Bible Commentary

Matthew 27

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Matthew 27)

Verse 2

[2] And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

Having bound him — They had bound him when he was first apprehended. But they did it now afresh, to secure him from any danger of an escape, as he passed through the streets of Jerusalem.

Verse 3

[3] Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

Then Judas seeing that he was condemned — Which probably he thought Christ would have prevented by a miracle.

Verse 4

[4] Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

They said, what is that to us? — How easily could they digest innocent blood! And yet they had a conscience! It is not lawful (say they) to put it into the treasury - But very lawful to slay the innocent!

Verse 5

[5] And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

In that part of the temple where the sanhedrim met.

Verse 7

[7] And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.

They bought with them the potter's field — Well known, it seems, by that name. This was a small price for a field so near Jerusalem. But the earth had probably been digged for potters' vessels, so that it was now neither fit for tillage nor pasture, and consequently of small value.

Foreigners — Heathens especially, of whom there were then great numbers in Jerusalem.

Verse 9

[9] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

Then was fulfilled — What was figuratively represented of old, was now really accomplished.

What was spoken by the prophet — The word Jeremy, which was added to the text in latter copies, and thence received into many translations, is evidently a mistake: for he who spoke what St. Matthew here cites (or rather paraphrases) was not Jeremy, but Zechariah. Zechariah 11:12.

Verse 10

[10] And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.

As the Lord commanded me — To write, to record.

Verse 11

[11] And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

Art thou the king of the Jews? — Jesus before Caiaphas avows himself to be the Christ, before Pilate to be a king; clearly showing thereby, that his answering no more, was not owing to any fear.

Verse 15

[15] Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

At every feast — Every year, at the feast of the passover. Mark 15:6; Luke 23:17; John 18:39.

Verse 18

[18] For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

He knew that for envy they had delivered him — As well as from malice and revenge; they envied him, because the people magnified him.

Verse 22

[22] Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

They all say, Let him be crucified — The punishment which Barabbas had deserved: and this probably made them think of it. But in their malice they forgot with how dangerous a precedent they furnished the Roman governor. And indeed within the compass of a few years it turned dreadfully upon themselves.

Verse 24

[24] When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

Then Pilate took water and washed his hands — This was a custom frequently used among the heathens as well as among the Jews, in token of innocency.

Verse 25

[25] Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

His blood be on us and on our children — As this imprecation was dread. fully answered in the ruin so quickly brought on the Jewish nation, and the calamities which have ever since pursued that wretched people, so it was peculiarly fulfilled by Titus the Roman general, on the Jews whom he took during the siege of Jerusalem. So many, after having been scourged in a terrible manner, were crucified all round the city, that in a while there was not room near the wall for the crosses to stand by each other. Probably this befell some of those who now joined in this cry, as it certainly did many of their children: the very finger of God thus pointing out their crime in crucifying his Son.

Verse 26

[26] Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

He delivered him to be crucified — The person crucified was nailed to the cross as it lay on the ground, through each hand extended to the utmost stretch, and through both the feet together. Then the cross was raised up, and the foot of it thrust with a violent shock into a hole in the ground prepared for it. This shock disjointed the body, whose whole weight hung upon the nails, till the persons expired through mere dint of pain. This kind of death was used only by the Romans, and by them inflicted only on slaves and the vilest criminals.

Verse 27

[27] Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.

The whole troop — or cohort. This was a body of foot commanded by the governor, which was appointed to prevent disorders and tumults, especially on solemn occasions. Mark 15:16.

Verse 28

[28] And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

They put on him a scarlet robe — Such as kings and generals wore; probably an old tattered one.

Verse 32

[32] And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

Him they compelled to bear his cross — He bore it himself, till he sunk under it, John 19:17.

Verse 33

[33] And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

A place called Golgotha, that is, the place of a skull — Golgotha in Syriac signifies a skull or head: it was probably called so from this time; being an eminence upon Mount Calvary, not far from the king's gardens. Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17

Verse 34

[34] They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

They gave him vinegar mingled with gall — Out of derision: which, however nauseous, he received and tasted of. St. Mark mentions also a different mixture which was given him, Wine mingled with myrrh: such as it was customary to give to dying criminals, to make them less sensible of their sufferings: but this our Lord refused to taste, determining to bear the full force of his pains.

Verse 35

[35] And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

They parted his garments — This was the custom of the Romans. The soldiers performed the office of executioners, and divided among them the spoils of the criminals.

My vesture — That is, my inner garment. Psalms 22:18.

Verse 38

[38] Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

Mark 15:27; Luke 23:32.

Verse 44

[44] The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

Mark 15:32; Luke 23:33.

Verse 45

[45] Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

From the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the earth unto the ninth hour — Insomuch, that even a heathen philosopher seeing it, and knowing it could not be a natural eclipse, because it was at the time of the full moon, and continued three hours together, cried out, "Either the God of nature suffers, or the frame of the world is dissolved." By this darkness God testified his abhorrence of the wickedness which was then committing. It likewise intimated Christ's sore conflicts with the Divine justice, and with all the powers of darkness.

Verse 46

[46] And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

About the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice — Our Lord's great agony probably continued these three whole hours, at the conclusion of which be thus cried out, while he suffered from God himself what was unutterable.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? — Our Lord hereby at once expresses his trust in God, and a most distressing sense of his letting loose the powers of darkness upon him, withdrawing the comfortable discoveries of his presence, and filling his soul with a terrible sense of the wrath due to the sins which he was bearing. Psalms 22:1.

Verse 48

[48] And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

One taking a sponge, filled it with vinegar — Vinegar and water was the usual drink of the Roman soldiers. It does not appear, that this was given him in derision, but rather with a friendly design, that he might not die before Elijah came. John 19:28.

Verse 50

[50] Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

After he had cried with a loud voice — To show that his life was still whole in him.

He dismissed his spirit — So the original expression may be literally translated: an expression admirably suited to our Lord's words, John 10:18: No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. He died by a voluntary act of his own, and in a way peculiar to himself. He alone of all men that ever were, could have continued alive even in the greatest tortures, as long as he pleased, or have retired from the body whenever he had thought fit. And how does it illustrate that love which he manifested in his death? Insomuch as he did not use his power to quit his body, as soon as it was fastened to the cross, leaving only an insensible corpse, to the cruelty of his murderers: but continued his abode in it, with a steady resolution, as long as it was proper. He then retired from it, with a majesty and dignity never known or to be known in any other death: dying, if one may so express it, like the Prince of life.

Verse 51

[51] And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

Immediately upon his death, while the sun was still darkened, the veil of the temple, which separated the holy of holies from the court of the priests, though made of the richest and strongest tapestry, was rent in two from the top to the bottom: so that while the priest was ministering at the golden altar (it being the time of the sacrifice) the sacred oracle, by an invisible power was laid open to full view: God thereby signifying the speedy removal of the veil of the Jewish ceremonies the casting down the partition wall, so that the Jews and Gentiles were now admitted to equal privileges, and the opening a way through the veil of his flesh for all believers into the most holy place.

And the earth was shaken — There was a general earthquake through the whole globe, though chiefly near Jerusalem: God testifying thereby his wrath against the Jewish nation, for the horrid impiety they were committing.

Verse 52

[52] And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

Some of the tombs were shattered and laid open by the earthquake, and while they continued unclosed (and they must have stood open all the Sabbath, seeing the law would not allow any attempt to close them) many bodies of holy men were raised, (perhaps Simeon, Zacharias, John the Baptist, and others who had believed in Christ, and were known to many in Jerusalem,) And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, went into the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to many - Who had probably known them before: God hereby signifying, that Christ had conquered death, and would raise all his saints in due season.

Verse 54

[54] Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

The centurion — The officer who commanded the guard; and they that were with him feared, saying, Truly this was the Son of God - Referring to the words of the chief priests and scribes, Matthew 27:43: He said, I am the Son of God.

Verse 56

[56] Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.

James — The less: he was so called, to distinguish him from the other James, the brother of John; probably because he was less in stature.

Verse 57

[57] When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:

When the evening was come — That is, after three o'clock; the time from three to six they termed the evening. Mark 15:42; Luke 23:50; John 19:38.

Verse 62

[62] Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

On the morrow, the day that followed the day of the preparation — The day of preparation was the day before the Sabbath, whereon they were to prepare for the celebration of it. The next day then was the Sabbath according to the Jews. But the evangelist seems to express it by this circumlocution, to show the Jewish Sabbath was then abolished.

Verse 63

[63] Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

That impostor said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again — We do not find that he had ever said this to them, unless when he spoke of the temple of his body, John 2:19,21. And if they here refer to what he then said, how perverse and iniquitous was their construction on these words, when he was on his trial before the council? Matthew 26:61. Then they seemed not to understand them!

Verse 65

[65] Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.

Ye have a guard — Of your own, in the tower of Antonia, which was stationed there for the service of the temple.

Verse 66

[66] So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

They went and secured the sepulchre, sealing the stone, and setting a guard — They set Pilate's signet, or the public seal of the sanhedrim upon a fastening which they had put on the stone. And all this uncommon caution was overruled by the providence of God, to give the strongest proofs of Christ's ensuing resurrection; since there could be no room for the least suspicion of deceit, when it should be found, that his body was raised out of a new tomb, where there was no other corpse, and this tomb hewn out of a rock, the mouth of which was secured by a great stone, under a seal, and a guard of soldiers.

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