Matthew 27:27-66 – In Our Place

This text is the pinnacle of Matthew’s gospel. In fact, the crucifixion (and resurrection) of Jesus is the apex of the Bible and all of Human History. Jesus came to lay his life down in the place of guilty sinners. All of Matthew has been building to this point and the events found in this passage. Jesus demonstrates to us how His death satisfies the tension between God’s Holiness and steadfast love towards His sinful people. Jesus traded places with us to satisfy the debt that we owe but cannot pay. Everything that Jesus endured during these dark moments in history should have been given to us. But praise be to God that Jesus took our place!

Mocked in our Place

Jesus experienced the agony of pain from the whip of roman soldiers as the scourged and severely beat him. We continue this gruesome scene with the mockery of Jesus. Numerous soldiers surround Jesus and mock him, by stripping him of his clothes, placing a crown of thorns on his head, a reed in his hand, and a scarlet robe on his body. They kneel down before him to humiliate and shame him. Matthew details the irony of their mockery…They don’t realize that in their humiliation of Jesus, they are actually proclaiming the truth. He truly is the “King of the Jews!” In fact, He is Creator God, King of the World. After the hours of humiliation, Jesus is marched to his place of execution, forced to carry the means of His own death. But in his weakness, Jesus is unable to bear the weight of the crossbeam. The executioners compel Simon of Cyrene to follow Jesus and carry the cross. I don’t believe this is just happenstance. This scene serves to bring our minds back to Simon Peter, who claimed he would never forsake Jesus, but in this scene is nowhere to be found. It is actually Simon of Cyrene (a gentile nation) who gives us a picture of a selfless follower of Jesus and a reflection of Matthew 16:24.

Killed in our Place

Crucifixion was the most gruesome means of execution known to the ancient world. The Romans perfected it by making it nothing more than cyclical torture. It was meant to place the victim in the worse possible pain for the longest possible time, and ultimately result in death through asphyxiation, suffocation, or shock. It was a public spectacle and a reminder to everyone what it would cost to rebel against Rome. But for us, it is a reminder of the cost of rebellion against a greater authority…God himself. As Jesus was being crucified the mockery continued by every layer of society. Not only did the soldiers mock Jesus, but so did the religious, and the civilians who passed by. Matthew reminds us that no one is out of the reach of sin. Yet, even in our mockery of Him, Jesus willingly trades places with us and absorbs the cost of our rebellion.

Forsaken in our Place

As Jesus’ death looms near, he cries out the first first of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”. Jesus is fulfilling this Psalm, written nearly 1000 years prior to the event, before the eyes of those watching. He is also experiencing the abandonment of the Father for the first (and only) time in history. As the Father’s just wrath against sin is poured out on Jesus who “knew no sin, but became sin” in that moment our behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus’ death paid in full the debt we owe. He was forsaken so you and I (and everyone who is in Christ) will never experienced the abandonment of the Father. If we are in Christ, even on our worse day we can rest in this truth…Jesus was forsaken so we would never be!

Jesus death also gives us a glimpse of cosmic redemption as the earth quakes and many Old Testament saints are risen from the grave. This points us forward to the day when we will experience the resurrection of our bodies and the consummation of the gospel. Jesus’ death not only brings about forgiveness but redemption. Until that day, we continue to endure by faith and looking to the cross. We trust and rest in Jesus’ grace to strengthen us to become more and more like him! (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Study Questions

  1. In reference to Simon of Cyrene, Martin Luther stated, “He is a picture of all Christians.” What do you think Luther meant? Who do you relate to: Simon Peter or Simon of Cyrene?
  2. Read Psalm 22:1-18. How is Jesus’ death in Matthew 27 a fulfillment of the Psalm. What does this tell you about the nature of prophecy and scripture?
  3. Jesus was forsaken in our place so we would never be forsaken. What other passages of scripture can encourage us and remind us that Jesus’ work on the cross accomplished our salvation?
  4. How does the events from Matthew 27 encourage us as we feel unaccepted, shamed, or guilty because of our failures and brokenness?
  5. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. What does Paul mean, by calling the cross the “Wisdom of God”. If this is the case, then how can we be spurred to tell others about this truth?