Matthew 27:39-50 “Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church Manhattan KS, 15 Dec 2013

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


27:39 And those passing by were blaspheming Him, shaking their heads 27:40 and saying,

“The one who demolishes the temple and who builds [it] within three days,

save yourself! Since you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!”

27:41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders were also mockingly saying,

27:42 “He saved others; He is not able to save Himself!

Since He is King of Israel, let Him come down now from His cross,

and then we will believe on Him!

27:43 He has been trusting in God; let Him rescue Him now – if He wants Him,

for He said that He is God’s Son!”

27:44 And also the robbers crucified together with Him were reproaching Him just the same.

27:45 And beginning from the sixth hour it became dark over all the land until the ninth hour.

27:46 Then around the ninth hour, Jesus exclaimed in a loud voice saying,

“Eli, eli, lima sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why did you forsake me?”

27:47 But certain ones of those who were standing there

heard [this] and started saying, “This guy is calling for Elijah!”

27:48 and immediately, one of them, after running and getting a sponge and also

saturating it with sour wine and wrapping it on a reed, started offering a drink to Him.

27:49 But the rest were saying, “Drop it; let’s see whether Elijah comes savingly for Him!”

27:50 But as for Jesus, after crying out in a loud voice, He released His spirit.


·         Jesus’ death on the cross has been a central focus of Christians for almost two thousand years, so there isn’t much new I can hope to share with you in terms of exegesis,

·         but the one thing that struck me as I studied the passage this time through in Matthew was the levels of rejection that Jesus stood up to and how He provided an example for each one of us in our own experiences of rejection.

·         Now, this may not be the major point of the Gospel, but if, as Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me,” (NASB) then I am going to also share some of the rejection that Jesus felt as He was hanging on the cross, and I need to be equipped in my faith to stand up to that rejection.

·         Jesus shows us the way to do it by tenaciously clinging to the truth, by waiting patiently on God’s timing, and by giving Himself out of love to others.

·         Let’s look at this. We left off at Matthew 27:38, “At the same time two robbers were crucified together with Him, one off to the left and one off to the right.” Now, notice all the different people who heap rejection upon Jesus. First there’s…


A. The Taunts of the Passers-by

27:39 And those passing by were blaspheming Him, shaking their heads

‘Οι δε παραπορευομενοι εβλασφημουν αυτον κινουντες τας κεφαλας αυτων


27:40 and saying, “The one who demolishes the temple and who builds [it] within three days, save yourself! Since you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!”

και λεγοντες ‘Ο καταλυων τον ναον και εν τρισιν ‘ημεραις οικοδομων σωσον σεαυτον, ει ‘υιος εἶ του θεου [1]καταβηθι απο του σταυρου

·         It’s all-too-easy to be harsh with retrospective criticism.

o       The taunts of the passers-by remind me of a song by Phil Keaggy: “I heard the news today that another soldier tumbled/A fragile warrior slipped and fell from grace…/Today we talk amongst ourselves that we never bought his words/ we say we’ve seen the madness in his eyes… But it could’ve been me/I could have been the one to lose my grip and fall…”

o       People passing by the perimeter of Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover feast read the sign over Jesus’ head stating His crime: “This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” and, just as Nathan had done earlier in John 1:49, they equated the “King of the Jews” with being the “Son of God”.

o       They combined this piece of information with the rumors which had been circulating all morning about the trial of Jesus at the High Priests’ palace (Matt. 26:61), where it was reported that Jesus had claimed that He could demolish the temple (which had taken thousands of workmen decades to build) and singlehandedly rebuild it in a mere three days (John 2:19).

o       And they concluded that they were witnessing the execution of another false prophet who had claimed to be the Messiah. They shook (or wagged[2]) their heads and clicked their tongues and told their children, “That’s what you get when you claim to be a big-shot when you aren’t the genuine article. Serves Him right!”

o       Remember, however, that Jesus never said that He would destroy the temple of Herod, and He never said that He Himself would destroy the temple; what He said was that the temple leaders would destroy the temple and that the temple which would be destroyed would be His own body.

o       Ironically, what the passers-by perceived to be proof that Jesus was a liar actually proved Jesus’ words true! It was the temple leaders who were taking responsibility for killing Jesus (destroying the temple of His body), and within three days, that body would be alive and well again in a glorious way – not only that, but Jesus would be the cornerstone of a larger body of people comprising a temple made of “living stones” which would render the Herodian temple obsolete.

o       The derisionESV / insultsNIV of the by-passers was careless and ill-founded. We must be more careful in what we say.

·         Now, the Jews were oriented around confirming truth by means of miraculous signs (1 Cor. 1:22), so part of their intent is to taunt Jesus to prove Himself with a miracle.

o       Ironically again, it was the very sign of a temple demolished and rebuilt in three days which was the miraculous sign Jesus held forth as proof that He was the Messiah. In John 2:19, when Jesus was rampaging around the temple marketplace and the temple officials asked Him to give them a miraculous sign to prove that He was authorized to reform the temple, that’s when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.[3]

o       This is consistent with what Jesus had said later – the only sign He would give this adulterous generation was the sign of Jonah (Matthew 16:4) – a man dead under the water for three days and brought back to life.

·         Asking for more than it is God’s will to provide is Satanic.

o       It’s what Satan did during Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. It hadn’t been much more than a month after God the Father had split the skies above the Jordan River and proclaimed Jesus to be His beloved Son, and there is Satan prodding Jesus to prove all over again that He is the Son of God by turning stones into bread (Matt. 4:3).

o       And now again a couple of years later, it had hardly been a month since God the Father had affirmed on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), “This is my beloved Son,” and now the crowd of Jews is saying, “Prove that you are the Son of God. Prove it by coming down off the cross!”

o       No. There was no need for Jesus to prove it all over again. All the proof necessary had already been given. God had spoken, the blind had received sight, sinners forgiven, and even the dead raised. The only sign left was for Jesus Himself to rise from the dead in a couple of days. Any failure on the part of the people to believe that Jesus was the Son of God was due to hardness of heart, not a lack of evidence.

·         The crowd was totally confused about what would really prove Jesus to be the Son of God.

o       The fact was that staying on that cross is what would prove that Jesus was the Son of God; coming down off that cross would have proved that He was just another selfish man who couldn’t free anybody else from sin and hell.

o       We must learn from this to be very skeptical of popular notions of the way things should be. Only the word of God can give us accurate understanding of what’s going on. For the most part it’s a waste of time to pay attention to what the crowd thinks, what surveys say, and what newscasters broadcast.

·         Now it wasn’t only the crowd which rejected and reviledKJV Jesus. He had to endure…

B. The Taunts of the Leaders

27:41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders were also mockingly saying,

‘Ομοιως [4] και ‘οι αρχιερεις εμπαιζοντες μετα των γραμματεων και πρεσβυτερων [5] ελεγον


27:42 “He saved others; He is not able to save Himself! Since6 He is King of Israel, let Him come down now from His cross, and then we will believe on Him!

Αλλους εσωσεν ‘εαυτον ου δυναται σωσαι ει[6] βασιλευς Ισραηλ εστιν καταβατω νυν απο του σταυρου και πιστευσομεν[7] επ[8]’ αυτῷ[9]


27:43 He has been trusting in God; let Him rescue Him now – if He wants Him, for He said that He is God’s Son!”

[10]Πεποιθεν επι τον θεον ‘ρυσασθω νυν αυτον[11] ει θελει αυτον ειπεν γαρ ‘οτι θεου ειμι ‘υιος

·         The priests, of course, concluded falsely that Jesus did not have the ability to extricate Himself from the cross. Jesus, being God, could do whatever He wanted. The truth was that He did not have the desire to leave the cross. In a sense, He could not both save sinners and save Himself – one or the other had to die according to the decrees of God’s justice. Jesus loved us so much that He didn’t want to enjoy eternal life without us, so it was His will to stay on that cross in order to bring us into eternal life with Him. (“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all…” Rom. 8:32a, NASB).

·         Now, the priests and scribes, in their desire to look good in front of other people, also offered a false promise: “Come down and we’ll believe you.”

o       But would they really have believed in Jesus if He had come down from the cross? No; they were the ones who wanted Him dead in the first place!

o       This was just part of the taunting – part of the temptation which even now Jesus faced.

o       He could have taken the bait and come down off the cross and shown the world that He had the power to overcome some serious wounds and a few squads of Roman guards,

o       but if Jesus were to do that, it would mean the priests could control Him. What would the priests want Him to do next? No, Jesus was only controlled by the will of His Heavenly Father, which was that He be the Savior of the world!

o       It’s frustrating to patiently obey God and suffer rather than to do what other people want you to do. It takes dying to your self to endure their misguided criticism, but God’s will is much better in the long run.

·         The priest’s timing was also off. They said, “Come down now… Let God deliver Him now…”

o       Well, who says that now is the right time?

o       Of course God would deliver His Son. Of course, Jesus would come down off the cross and walk free, but now was not the right time.

o       We must be patient and let God turn things around in His timing.

·         The priests also attempt to make themselves look good by quoting scripture to mock Jesus and avoid the blame for their own injustice. “Let God rescue/deliver Him,” they say, quoting from the Hebrew[12] text of Psalm 22:8.

o       “Even if we Pharisees were unjust, God would have delivered Jesus if He had really trusted God and lived life by our rules! But obviously He’s a wicked man because God hasn’t delivered Him! What a loser!”[13]

o       Have you ever had somebody quote Scripture at you totally out of context to shut you up? What patience Jesus had not to call down fire from heaven then and there!

o       In contrast to the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:13), in which Jesus instructed us to pray that He would rescue us from our sins, these leaders are not thinking about being delivered from their sins, they are fixated on other peoples’ sins.

o       Yet Jesus didn’t need a deliverer; He was the deliverer!


o       2 Corinthians 1:10 God who delivered[rescued] us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He [is the One] on whom we have set our hope… (NASB)

·         Finally there is the parting jab: “…if He wantsNIV Him – “if God will [have]KJV Him” / “if He is to be desiredESV” / “if He finds delightNAS in Him” – this Jesus who claims to be God’s own special Son!”

o       Have you ever struggled with that nagging fear of rejection? Have you ever wondered if God would look at you when you died and said, “Um, we don’t really want you here.”

o       I believe that fear of rejection by God is Satanic, and the priests, under the influence of the devil, played on that fear.

o       The priests assumed that God would reject Jesus because they assumed that Jesus had committed blasphemy by claiming to be the Son of God, but their assumption was false. Jesus spoke the truth, and God had already said that Jesus was His beloved Son[14].

o       Likewise, God has already said that you who have fled for refuge to Jesus from your sin are “children of God.” Don’t ever give in to Satan’s suggestion that God doesn’t want you.

o       The book of 1 John was written in large part to strengthen Christians against that very lie. The third chapter starts, “Look at what a love the Father has given to us so that we might be called [to be] children of God – and we ARE! On account of this, the world does not know us: because it did not know Him. Loved ones, now we are children of God, and what we will be [in the future] has not yet been brought to light … [and skipping down to v.19] by this we will know that we are of the truth, and, in front of Him, we will assure our heart, because if the heart is condemning of us [we will know] that God is greater than our heart, and He knows all. Loved ones, if [our] heart is not condemning, we can have an open conversation directly with God” (1 John 3:1-2& 19-21, NAW).

·         So, there’s the taunts of the crowd and the taunts of the leaders. There’s also the…

C. The Taunts of the Robbers

27:44 And also the robbers crucified together with Him were reproaching Him just the same[15].

Το δ’ αυτο και ‘οι λησται ‘οι συσταυρωθεντες [16] αυτω ωνειδιζον αυτον[17]

·         You’d think there might at least be some company in misery, but Jesus didn’t even get that.

·         These thievesKJV aren’t creative though; they don’t add anything new to the taunts being hurled at Jesus, they just say the same thing the hoi polloi and the priests already said.

·         The parallel account in Luke 23:36ff says that the soldiers also repeated the words of the crowd and the rulers and that one of the robbers stood up against the mocking, confessed his sin, expressed faith in Jesus and was given the promise of paradise.

·         When the world repeats its lies over and over to us about how foolish our trust in God is in light of how great man is, and how bad God’s word is in light of how great man’s ideas are, and how much of a losing cause Christianity is, don’t let it get to you. No matter how many times a lie is repeated, repetition doesn’t make it true.

·         The Greek word ωνειδιζω – which gets a range of translation here: cast in His teethKJV/ reviledNKJ,ESV/ insultedNAS,NIV – this same word shows up in the Beatitudes, where Jesus said, “Y’all are being blessed whenever liars reproach you… and speak every evil against you for my sake. Keep rejoicing and leaping for joy, because your reward is bountiful in heaven… (Matt 5:11-12, NAW, cf. 11:20 when Jesus “denounced” Choriazin)

·         The worldlings that taunt us are dying on their own crosses like those robbers, desperately hoping that God’s word is not true, lest they be doubly condemned.

·         We must keep fighting mentally to retain, in the category of truth in our thinking, those things which God has said are true; we must not let ourselves get worn down by the repeated lies such that we reorganize the categories.

·         Now, not only did Jesus experience rejection from the crowds, not only did Jesus experience rejection from the leaders, not only did Jesus experience rejection from His fellow-sufferers, but Jesus also experienced…

D. Rejection from the light of Nature

27:45 And beginning from the sixth hour it became dark over all the land until the ninth hour.

Απο δε ‘εκτης ‘ωρας σκοτος εγενετο επι πασαν την γην ‘εως ‘ωρας ενατης[18]

·         Even the sun hid its face from Jesus after He was put up on that cross. Exactly how, we are not told. I think that it would be rather long for an eclipse[19], so I would guess the darkness was due to dense clouds.

·         The sixth hour after sunrise, would be about noon, so for three hours in what was normally the brightest part of the day there was darkness.

·         At the ninth hour, trumpets would begin blaring at the temple announcing the evening shift for the priests and announcing that the time to start slaughtering the Passover lambs was beginning. (Vincent, quoting Edersheim) The timing of Jesus’ death was no accident!

·         Although this was a literal, physical darkness, the symbolic meanings for darkness which Jesus used during His teaching ministry suggest that there was something going on spiritually which was being symbolized by this physical darkness. (As we will see, there are other physical events such as the rending of the temple veil which carry spiritual significance too.) Remember that the servants in Jesus’ parables who lost favor with their master were “cast into outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30)[20]. Here in the darkness, Jesus, in order to fulfill the just punishment for sin on our behalf, was experiencing in the natural world a parallel to what was going on in the spiritual realm[21], and that is…

E. The Rejection by God

27:46 Then around the ninth hour, Jesus exclaimed in a loud voice saying, “Eli, eli, lima sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why did you forsake me?”

περι δε την ενατην17 ‘ωραν ανεβοησεν[22] ‘ο Ιησους φωνῃ μεγαλῃ λεγων Ηλι ηλι λιμα σαβαχθανι τουτ’ εστιν Θεε μου θεε μου ‘ινατί με εγκατελιπες

·         Here Jesus quotes from Psalm 22 in the Hebrew language, just as the priests had in verse 43, and

·         Matthew transliterated the Hebrew words for us using Greek letters so we could hear what Jesus words actually sounded like[23].

·         I find it interesting that the same phrase, “he cried out in a loud voice,” is also used of Esau in the Greek version of Genesis 27:34, when he realized he had lost his special status with this father and would not receive the blessing he desired[24]. This is the cry of a forsaken man!

·         What did Jesus mean by these words?

o       Was He implying that God had actually forsaken Him such that Jesus had lost His divine nature and was no longer God – or such that there were now two Gods, one in heaven and one hanging on the cross? No. That creates theological problems we cannot accept, because the Bible says that “God is one” (Deut. 6:4)[25].

o       Well then, was Jesus merely reciting a Psalm without implying that He identified with the words of the Psalm? While this is a theologically-tenable position, it is hard for me to imagine that Jesus would not be quoting something He was deeply identifying with.

o       My take on it is that Jesus is experiencing God’s wrath against sin which includes what we would call hell.

o       1 Peter 2:24 tells us that Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,” so I believe that it was while He was on the cross that He suffered the physical and spiritual death to pay for our sins[26], not later during His burial. John 19:30 tells us that Jesus said, “It is finished,” while He was still hanging on the cross, again indicating that His work of redemption was completed while He was on the cross.

o       While, in once sense, Jesus could not be spatially separated from an omnipresent God (cf. Psalm 139:8b “If I make my bed in hell, behold you are there!”), yet, in another sense God can stand opposed to and angry at a person in such a way that they feel forsaken.

o       This, of course, would have been a horrifying feeling to Jesus whose experience of fellowship with God the Father was so close that He could say in John 10:30 “I and the Father are One.”

·         Have you ever felt forsaken by God? Like your prayers aren’t getting past the ceiling? Like God has it out for you?

o       1 Peter 2:23 tells us how Jesus dealt with this feeling on the cross, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (NASB).

o       Are you willing to keep entrusting yourself to God? Are you willing to keep believing that He will bring about a just conclusion to the matter?

o       The truth is that Jesus was “not left abandoned in hell” (Acts 2:27/Psalm 16:10), and God will not leave you abandoned either.

o       “I will never leave you or forsake you,” God told the Old Testament believers in Joshua 1:5, and God says the same thing to New Testament believers in Hebrews 13:5-6, “Don’t let tight finances tempt you to believe that God has forsaken you. God will never leave you, and you can say with utmost confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid!’”(cf. 2 Cor. 4:9 and Heb. 10:25 on “forsake”)

·         Jesus’ words, however, were misinterpreted by the bystanders.


27:47 But certain ones of[27] those who were standing there heard [this] and started saying, “This guy is calling for Elijah!”

Τινες δε των εκει ‘εστωτων[28] ακουσαντες ελεγον ‘οτι[29] Ηλιαν φωνει ‘ουτος

·         While I can imagine that the Roman soldiers (who didn’t understand the Aramic language that Jesus spoke) possibly were the ones who started this rumor (and the Greek sponge and the Roman sour wine in v.48 might support this theory), verse 36, however, tells us that the soldiers were “sitting.” Now, the people who misinterpreted Jesus’ words in v.47 are “standing,” not sitting. So who else could it have been?

·         Let me suggest that it was the priests.

o       “Standing” fits the profile of the Pharisees who loved to “stand” on street corners, praying in order to be seen by men (Matt. 6:5, cf. 26:73).

o       Furthermore there is a motive for the priests: They couldn’t help but realize that Jesus was quoting the same Psalm that they had just quoted at Him – the words are unmistak­able, yet the priests had to continue to convince themselves that Jesus was a blasphemer worthy of death, so it’s possible that they intentionally perverted what Jesus said in order to make it look like Jesus was not praying to God or quoting scripture, but rather was deliriously praying to the prophet Elijah – a blasphemous action, and therefore His crucifixion was justified[30]. Perhaps this is why they told others, “He’s calling for Elijah.”

·         Has anyone ever taken your words and twisted them and started a rumor that makes you look bad? Jesus understands. Remember the Beatitude, “Blessed are you whenever liars reproach you… and speak every evil against you for my sake. Keep rejoicing and leaping for joy, because your reward is bountiful in heaven… (Matt. 5:11-12, NAW)


27:48 and immediately, one of them, after[31] running and getting a sponge and also saturating it with sour wine and wrapping it on a reed, started offering a drink to Him.

και ευθεως δραμων ‘εις εξ αυτων και λαβων σπογγον[32] πλησας τε οξους και περιθεις καλαμω εποτιζεν αυτον

·         John 19:25-29 fills in some details here:

o       Jesus told John to take care of His mother, and then said that He was thirsty.

o       A jug of sour wine stood nearby – a common beverage for Roman soldiers, so that is what is offered to Jesus.

o       It is offered on a sponge pressed against His mouth so He can suck the liquid out – remember, His hands are nailed to the cross so He can’t hold a cup.

o       This time He accepts the drink[33] – perhaps because He can tell that it does not contain a pain-numbing agent this time.

·         In the last sermon, I commented on how even the offering of sour wine or vinegar was a fulfillment of prophecy[34] and how it was a Jewish tradition (based on Prov. 31:6) to offer alcohol to a dying man.


27:49 But the rest were saying, “Drop it; let’s see whether Elijah comes savingly for Him!”

‘Οι δε λοιποι ελεγον αφες ιδωμεν ει ερχεται Ηλιας σωσων[35] αυτον[36]

·         While this one guy got Jesus a drink, there were others who wanted this kindness withheld from Him, saying, “WaitESV / LetNAS Him beKJV / leave Him aloneNIV,NKJ. We want Him to suffer!”

·         “Hey, Elijah went up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Let’s see if he swings back down from heaven in that chariot and offers Jesus a ride! Heh heh!”

·         Little did they know that Elijah had already stopped by to talk with Jesus a few weeks ago on the mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3), but Elijah didn’t come then to rescue Jesus from death but rather to support Jesus as He headed towards His death on the cross, knowing that the death of the Lamb of God was his only hope of being made right with God himself!


27:50 But as for Jesus, after crying out in a loud voice, He released His spirit.

‘Ο δε Ιησους παλιν κραξας φωνῃ μεγαλῃ αφηκεν[37] το πνευμα

·         John 19:30 records that the words He yelled out were, “It is finished!”

·         And then Jesus “yielded/released/gave upNIV the ghost.” The word picture here is that Jesus could not hang on to the vital processes of life anymore. He gave up and quit breathing.

·         The parallel passage in Luke 23:46 pictures this not so much as “giving up” as “handing off” His life, saying, “Father, into Your hands I deposit my spirit.” What a beautiful picture of death from a Christian perspective! It’s a lateral pass; handing life over to the Heavenly Father.


·         So, in conclusion, we’ve see the rejection of the crowds, the rejection of the leaders, the rejection of the robbers, the rejection from nature in the darkness, and the rejection Jesus felt from God, and we have looked at strategies to deal with this rejection.

·         John 15:18-20 quotes Jesus saying, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…” (NASB)

·         We are going to share in some of the rejection that Jesus felt as He was hanging on the cross, and we need to be equipped to stand up to it by faith.

·         We do that by following Jesus’s example and tenaciously clinging to the truth, waiting patiently on God’s timing, and giving ourselves – out of love to others.

o       We don’t give up the mental fight to retain the truth.

§         The truth is that Jesus is the King. He has ably demonstrated that by healing the sick and rising from the dead.

§         The truth is that the Bible gives a more accurate picture of what is going on in the world than the news does.

§         The truth is that Jesus loves you – you are a child of God, God will not abandon you, and one day Jesus will make everything right.

§         The truth is that sin really is bad and is punishable by death, but Jesus’ death was sufficient to really remove our sin. 

§         The truth is that Jesus is the rescuer, and death is but our entrance into a new level of our heavenly Father’s care.

o       Secondly we must be patient and wait on God’s timing

§         We won’t demand all that we want right now or ask God to prove Himself to us all over again.

§         We seek to be controlled by the will of God, not by the will of other people.

§         We endure misunder­standings patiently when we can’t do anything about them, knowing that God will sort it out in time.

§         We keep entrusting ourselves to Him who judges justly,

§         and we rejoice because our reward is great in heaven.

§         (So we fight the rejection with truth, patience, and finally with love)

o       Jesus gave Himself out of love, and we can do the same.

§         It shows in our words when we are speaking the truth yet not carelessly cutting down other people.

§         It shows when we do the dirty work to serve others.

§         It shows when we pray for God to bless people that we’d really rather call curses down upon.

§         And it shows in the willingness to even die for others (John 15:13).

o       May God give each one of us grace to face rejection triumphantly even as Jesus did.



By A. C. Wilson


“Rejoice, rejoice! You’re sanctified!

For God on earth was crucified!

He just breathed out his final breath,

Rejoice, rejoice, and fear not death!”


How can I rejoice at the suffering of God?

Such joy seems like Marquis de Sade’s.

Is this news joyous, yes it is!

He took my shame,

He took my pain,

Great for my life, but what for His?


Mine was the guilt, yet He is dead.

My punishment fell on His head.

Can I rejoice at his pain and woe?

Shall I sing while his life-blood flows?


No, not in pain, rejoice at love,

For that is what our hope’s made of.

Not only by blood were we forgiven,

Love bore our shame,

And willingly our pain,

So God’s death for grace was driven.


[1] Three ancient Greek Uncial manuscripts (א, A, and D) add the word και (“and”), and, for reasons which do not make sense to me, the contemporary Critical editions of the Greek New Testament (GNT) included the addition. None of the standard English translations which follow the Critical editions added the word in English, though. I’m sticking with the Patristic and Textus Receptus (T.R.) editions of the GNT here which follow the vast majority of Greek manuscripts – including manuscripts just as old as the ones followed by the Critical editions.

[2] KJV. Cf. 23:4 “move/lift/shift a finger”

[3] λυσατε τον ναον τουτον και εν τρισιν ημεραις εγερω αυτον

[4] The majority of Greek manuscripts add a δε (“but”) here, but it’s only in one ancient Greek manuscript (D – which I don’t count to be the most reliable). There is already a conjunction here (kai = and), and the second conjunction (de) is not found in most of the older manuscripts (א, A, L, W, K, Θ) nor in a range of the later Minuscules (f1, f13), nor in a wide range of the standard versions: Vaticanus, KJV, NAS, NIV, NKJ, ESV.

[5] The phrase “and Pharisees” occurs here in the majority of Greek manuscripts (and therefore in some Patristic editions of the GNT – in my Athens on but not in my e-sword one), but the phrase is only found in a couple of the oldest Greek manuscripts (D & W) and in the Syriac translations. It’s not in the majority of the oldest Uncial manuscripts (א, B, A, L, Θ), not in some significant families of the later miniscule manuscripts (f1 and f13), not in the Vulgate translation, and not in the Critical or T.R. editions of the GNT. It wouldn’t be a different group of people altogether, though.

[6] Omitted in 4 ancient Greek Uncial manuscripts (א, B, D, L) and a few later manuscripts, but found in the Majority of Greek manuscripts (incl. A, W, Θ, f1, f13) and in the Syriac and Vulgate ancient versions. The Majority reading carries over into the T.R. and Patristic editions as well as the King James versions in the form of an If-Then statement, and I think the manuscript evidence is in favor of this, but the Critical editions and the NAS, NIV, and ESV go with the tiny minority of Greek variants which render it as a statement. The difference is not so much as one might think, because the form of the conditional statement (ei + present indicative) may indicate that the protasis is true, so the translation could just as accurately be, “SINCE He is the King of Israel,” which is not essentially different from, “He is the King of Israel.”

[7] A significant number of manuscripts (א, L, W, Γ, Θ, f13) lengthen the omicron to an omega, changing this word from Future Indicative to Present Subjunctive (“we shall believe”), which means much the same thing. This variant, however is not accepted as genuine by the T.R., Patristic, or Critical editions of the GNT.

[8] A few significant manuscripts omit this preposition (A, D, Θ, f1, f13), and the T.R. follows them in omitting the word; however, it is in the Majority of manuscripts (including the most ancient ones like א, B, L, and W), so the Patristic and Critical editions of the GNT include the preposition. All the manuscripts which omit the preposition embed the preposition in the object by making the object dative (autwi = into Him), which is the standard case for objects to the verb pisteuw, so there is no difference in meaning.

[9] The Critical editions render this object in the Accusative case, auton (“believe Him”), which would be odd for the verb pisteuw. The manuscript evidence is ancient but scanty (א, B, L, Ʃ, 047), whereas the Majority reading supported by the Patristic and T.R. editions is well-supported by both ancient and Byzantine manuscripts (incl. A, D, Θ, W, f1, f13).

[10] A few Greek manuscripts (D, Θ, f1) add the word “if” (ei) here, but the editors of the Critical, Patristic, and T.R. editions of the GNT all considered it spurious.

[11] On the basis of a mere three manuscripts, the Critical editions depart from the Majority of Greek manuscripts by omitting the word “Him.” All the English versions – even the ones that follow the Critical editions – used the word “Him” anyway because it makes so much sense. With or without the auton, it is still valid to translate it into English with the object “Him,” so, although I opt for the Patristic and T.R. reading, the Critical editions haven’t changed the meaning.

[12] Compare Matthew’s rendering of their quote with Psalm 21:9 in the Gentile-oriented Septuagint (differences underlined) - Ἤλπισεν ἐπὶ κύριον, ῥυσάσθω αὐτόν· σωσάτω αὐτόν, ὅτι θέλει αὐτόν and with
Psalm 22:9 in the Masoretic Text
 גל אל יהוה יפלטהו יצילהו כי חפץ׃

[13] William Hendriksen, in his commentary, notes that the leaders never addressed Jesus directly in second person. They showed their hatred of Him by always speaking of Him in third person.

[14] at the Baptism and at the Transfiguration.

[15] The words “teethKJV” “wayNIV” and “wordsNASB” are not in the Greek text, but are ways of interpreting a somewhat terse line in Greek.

[16] Critical editions add the word συν (“together with”) here based on 6 Greek manuscripts (א, B, D, L, Θ, 892) which do this, but what they failed to take into account was that half of those manuscripts (D, L, Θ) merely shifted the preposition from the beginning of the previous word to the end of the word, so that leaves only two (admittedly-ancient) manuscripts which reduplicate the preposition before and after the verb (as the Critical editions do), which makes the textual basis for their edition weak, in my opinion. I’m sticking with the Patristic and T.R. editions here.

[17] The T.R. editions read αυτω (“toward Him”) instead of the simple auton (“Him”), which may have been a factor in the highly idiomatic translation of the KJV (“in His [teeth]”). Although it does not change the meaning really, it is not supported by the majority of Greek manuscripts, and both the Patristic and Critical editors considered it spurious.

[18] For some reason, the T.R. editions double a letter in this word to εννατης. It doesn’t change the meaning, though.

[19] Based on comments by A.T. Robertson and John Chrysostom. Calvin, on the other hand, called it an eclipse.

[20] Cf. William Hendriksen: “The darkness meant judgment, the judgment of God upon our sins… (cf. Amos 8:9).” He also cites extrabiblical historians who commented on this darkness: Phlegon (quoted in Origen, Against Celsus, II.33), and Tertullian, who reminded his pagan adversaries that this wonder “is related in your own annals.”

[21] In addition to my interpretation Calvin added that the darkness – an “unusual chance in the order of nature” – was “intended to arouse them to consider the astonishing design of God in the death of Christ.”

[22] A few ancient Greek manuscripts (B, L, W) omit the prefix on this verb. It doesn’t significantly change the meaning, but the lack of the prefix is still considered spurious by the editors of the Patristic, T.R. and Critical editions of the GNT. Although the word with the prefix occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, it does occur 33 times in the Septuagint, so it’s not too irregular.

[23] Over the years, as scribes heard the text and scratched out copies, different scribes heard different vowels, and since there was no standard spelling of Hebrew words transliterated into Greek, there is a little bit of variety in the spellings, but the sense is the same. The Critical, Patriarchal, and T.R. editions all agree on eli, but the NIV follows two ancient manuscripts (א, B) which spell it eloi. The editions part ways on the second word, with the Critical following א, B, L and the Vulgate with lema, the Patriarchal following the Majority (incl. A, W, 090, and f13) with lima, and the T.R. following Θ and f1 with lama. If I were transliterating the Hebrew from scratch, I’d choose la mah, but I’m going to stick with the Patriarchal text here. This is clearly a quote from the Hebrew (אלי אלי למה עזבתני) rather from the Septuagint (Ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου, πρόσχες μοι· ἵνα τί ἐγκατέλιπές με). Still essentially the same quote, though.

[24] I find it interesting that there are only two other places in the Greek Bible besides Matt. 27:46 and Gen. 27:34 where anaboew is combined with megale phone: 1 Sam. 28:12, when the witch of Endor realizes that the king who outlawed witches is standing in her house, and Ezekiel 11:11, when Ezekiel realizes the loss he will experience as God judges Jerusalem.

[25] Touching on this, Calvin commented on the phrase, “My God, my God…” that “during this fearful torture his faith remained uninjured, so that, while he complained of being forsaken, he still relied on the aid of God as at hand.” And Hendriksen added, “God the Father deserted his Son’s human nature, and even this in a limited, though very real and agonizing sense.”

[26] Cf. Col 2:14 “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (NASB)

[27] This is my interpretation of the Genitive phrase twn estwtwn modifying the nominative tines akousantes.

[28] Critical editions of the GNT, based on six ancient Greek manuscripts (א, B, C, L, W, Θ), render this word ‘εστηκοτων. The reading of the Patriarchal and T.R. editions has some ancient support (A, C, 090) as well as the overwhelming majority of overall manuscript support, so I’m keeping it.

[29] Several Greek manuscripts omit this word (including א, D, L, Θ, and a few minuscules), therefore this word in the majority of Greek manuscripts was omitted in Westcott & Hort’s early Critical edition, but it is included in contemporary editions of the UBS and N-A. It doesn’t change the meaning, rather it makes more obvious that a quote follows.

[30] Calvin thought the same, “they deliberately intended to mock Christ, and to turn his prayer into an occasion of slander.” So also Hendriksen.

[31] I translated the four Greek participles, which are all Aorist, as English participles, all describing the sequence of actions leading up to the main verb potizw, and I have interpreted its Imperfect tense as the beginning of a set of repeated motions. (A.T. Robertson labeled it a conative Imperfect.)

[32] This word spongon is where we get our English word “sponge,” as in the creatures harvested from the sea by Greek fishermen in Tampa Florida and sold at the Sponge-o-Rama for cleaning products. This word only occurs in the Bible in the crucifixion accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John.

[33] However, this vinegar does not appear to count as “drinking wine” (nor does the taste He took before rejecting the cup earlier), for He said at the last supper in Matt. 26:29, “…from now on, I shall never drink of this produce of the grape-vine until that day whenever it is that I shall be drinking with y’all anew in the kingdom of my father.”

[34] Psalm 69:21 (in both Hebrew and Greek) actually uses the word for “vinegar” (oxos) rather than the word for “wine” (oinos). The best Greek texts of Matthew 27:34 use the word for “wine,” but here in v. 48, the Greek word for “vinegar” matches, so if there’s any uncertainty in v.34 fulfilling the prophecy, verse 48 settles it beyond the shadow of a doubt.

[35] It seems that if this word were intended to state the purpose (“to save” which is the way it is rendered in the standard English versions), it would have been spelled as a Greek Infinitive. Its spelling, however, is that of a Future Participle, and in order to reflect that nuance, I translated it as an Adverb of manner (“saving-ly”). A.T. Robertson, on the other hand noted that, although rare in the N.T., this idiom is common in Greek to indicate purpose.

[36] Several ancient manuscripts (א, B, C, L,  Γ) add a line modified slightly from John 19:34, “and another, after taking a spear, pierced Him in the side, and blood and water came out.” Not even the Critical editions consider this original to Matthew. It would certainly be anachronistic to have this proof of Jesus’ death coming before Jesus breathed His last in v.50.

[37] Is it just a coincidence that Jesus apheken’ed His spirit right after the priests commanded a man to aphes (v.49)?