“Righteousness and love, law and grace, life and death, as well as time and eternity all intersect at the cross; displaying a divine wisdom that staggers the imagination and leads the humble heart to bow in thankful adoration. To understand the cross of Christ is to understand the heart of God toward a fallen world He wants to save.”
― Steven Cook
This Sunday we’ll be reading Matthew 27:1-31. It describes the preliminary stages of the cross experience of Christ. We’ve stated before that the cross is the central revelation of God’s character. So, we’ll be focusing on the cross in our teaching, discovering what it reveals and provides for us. It’s a very painful section to read and discuss, but it is also beautiful when understood as a picture of God’s heart towards humanity. That’s one of those strange, delicate tensions that the Gospel is full of.
In v1-10, we have the set up for the trial before Pilate, but then a parenthetical account of Judas’ fate. Judas went to the temple and the temple leaders because his heart was burdened by the sin he committed. What response did he meet there? What does that tell us about what had happened to the temple system of that time? How does that contrast with Jesus’ ministry and the cross experience he undergoes in this section? What warnings do we discern when it comes to our own framework for the practice of our faith?
Through the rest of the section we’ll cover we read about the trial before Pilate. Pilate had political aspirations and clearly wanted to protect those, but he also had difficulty with the apparent innocence of Jesus. The crowd and their leaders wanted blood and Pilate wanted to avoid a riot which could further tarnish his reputation as a competent leader for Rome. He offers a trade – he’ll let one prisoner go as a gesture of good-will for the Passover – who will it be? Barabbas, a condemned insurrectionist and murderer, or Jesus, the hopeful messiah. He likely expected they would choose Jesus over a brigand, but he was wrong. Barabbas, the guilty goes free and Jesus, the innocent, takes his place for crucifixion. Matthew is pretty heavy handed with the telling of this – it’s obvious what he wants us to see. What do you see? What is this a picture of the cross providing for us all.
When the soldiers mock Jesus, they dress him up like a clown king…a parody of what a ruler should look like. They fashion a crown out of thorny brambles to put on his head. The Creation story comes to mind, and the curse pronounced because of sin:
Gen 3:17…”cursed is the fertile land because of you;
in pain you will eat from it
every day of your life.
18 Weeds and thistles will grow for you,
even as you eat the field’s plants.”
Considering that curse, what does Jesus being crowned with thorns mean to you? What can it be picturing about what the cross of Christ is providing for us?
As I said – it’s a heavy and painful section of Scripture to read – but beautiful beyond comprehension as well. Hope to see you Sunday.