Pilate was wearing out the time, and that the hour of noon was approaching, John says that they cried out the more vehemently, that the whole day might not be allowed to pass without something being done… [T]his is not inconsistent with the assertion, that our Lord was crucified about the close of the third hour; for it is plain enough, that no sooner was he hastily condemned, than he was immediately executed; so eager was the desire of the Jews to put him to death. Mark therefore means not the beginning, but the close, of the third hour; and it is highly probable that Christ did not hang on the cross longer than three hours.” ~John Calvin

[33] Cf. use in Matt. 19:3 & 10 as “cause for divorce”

[34] “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.” (Deut. 21:22-23, NASB)