It seems that Judas really believed that Jesus would deliver himself from the hands of his enemies. He was remorseful at the news Jesus was condemned to die. But Judas’ remorse was that of one caught in his sin. If Judas had repented, surely the Lord would have forgiven him as he forgave Peter of his denial. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Even with his close association with Jesus, Judas had not learned of his amazing capacity to forgive. His worldly outlook led him to take his own life.
Pontus Pilate was currently the Roman governor of Judea. The farce trial of Jesus included appearances before Pilate, King Herod, and the chief priest of the Jews. Ultimately, the weighty decision regarding Jesus came back to Pilate. The governor had the right to let Jesus go, but he chose to leave the choice to the people. Would they choose to save a notorious prisoner, Barabbas, or the sinless Jesus? In our own lives, will we choose the world or Jesus? Pilate’s symbolic washing his hands of the matter did not absolve him of the matter. What we do through the agency of others is still on our record. The flogging or whipping of Jesus is recorded with very few words. What an awful, brutal whipping it was. History tells us that some died during flogging. Isaiah wrote, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
The Roman soldiers had seen many a crucifixion, which was their preferred method of capital punishment. Their treatment of Jesus our Lord makes us shudder. Little did they know they were truly crucifying the king. People treat the name and the rule of Jesus so lightly still. They may abuse him now, but they will appear before him on the last day.
On the way to the place of crucifixion, Jesus was offered a pain-dulling drink, but he refused. He would drink the bitter cup of death without relief; he would remain fully aware until his death on the cross. Jesus was crucified between two robbers, suggesting he was the worst of them. People continued to mock and abuse him. This continues today as the multitudes make light of the Savior. How often is his name used as profanity instead of a plea for salvation! It was not the nails that held Jesus on the cross. Love for the lost held him there until the end (1 John 3:16).
The death of Jesus was surely the saddest time in history. He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). God had not forsaken him, but to the human side of Jesus, it surely felt that way. People often worry over the days and times, but our focus should be on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. The precious Son of God lived in the flesh and died in the flesh. What a sight it must have been when the graves of many holy people were opened, and they came to life! The Roman centurion and others rightly concluded, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54). And he still lives!
Joseph of Arimathea kindly asked for the body of Jesus. He prepared the body for burial and placed it in his own new tomb. No worry—Jesus would not remain there for long.
The leaders of the Jewish establishment asked that guards be placed at the tomb of Jesus. They feared Jesus’ disciples would take his body and claim he had risen from the dead. Picture the setup for what followed. Dead body. Tomb of stone sealed with a large stone. Roman guards at the entrance. It would not be long.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of Matthew’s gospel. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.