Jesus Ridiculed, Mistreated, Mocked, and Crucified—Part 2

Matthew 27:33–44


From Exegetical Commentary on Matthew, 2006, AMG Publishers

After His brutal beating and humiliation, and the awful march with His cross, Christ came to the place of His crucifixion.

[33] Golgotha was called the place of the “skull” (kraníon [2898] from which we get our English word “cranium”). Here, outside the walls of Jerusalem (John 19:16, 17; Heb. 13:12), yet near the city proper (John 19:20), criminals were commonly executed (Mark 15:22; John 19:17).

Golgotha was a conspicuous place (Mark 15:22; John 19:17) located near a well-traveled road. Also nearby was the garden containing Joseph of Arimathaea’s new tomb (Matt. 27:57, 60; Mark 15:43, 46; Luke 23:53; John 19:41).

[34] Before crucifixion, the soldiers “gave him vinegar (óxos [3690], sour wine) to drink mixed with gall (cholē [5521], bile)” in fulfillment of Psalms 69:21. After tasting it, Jesus “was not (ouk [3756], the absolute ‘not’) electing (ēthele, the imperfect tense of thélō [2309], to determine, choose) to drink it” (a.t.), not because the mixture was bitter or because He was not thirsty. Later, however, He said, “I thirst” (dipsō [1372]; see John 19:28). The most reasonable hypothesis is that Jesus did not want to mitigate the pain associated with redemption.

[35] After the crucifixion, four soldiers cast “lots” (klēros [2819], a term used for an inheritance, which, of course, is “free”; more specifically called klēronomía [2817]; see Acts 26:18; Gal. 3:18; Eph. 1:14). They cast lots twice, first to allocate His four garments, then to decide who would take his robe since it was seamless and they did not want to rip it (John 19:24). Little did these soldiers realize that they were fulfilling the prophecy given in Psalm 22:18, “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”

[36]After the soldiers divided Jesus’ garments among themselves, sitting down (kathēmenoi, the present middle of káthēmai [2521]), they were guarding (etēroun, the imperfect tense of tēréō [5083], to keep, guard) Him there” (a.t.). These low-ranking bandits probably considered themselves quite the conquerors. But they did not know with whom they were dealing.

[37] Here we see that the heathen ended up acknowledging the very kingship of the Messiah they denied, in fulfillment of Psalm 2:2–4. Totally contrary to the Jews who requested the wording, “He said He was King of the Jews,” the Romans defiantly displayed the words: “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” The double-edged offense was that this was both a lie and an insult to the Jews who frantically demanded that the unpaid-for advertisement be changed (see John 19:19–22). From God’s vantage point, this was the objective truth. And so David’s messianic prophecy came to pass: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Ps. 2:4) when they gather against the Lord and His Christ (2:2), thinking they can tear away God’s sovereign “cords” (2:3).

[38] Isaiah prophesied that the innocent Lamb led to the slaughter would be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). As it turned out, “two thieves (lēstaí [3027], violent thieves)” were crucified with Jesus.

[39-40] Apparently, regular “passersby” (paraporeuómenoi, the present middle deponent participle of paraporeúomai [3899], to pass nearby) shook their heads negatively. They believed that Jesus’ condition did not match His boast of destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. So they mocked Jesus, saying, “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If (ei [1487], supposing, assuming) thou be the Son of God, come down (katábēthi, the aorist imperative of katabaínō [2597], to descend) from the cross.”

To unbelievers, those who either were ignorant of or who consciously rejected Isaiah’s clear prophecies, it made no sense for the Creator to be destroyed, for the providential One to be manipulated, for the holy and righteous One to suffer a penalty. If the Trinity had not planned otherwise, Jesus could have come down. But He would not because He would not contradict the timeless mind and will of the Trinity. To do otherwise would be schizophrenia. God’s mind and will are one timeless entity: “He is of one mind; who can turn Him?” (Job 23:13; a.t.).

[41-42]The passersby were joined by the chief priests, scribes, and elders, and they were saying (élegon, the imperfect of légō [3004]), He saved others; He cannot (ou [3756], the absolute “not”) save Himself. If (ei [1487], the subjective assumption) He be the King of Israel, let Him now (nún [3568], at this present time) come down from the cross, and we will believe on Him” (a.t.). Amazing how often people not only think that God should do this or that, but He should do it now! If you want peace in your life, never forget this study on “His hour.” “Wait for the LORD” (Ps. 130:5), and never ask, “Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (2 Kings 6:33; a.t.).

[43] Continuing their criticism, growing out of the assumption that sons of God don’t die, they said, “He trusted (pépoithen, the perfect tense of peíthō [3982], to persuade, put one’s confidence in) upon God; let Him deliver (rhusásthō, the aorist middle deponent imperative of rhúomai [4506], to deliver) Him now, if He he desires (thélei [2309], to choose or select) Him: for He said, I am the Son of God” (a.t.).

It is interesting how they shifted the subject from Christ’s deity—“himself he cannot save” (v. 42), to His humanity—“Let him (God the Father) deliver him!” Their connection between the Father’s deliverance and His selective will (thélei) was far removed from Isaiah’s prophecy: “It pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Isa. 53:10).

Jesus Christ would, of course, save Himself, and the Father would deliver him as He willed, not now, but in the three days Christ prophesied on three occasions (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:19). Peter tried to persuade Jesus to avoid the cross (Matt. 16:21–23), but Jesus knew He was going to rise from the dead. This would provide the greatest proof to believers that He was what He claimed to be.

People are in no position to limit how and when God acts. To attempt to do so is blasphemy. If God took orders from humans, He would cease to be God.

The Lord delivers in many ways; and we attain the meaning from the preposition associated with the verb rhúomai. Sometimes He delivers positionally as, for example, “from (apó [575], a position outside its object) evil” (Matt. 6:13); at other times, transitionally as, for example “out of (ek [1537], out of from within) them (i.e., persecutions) all” (2 Tim. 3:11, cf. 2 Tim. 4:17). From these examples, we gather that the Lord delivers either through physical repositioning (apó) or through victorious emergence (ek).

Specifically with respect to Christ, the writer of Hebrews says, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from (ek) death, and was heard in that he feared” (Heb. 5:7). Here, the preposition ek shows that Christ entered into the sphere of death, and the Father saved Him out of—from within—it. This occurred at the resurrection, when Christ was raised “out of (ek, from among) the dead ones” (Acts 4:10; a.t; see Rom. 7:4; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Tim. 2:8). Similarly, innumerable (Rev. 7:9) believers will be “coming (a present participle) out (ek) of the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14; a.t.), emerging victoriously over the beast (Rev. 15:2).

[44] Both robbers originally “reproached Him” (a.t.) as well. Luke 23:32 calls them “malefactors” (kakoúrgoi [2557], criminals). Kakoúrgoi not only openly steal property, but they may kill to do so. In modern Greek, a kakoúrgēma is a felony—one of the worst crimes.

The King James Version has the interesting phrase, “[They] cast the same in his teeth.” All of this translates a single Greek verb, ōneídizon, the imperfect tense of oneidízō (3679), to reproach, revile, assail with abusive words. The imperfect indicates that the thieves displayed this disdain much of the time they were alive on the cross. They were abusing while “being crucified together” (a.t.; sustaurōthéntes, the aorist passive participle of sustauróō [4957] from sún, together [see v. 38]; and stauróō [4717], to crucify). Jesus had lived as the personification of virtue and benevolence but died like a common criminal, surrounded by enemies.

One of the thieves ridiculed Jesus to the end of His life; the other, perhaps on hearing Jesus pray to the Father to forgive His enemies, repented and was forgiven (Luke 23:34–43).

Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009) served as president of AMG International for over 40 years, was the founding editor of Pulpit Helps Magazine (Disciple’s predecessor), and authored dozens of exegetical books.

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